362 Study Questions: "The Dream of the Rood" (Longman Anthology, Kevin Crossley-Holland translation)
manuscript, Vercelli Manuscript, personification,
prosopopoeia, kenning, hlaford, thegn,
fame-shame culture, alliterative verse
Character Identifications: the dreamer,
the Rood, Christ
Abbreviations: MS (Manuscript)
What is a rood? [Consult a dictionary if you need to.]
The only manuscript copy of "The Dream of the Rood"
was found in what unusual location? The only other partial
copy is found on what object in Dumfriesshire, Scotland?
Reading Questions: What does the narrator
of "The Dream of the Rood" state he will
describe in the opening lines?
As the speaker stares at the gold and gems, what begins
to pour from the cross's right side? What change takes place
to the "clothing and hue" that decorates the
Who or what tells the dreamer the story of the cross in
What does the cross want to do when it first sees Christ
approaching and again when "the hero clasped [him]"?" After stating this, what does the cross say
it wanted to do (and could easily have done) to all the
foes of Christ?
What command does the cross give the Dreamer in the conclusion of his tale?
How does the dreamer's emotional attitude change toward
the cross by the last paragraph of the poem?
Lecture Questions: What do the five gems
on the "triumph-tree" probably represent in Christian
iconography? In medieval
theology, what is the significance of the fact the poem's
speaker says he was afraid when
he first saw
blood on the cross?
In medieval legends, who discovered the true
cross after it had been hidden away and buried? What technique
did this person use to force those hiding the cross to
The account of how "all creation wept" at the
death of Christ recalls what Old Norse deity and his death?
The bit about the cross being taken out and shot full of
arrows recalls the martyrdom of what Catholic saint?
A: It seemed to
me I saw a wondrous tree
soaring into the air, surrounded by light,
the brightest of crosses; that emblem was entirely
gold; beautiful jewels
around its foot, just as five
studded the cross-beam. . . .
That was no cross of a criminal, but holy spirits and men on earth
watched over it there--the whole glorious universe.
B: The finest of trees began to speak:
"I remember the morning a long time ago
that I was felled at the edge of the forest
and severed from my roots. Strong enemies seized me,
bade me hold up their felons on high,
made me a spectacle."
C: "I saw the Lord of Mankind
hasten with such courage to climb upon me.
I dared not bow or break there
against my Lord's wish, when I saw the surface
of the earth tremble. I could have felled
all my foes, yet I stood firm.
Then the young warrior stripped himself, firm and unflinching."
D: "They drove dark nails into me; dire wounds are there to see,
the gaping gashes of malice; I dared not injure them.
They insulted us both together; I was drenched in the blood
that streamed from the Man's side after He set His spirit free."
Food for thought:
The images of Christ on the cross from
the early medieval period around 1180. It comes from Treviso
in Northern Italy, and it is typical of the Christ-images
appearing before the Franciscan movement. Note the stern
language. (It looks like Christ is going to hop off the
cross at any moment and unload a can of celestial butt-whipping.)
What is the early medieval artist trying to suggest about
the nature of Christ?
Contrast that image above with an image of Christ appearing
below. This one comes from the
later medieval period after the Franciscan movement. Note
the emphasis on human anatomy, the frailty and "feminine"
weakness of the Christ figure. What is this late medieval
artist trying to convey about the nature of Christ? How
does this change in artistic depiction match the change
in medieval culture from the early centuries toward the
Which imagery is most appropriate for the Christ-figure
appearing in The Dream of the Rood?