Elegiac: expressing sorrow for something now past; melancholy
lof: loyalty; the praise and esteem of one’s country men and contemporaries
Objective immortality one’s existence depends on someone knowing about them
Wergild he price placed on a man’s life. If a man was killed during Beowulf’s time, it was possible to pay a price after the person’s death in order to put an end to a blood feud. This was a way of saving face and averting further bloodshed.
Thane a free (non-serf) retainer of an Anglo-Saxon lord receives lands for military service often praises king
Retainer a person attached or owing service to a household, especially a servant (in return get land and treasure)
Comitatus band of loyal retainers serving a brave leader
Mead Hall a social hall, center of royal festivities for drinking, eating, entertainment.
Herot Danish Mead Hall
Mead alcoholic drink made from honey
Scop a storyteller, singer, musician, general entertainer at royal court. Did a scop author Beowulf?
1. Who is Hrothgar? Describe his ancestors and how he came to be king. Hrothgar is king of the Danes whose mead hall and men are menaced by Grendel.
2. Who is Grendel? What is the significance of Grendel being descended from Cain? It signifies that Grendel is cursed by God and inclined to commit crimes like this because of his family tree. He’s at odds with Christian civilization.
2. Describe Heorot before Grendel’s attacks. Describe Heorot after Grendel’s attacks. It was a grand castle that was Hrothgar’s throne room as well as the place for parties and drinking. Heorot was destroyed by Grendel’s attacks: the walls were soaked in blood, bodies were scattered like limp dolls and the smell of death lingered in the once cheerful building.
3. Why does Grendel attack Heorot? What do we know that the characters do not? Be specific. Grendel terrorizes Heorot because he is envious of the people’s happiness. His jealousy consumes him, and he decides to attack Heorot.
4. Who offers to help the Danes? How do his people react to his going? Beowulf offers to save the Danes. He boasts that he can kill Grendel all by himself and without any weapons. His king gives him his blessing.
5. Explain how Hrothgar knows Beowulf. Ecgtheow sought refuge with King Hrothgar of the Danes, who eventually “healed the feud by paying” (470) – that is, he made reparations to the Wulfings on Ecgtheow’s behalf. In return, Ecgtheow pledged his allegiance to Hrothgar.
6. For what reasons does Beowulf volunteer to help Hrothgar? As a result of Ecgtheow’s help from Hrothgar, Beowulf feels that he owes a debt to Hrothgar, and volunteers his services.
7. Why does Unferth bring up Beowulf ‘s swimming match with Brecca? What is Unferth’s version of events? How does Beowulf respond? The bitterness of Unferth’s chiding of Beowulf about his swimming match with Breca clearly reflects his jealousy of the attention that Beowulf receives. It probably also stems from his shame at being unable to protect Heorot himself—he is clearly not the sort of great warrior whom legend will remember.
8. Who is Wealhtheow, and what is her role in Heorot? How would you describe women’s role in this warrior society? Provide evidence to support your response. Hrothgar’s wife, the gracious queen of the Danes. She is offered as a wife to king Hrothgar in order to promote peace among the two tribes, the Helmings and Scyldings.
9. What is the significance of Hrothgar’s speech? “Arm yourself, dear Beowulf, best of men, against such diseased thinking,” [l419-1420] In that celebration in the mead hall, Hrothgar gives advice on how Beowulf should live the rest of his days, perticularly he should not become too proud. Pride leads to other impure things, such as being boastful about life, arrogance, greed, and not being gracious of what God has given to you.
10. What are Beowulf’s thoughts as he waits for Grendel? Beowulf is confident, he was weaving a victory on his war loom for the Weather-Geats
Grendel’s Battle with Beowulf (Lines 702-1250):
1. Why does Beowulf wait, allowing Grendel to kill one of the Geats, before he attacks Grendel? He doesnt want Grendel to be suspicious and he wants to catch him off guard
2. Describe the battle between Beowulf and Grendel. Be specific. Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be the equal of Grendel. When Grendel enters the hall, Beowulf, who has been feigning sleep, leaps up to clench Grendel’s hand. Grendel and Beowulf battle each other violently. Beowulf’s retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades cannot pierce Grendel’s skin. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes where he dies.
3. Why are Beowulf’s warriors unable to help him defeat Grendel? Swords did not pierce his skin. Only brute strength could hurt him.
4. How does Beowulf wound Grendel? He rips his arm/shoulder off.
5. What does Beowulf keep as proof of his victory over Grendel? His arm.
6. Describe the story of Sigemund. What purpose does the comparison between Beowulf and Sigemund serve? The comparison between Beowulf and Heremod? Sigemund, a great hero who slew a terrible dragon. The dragon was the guardian of a treasure hoard, which Sigemund won by slaying the dragon. The bard also sings of, and contrasts Beowulf with, Heremod, an evil Danish king who turned against his own people.
7. Describe the atmosphere of Heorot the evening after the fight. Elated that Grendel is dead.
8. How does Beowulf respond to Hrothgar’s praises? He nonchalantly is like “ok dude whatevah”
9. What does Hrothgar give Beowulf for his troubles? lots of booty, moolah up the ying yang
10. Summarize the saga of Finn and his sons. What purpose does this poem within the poem serve? Why do you think it appears just before Welthow appears? the king’s scop comes forward to sing the saga of Finn, which begins with the Danes losing a bloody battle to Finn, the king of the Frisians, a neighbor tribe to the Danes. The Danish leader, Hnaef, is killed in the combat. Recognizing their defeat, the Danes strike a truce with the Frisians and agree to live with them separately but under common rule and equal treatment. Hildeburh, a Danish princess who is married to Finn, is doubly grieved by the outcome of the battle: she orders that the corpses of her brother, the Danish leader Hnaef, and her son, a Frisian warrior, be burned on the same bier. The Danes, homesick and bitter, pass a long winter with the Frisians. When spring comes, they rise against their enemies. Finn is then defeated and slain, and his widow, Hildeburh, is returned to Denmark.I think that Wealtheow is a parrallel to Heldeburh. They both are women who try to bring honor/protection to their family.
Grendel’s Mother (Lines 1251-1798)
1. Why does Grendel’s mother attack Herot? Describe the attack. The next night, after celebrating Grendel’s defeat, Hrothgar and his men sleep in Heorot. Grendel’s mother, angry that her son has been killed, sets out to get revenge. She violently kills Æschere, who is Hrothgar’s most loyal fighter.
2. What does she take with her when she leaves the mead hall? As the warriors sleep in the mead-hall, Grendel’s mother, a horrible monster in her own right, descends on Heorot in a frenzy of grief and rage, seeking vengeance for her son’s death. When she falls upon and seizes a sleeping man, the noise wakes the others. The warriors seize their swords and rush toward her. The monster panics and flees, still carrying her victim, Hrothgar’s trusted adviser, Aeschere, in her grasp. Beowulf, having been given other sleeping quarters, is away from Heorot when Grendel’s mother makes her raid. By the time he arrives at the hall, she is gone. The warriors discover that she has stolen Grendel’s arm as well.
3. Who was Aeschere? What happened to him? Hrothgar’s trusted adviser
4. What does Hrothgar ask Beowulf to do? Devastated with grief over the loss of his friend and counselor, Hrothgar summons Beowulf and explains what has occurred. He entreats Beowulf to seek out and kill Grendel’s mother, describing the horrible, swampy wood where she keeps her lair.
5. How does Beowulf respond to Hrothgar’s lament? Beowulf agrees to the fight, reassuring Hrothgar that Grendel’s mother won’t get away. The warriors mount up and ride into the fens, following the tracks of their enemy. When they reach a cliff’s edge, they discover Aeschere’s head lying on the ground. The scene below is horrifying: in the murky water, serpents and sea-dragons writhe and roil. Beowulf slays one beast with an arrow.
6. Describe the haunted mere where Grendel’s mother lives. The place has a magical quality. The water burns and the bottom of the mere, or lake, has never been reached. Even the animals seem to be afraid of the water there.
7. What does Unferth give to Beowulf? Why? He gives him his family sword. Unferth loans him the great and seasoned sword Hrunting, which has never failed in any battle.
8. Summarize the battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother. How does Beowulf defeat her? He uses an ancient sword to behead her.
9. To what does Beowulf attribute his victory?
10. What two things does Beowulf present to Hrothgar?
11. What does Hrothgar warn Beowulf about in his speech? Do not give in to pride
12. Describe Beowulf’s departure. What is Hrothgar’s foreboding?
Beowulf’s Return to Geatland (Lines 1799-2199):
1. Compare and contrast Queen Hygd with Queen Modthryth. Queen Hygd, who is beautiful and wise, though very young. The narrator tells the story of the legendary Queen Modthryth, who “perpetrated terrible wrongs” against her subjects, torturing and even killing many innocent people who she imagined were offending her. Modthryth’s behavior improved, we are told, once she was married to the great king of the Angles, Offa.
2. What does Beowulf foresee will happen as a result of Hrothgar’s daughter’s arranged marriage to Ingeld? He then prophesies an unhappy outcome to the peace-weaving engagement of Freawaru, Hrothgar’s daughter, to Ingeld the Heathobard. He predicts that the sight of the ancestral possessions of each worn by the kin of the other (the result of many years of warring and plundering) will cause memories of the deep and lengthy feud between the Danes and the Heathobards to surface, so that they will not be able to keep themselves from continuing to fight.
3. What gifts does Beowulf present to Hygelac? Grendel’s head and the sword
4. How does Hygelac reward Beowulf for the honor he’s bestowed on the Geats?
5. How does Beowulf’s reputation amongst his people change as a result of defeating
Grendel and his mother?
The Dragon and Beowulf’s Death (Lines 2200-end);
1. Describe what happened to those who held the dragon’s treasure.
2. Who is responsible for stealing the goblet? Why?
3. How does the dragon react when it notices the goblet has been stolen?
4. What event is foreshadowed?
5. Why doesn’t Beowulf fear the wrath of the dragon?
6. Why does Beowulf refuse the crown offered him by Hyglac’s widow? When does Beowulf become king? What does this reveal about his character?
7. Summarize Beowulf’s upbringing.
8. Summarize Beowulf ‘s boast. Recall Hrothgar’s speech. How well has Beowulf followed Hrothgar’s advice?
9. Why does Beowulf want to fight the dragon alone?
10. Describe the battle between Beowulf and the dragon.
11. What does Beowulf’s followers do when they realize Beowulf is losing the fight?
12. Who is Wiglaf? What does he do?
13. How is the dragon defeated?
14. How is Beowulf killed?
15. What are Beowulf’s final requests?
16. What are Beowulf’s parting words? What does this reveal about the fate of his people’s future and their values?
17. What does Wiglaf say to the rest of Beowulf’s followers?
18. Describe the mood by the end of the poem. Explain the fate of Beowulf’s country.
19. Explain how Beowulf’s perception of gold changes from the beginning to the end of the poem. Provide evidence to support your response.
20. How might Beowulf’s decision to fight the dragon be morally ambiguous? In other words, how might Beowulf have failed in his role as king by fighting the dragon?

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