The Dream of the Rood Criticism - Essay

Stopford A. Brooke (essay date 1898)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Stopford A. Brooke (essay date 1898)

SOURCE: "Poems Attributed to Cynewulf or His School," in English Literature: From the Beginning to the Norman Conquest, 1898. Reprint by Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1921, pp. 180-202.

[Brooke was an Anglo-Irish clergyman, poet, critic, and educator whose Primer of English Literature (1876) was popular with generations of students. In the excerpt below, he contends that Cynewulf, who is often credited as the author of The Dream of the Rood, wrote the epic poem as "his farewell to earth."]

TheDream of the Rood is in the Vercelli Book. There is great discussion concerning its...

(The entire section is 2125 words.)

Howard R. Patch (essay date 1919)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Howard R. Patch (essay date 1919)

SOURCE: "Liturgical Influence in The Dream of the Rood," in PMLA, Vol. XXXIV, No. 2, 1919, pp. 233-57.

[In the following essay, Patch explores parallels between The Dream of the Rood and church liturgical texts "in order to gain a further knowledge of the poet's working method and to assist in reproducing a sense of the connotativeness of the poem."]

Scholars have long made an earnest search for analogues to The Dream of the Rood,but the very remoteness of the parallels thus afforded so far is a unique testimony to the high degree of originality in the poem. Closer in some ways than any...

(The entire section is 5129 words.)

Margaret Schlauch (essay date 1940)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Margaret Schlauch (essay date 1940)

SOURCE: "The Dream of the Rood as Prosopopoeia," in Essays and Studies in Honor of Carleton Brown, edited by Percy W. Long, New York University Press, 1940, pp. 23-34.

[Here, Schlauch praises the poet's unique use of prosopopoeia (discourse by inanimate objects), stating that he "was not following a literary tradition concerning the Rood; he was making an innovation with the originality of genius."]

As succeeding generations of scholars have studied the body of Old English lyric poetry and given tribute to its enduring literary qualities, an almost incredulous amazement has been expressed repeatedly...

(The entire section is 3687 words.)

Charles W. Kennedy (essay date 1943)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Charles W. Kennedy (essay date 1943)

SOURCE: "Poetry in the Cynewulfian Manner," in The Earliest English Poetry: A Critical Survey, Oxford University Press, Inc., 1943, pp. 235-66.

[In the following excerpt, Kennedy discusses glorification of the Cross in The Dream of the Rood, attributing to the poem 'pre-eminent distinction as a superb lyric presentation of a religious adoration which finds its symbol in the Cross. '

In three Old English poems veneration of the Cross receives stressed and memorable expression: the Elene, Christ III, and Dream of the Rood. Of these, Christ III and the Dream have...

(The entire section is 2709 words.)

Rosemary Woolf (essay date 1958)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Rosemary Woolf (essay date 1958)

SOURCE: "Doctrinal Influences on The Dream of the Rood," in Medium Aevum, Vol. XXVII, No. 3, 1958, pp. 137-53.

[In the following essay, Woolf assesses The Dream of the Rood 's emphasis on Christ's supremacy and suffering, stating that the poet "reflected exactly the doctrinal pattern of thought of his time. '

The unique quality of the treatment of the Crucifixion in the Dream of the Rood has been long admired, and memorably commented upon. It is unique, not only in Old English poetry—that would not be remarkable since so little survives—but in the whole range of English, and perhaps...

(The entire section is 7454 words.)

Robert E. Diamond (essay date 1958)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Robert E. Diamond (essay date 1958)

SOURCE: "Heroic Diction in The Dream of the Rood," in Studies in Honor of John Wilcox, edited by A. Dayle Wallace and Woodburn O. Ross, 1958. Reprint by Books for Libraries Press, 1972, pp. 3-7.

[In the essay below, Diamond analyzes the use of heroic language in The Dream of the Rood.]

Many people who have read The Dream of the Rood have been struck by the poet's use of certain heroic phrases in describing the crucifixion. The tree from which the cross was made is said to have been cut down by bold enemies (strange féondas, 30b). The Lord is referred to as a young hero (geong...

(The entire section is 1745 words.)

J. A. Burrow (essay date 1959)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

J. A. Burrow (essay date 1959)

SOURCE: "An Approach to The Dream of the Rood, " in Old English Literature: Twenty-two Analytical Essays, edited by Martin Stevens and Jerome Mandel, University of Nebraska Press, 1968, pp. 253-67.

[In the following essay, first published in 1959 in Neophilologus, Burrow contrasts the emphasis and detail in The Dream of the Rood with that in several Middle English Crucifixion lyrics.]

The Dream of the Rood is one of the first and one of the most successful treatments in English of the theme of the Crucifixion. It is successful because it is more than just a biblical paraphrase in the...

(The entire section is 5072 words.)

Stanley B. Greenfield (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Stanley B. Greenfield (essay date 1965)

SOURCE: "Christ as Poetic Hero," in A Critical History of Old English Literature, New York University Press, 1965, pp. 124-45.

[In the following excerpt, Greenfield centers on the prominent role of Christ in The Dream of the Rood, emphasizing "the poem's double stress on the triumphant and suffering Christ. ']

[Christ] is, by the nature of His Passion, eminently central to the Dream of the Rood, the finest expression of the Passion in Old English poetry. This 156-line narrative-lyrical adoration of the Cross survives in the Vercelli Book, and part of it appears in Northumbrian runic...

(The entire section is 1723 words.)

John V. Fleming (essay date 1966)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

John V. Fleming (essay date 1966)

SOURCE: "The Dream of the Rood and Anglo-Saxon Monasticism," in Traditio, Vol. XXII, 1966, pp. 43-72.

[Below, Fleming examines the characters, language, and themes of The Dream of the Rood, calling the poem "a carved celebration of the monastic ideals" of English Benedictinism.]

The earliest text of The Dream of the Rood consists of a few lines of runic inscriptions carved around the edges of a North English high cross now at Ruthwell in Dumfriesshire. It represents no more than a fragment of the text as we find it in the Vercelli MS, a short passage describing the Crucifixion and the...

(The entire section is 12604 words.)

Louis H. Leiter (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Louis H. Leiter (essay date 1967)

SOURCE: "The Dream of the Rood: Patterns of Transformation," in Old English Poetry: Fifteen Essays, edited by Robert P. Creed, Brown University Press, 1967, pp. 93-127.

[In this essay, Leiter studies the transformation of the poem's three characters: Christ, the Cross, and the Dreamer.]

The Dream of the Rood is concerned with a process of salvation by means of radical transformation that involves three actors in a universal spiritual crisis. Metamorphosis informs the structure of the poem and gives life and significance to its aesthetic materials.

In presenting these...

(The entire section is 11058 words.)

Faith H. Patten (essay date 1968)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Faith H. Patten (essay date 1968)

SOURCE: "Structure and Meaning in The Dream of the Rood, " in English Studies, Netherlands, Vol. 49, No. 1, 1968, pp. 385-401.

[Here, Patten explores the analogies between the Dreamer and the Cross, the Cross and Christ, and Christ and the Dreamer. She also analyzes the allegorical and historical aspects of The Dream of the Rood.]

The existence in The Dream of The Rood of two speakers and two points of view, the cross and the dreamer, appears at first aesthetically disturbing, by seeming to imperil the poem's unity. But, on the contrary, the two points of view provide the backbone of the poem's...

(The entire section is 7302 words.)

John Canuteson (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

John Canuteson (essay date 1969)

SOURCE: "The Crucifixion and the Second Coming in The Dream of the Rood," in Modern Philology, Vol. 66, No. 4, May, 1969, pp. 293-97.

[In the following essay, Canuteson compares the Crucifixion as portrayed in The Dream of the Rood with the Biblical descriptions of Christ's second coming.]

Praise for The Dream of the Rood has been uniformly generous. Charles W. Kennedy [The Earliest English Poetry, 1943] declares that it deserves "pre-eminent distinction as a superb lyric presentation of a religious adoration which finds its symbol in the Cross." In discussing possible sources for...

(The entire section is 2547 words.)

O. D. Macrae-Gibson (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

O. D. Macrae-Gibson (essay date 1969)

SOURCE: "Christ the Victor-Vanquished in The Dream of the Rood, " in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen: Bulletin de la Société Né'ophilologique, Vol. LXX, 1969, pp. 667-72.

[In the excerpt below, Macrae-Gibson focuses on the transformations of the Christ-figure in The Dream of the Rood.]

(The entire section is 1845 words.)

Carol Jean Wolf (essay date 1970)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Carol Jean Wolf (essay date 1970)

SOURCE: "Christ as Hero in The Dream of the Rood," in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen: Bulletin de la Société Néophilologique, Vol. LXXI, No. 3, 1970, pp. 202-10.

[In the following essay, Wolf examines the poet's 'presentation of the Crucifixion as a battle" in The Dream of the Rood, focusing on theme and diction.]

The unlettered singer who attempts to create songs embodying thematic material novel to his tradition encounters severe and sometimes insurmountable difficulties. With the option of creating original formulas virtually denied him, the artist must find the means of expressing these new...

(The entire section is 3300 words.)

Edward B. Irving, Jr. (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Edward B. Irving, Jr. (essay date 1986)

SOURCE: "Crucifixion Witnessed, or Dramatic Interaction in The Dream of the Rood," in Modes of Interpretation in Old English Literature: Essays in Honour of Stanley B. Greenfield, Phyllis Rugg Brown, Georgia Ronan Crampton, Fred C. Robinson, eds., University of Toronto Press, 1986, pp. 101-13.

[In the following essay, Irving describes the treatment of the Crucifixion from the perspectives of the poem's two main characters, the Dreamer and the Rood.]

Very few of the countless artistic representations of the Crucifixion in the Middle Ages have the capacity to seize our imaginations like the Old English...

(The entire section is 5179 words.)

Monica Brzezinski (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Monica Brzezinski (essay date 1988)

SOURCE: "The Harrowing of Hell, the Last Judgment, and The Dream of the Rood," in Neuphilologische Mitteilungen: Bulletin de la Socieété Néophilologique, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 3, 1988, pp. 252-65.

[Below, Brzezinski contends that the last few lines of The Dream of the Rood refer to the Last Judgment rather than to the Harrowing of Hell.]

The narrative structure of The Dream of the Rood has been described as a Chinese box-like arrangement in which the Dreamer's first-person report of his vision frames the speech of the Rood, which in turn encloses a description of the passion of Christ....

(The entire section is 5613 words.)