Home Origins Performance Style Boasting End of the Scops Chronology Digital Bibliography


Performance Style
End of the Scops
Digital Bibliography










Because the scop was the product of a preliterate society, our records of his origins are imprecise.  The earliest records of the scop date from the fourth century.  These references occur in early English poems which, although probably written in their extant forms after the invasion of these islands, date back in substance to the age when the Angles still dwelt in a continental home around the base of the Jutish peninsula  (Chambers 28).
Because scops sometimes travelled from place to place, they are often grouped with a larger class of itinerant entertainers ranging from the jugglers and bear-keepers to acting troupes and musicians who traversed Europe in search of patronage and wealth  (Maclean 678) . This assumption is misleading because the scop was not simply a solo entertainer.    His was not a performance to produce pleasure, but rather to produce power.  His performance was a direct appeal to the forces of power unmediated by a belief in a God   The scop's audiences were not passive entertainment seekers but rather aggressive participants in the merrymaking who were allowed through the culturally accepted convention of boasting, their own turn to perform.  One by one, many of them would stand in front of their lord and peers, and proclaim their self-worth in a stylized solo declamation, which all recognized as a beot or gilph (boast).  The surface theatricality of these ceremonial speeches of self-praise belies their utter seriousness.   Boasts launched men upon and held them to courses of action which had life and death consequences (Conquergood 24).

Compiled by Dr. Kelly S. Taylor
Copyright 2003 by University of North Texas. All rights reserved.
Revised: 30 Sep 2003 15:56:16 -0500