“The Odyssey” and the Bards

In Book II of [amazon_link id=”B000OCXGRS” target=”_blank” ]The Odyssey[/amazon_link], Odysseus’ son, Telemachus leaves his home; he then travels from place to place in search of his father. He visits an old friend of his father’s, Menelaus. Book IV describes the party that Menelaus has in honor of Telemachus’ visit: “So the neighbors and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.”

Bards were very important personages throughout the world from the beginnings of civilization in [amazon_link id=”0756630029″ target=”_blank” ]Ancient Greece[/amazon_link], in [amazon_link id=”0300168276″ target=”_blank” ]Medieval Europe [/amazon_link]throughout the [amazon_link id=”0393976556″ target=”_blank” ]English Renaissance [/amazon_link](or Early Modern Period.) Besides singing and playing musical instruments, Bards kept an oral history for the family, wrote poems and songs in honor of weddings, births, and deaths, and was a sort of record keeper for the village. Bards were of the extremely small minority who could read and write. They often functioned as a scribe and secretary for villagers as well.

In Ancient [amazon_link id=”B001AV4FAY” target=”_blank” ]Ireland[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”B000IF7BLS” target=”_blank” ]Wales[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1859184146″ target=”_blank” ]Bards[/amazon_link] were nearly as powerful as the petty kings that they served and continued to be of the utmost importance until the late 1600s. Of course, the most famous Bard that comes to mind is [amazon_link id=”B00008US5Q” target=”_blank” ]William Shakespeare[/amazon_link]. His words have been coined as “[amazon_link id=”B0048BPERQ” target=”_blank” ]Bardisms[/amazon_link].” There are many wonderful books about Shakespeare’s words, lines, and phrases many of which have made their way into our everyday speech. Living in [amazon_link id=”0762750456″ target=”_blank” ]Michigan[/amazon_link] for most of my life, one of my personal favorites is from [amazon_link id=”B002B72QAC” target=”_blank” ]Macbeth[/amazon_link]: “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” (Act I, Scene III, line 36)*

Even in the Twenty-first Century there are Bards. Think about [amazon_link id=”B004NFCBUA” target=”_blank” ]Lady Gaga [/amazon_link]and [amazon_link id=”B003HG5WMU” target=”_blank” ]Jewel[/amazon_link] who are fine examples of contemporary entertainers whose music packs a powerful message. They are not keepers of a particular family’s history, yet certainly reflect upon the society that we have become. Perhaps the syntax is different and the mode a bit off-beat, but Shakespeare’s work is as relevant today as it was over 400-years ago. I’ll write more about that later… In the meantime, be thinking about your favorite line from The Bard.

*This text is taken from [amazon_link id=”0199267170″ target=”_blank” ]The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, 2nd Edition[/amazon_link] edited by John Jowett, William Montgomery, Gary Taylor, and Stanley Wells © Oxford University Press 1986, 2005


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Dixon, Catherine Jo. “‘The Odyssey’ and the Bards.” Feast Of Languages. Catherine Jo Dixon, 30 March 2011. Web. [today’s date].

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English literature students most commonly use the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) style to write their papers. This citation reflects the [amazon_link id=”1603290249″ target=”_blank” ]MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition[/amazon_link] and/or the [amazon_link id=”0873522974″ target=”_blank” ]MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition[/amazon_link]. For additional information, I recommend a free online writing lab from Purdue University: “The Purdue OWL” https://owl.english.purdue.edu/ which has current, credible information and reliable examples.

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