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