Beowulf study guide
1) Describe how we find King Hrothgar and his response to learning that Beowulf has come to his kingdom.
A. The king is sad and depressed that his kingdom has fallen into such a state of disrepair. He is overjoyed to learn that Beowulf, whom he knows from stories and his father, Ecgtheow, has come to fight Grendel. Hrothgar promises Beowulf treasure if he can defeat the monster.
2) In the beginning of “Beowulf,” King Hrothgar’s hall has been deserted for twelve years. In a short essay, tell why the hall has been deserted. Be sure to include specific examples from the text. What happened to those who ventured into the hall during those 12 years? What was the cause of this? At what time of day did these events take place? Explain.
A. The monster Grendel is the reason for the hall being abandoned
B. Grendel attacked the hall at night.
C. Grendel killed any men left in the hall at night.
D. Hrothgar and his people feared the attacker and abandoned the hall for safer places.
3) In a brief essay, explain how Beowulf is introduced. How do others view him? Explain his reason for undertaking his journey.
A. In his youth, Beowulf was viewed as handsome and of great stature, but lazy and too good-natured to be much of a warrior. As he grows, he proves himself and his bravery in a swimming contest against the kingdom’s best swimmer, and is then viewed as a brave and powerful leader worthy of respect. He leaves in an attempt to prove his worth and win respect, honor, fame, and glory.
4) When Grendel fights Beowulf, the reader learns that the monster’s “time had come,” and he will soon die. What does this idea say about the Danish belief in fate? Write a short essay in which you show how the belief in destiny influences the thoughts and actions of the characters. Provide several other examples from Beowulf to support your position.
A. They may say that Beowulf believed he was destined to fight the monsters, and he accepted his victory or death as predetermined. For example, in talking about the upcoming battle with Grendel, he says, “Fate will unwind as it must” (line 284).
5) What is the outcome of Beowulf’s battle with Grendel?
A. Grendel gets away, but he is fatally wounded and goes to his den to die.
6) Describe the setting where Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother
A.The den of Grendel and his mother is the bottom of a dark lake. It is covered with dark mists and trees whose roots travel down into the deep water. At night the lake “burns like a torch”.
7) Imagine that Grendel has escaped unharmed after fighting Beowulf at Herot. Based on what the poem has taught you about the monster, what do you think Grendel will do next in his war against Beowulf and the Danes? Use reasons and examples from Beowulf to further explain your opinion.
A. Grendel will return to fight Beowulf again. They may note that Grendel is determined to battle humans and the forces of good.
He is also a strong, proud, and brave monster used to winning his battles.
8) What follows Beowulf’s battle with Grendel that brings further sorrow to King Hrothgar?
A. To avenge her son’s death, Grendel’s mother comes to Herot and kills a warrior who happens to be Hrothgar’s closest friend.
9) List three reasons why Grendel from Beowulf might have led a painful life.
A. Grendel is impatient with the music and celebration of Hrothgar’s men; his home is a hell on earth; he was born in slime; his parents are the children of Cain, who were exiled by God; he is family to “a thousand forms of evil,” who angrily fight against God.
10) Many critics and teachers believe that Beowulf contains themes that are relevant to modern life. Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer in an essay.
A. agree may refer to themes that always are relevant to human life: good vs. evil; the glorification of generous rulers who try to do good for others; the importance of dedication, bravery, and fairness.
11) Is good a more powerful force than evil in the modern world? Explain your opinion.
A. I would argue that good is a stronger power than evil today because most people live lives that are fairly happy. Compared to other times in world history, we are much less likely to be killed by rampaging armies. We are very unlikely to be enslaved. In most countries of the world, we are unlikely to be persecuted for our religious or political views.
12) The pagan Germans, Greeks, and other ancient peoples believed that fame and glory are the only things that will survive a human being’s death. What evidence do you find in Beowulf of the importance placed on a person’s public reputation? Write an essay in which you use examples from the poem to support your answer.
A. one of Beowulf’s main goals is to win glory by killing Grendel. His deeds have given him a reputation for heroism and support from his people to help the Danes. When he goes into the lake to fight Grendel’s mother, the bystanders fear he has lost his life—and fame: here, death equals defeat equals loss of glory. Even when old, Beowulf wants to seek fame by fighting the dragon. He doesn’t wish to die at the end, but when he sees that it is inevitable, he asks his warriors to build a tower that will keep his name alive in memory.
13) List the major battles in Beowulf. State the battle you think is the most important, and then use reasons and examples from the poem to explain why.
A. Grendel attacks Hrothgar’s men at Herot; Beowulf kills Grendel at Herot; Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother in her battle hall under the lake; A dragon beats Beowulf at the entrance to the dragon’s tower; Beowulf and Wiglaf kill the dragon, but Beowulf dies from his wounds. Students may say the fight between Beowulf and Grendel is most important because it symbolizes the struggle between good and evil. This battle also reveals Beowulf’s virtues and the characteristics of an epic hero.
14) How is sympathy for Beowulf encouraged in this epic? Support your ideas with reference to the poem.
A. a. Beowulf repeatedly endangers himself to protect others.
b. Beowulf is admired by all of the other characters, with the exception of the monsters.
c. Beowulf needs help to kill the fire dragon.
d. Most of the men flee for their lives while he fights for his.
e. In the fight with the fire dragon, Beowulf’s weapons are portrayed as having betrayed him.
f. He accepts his fate as just.
g. He has no children of his own to leave his kingdom to.
15) At the end of the selection, why does Beowulf ask Wiglaf to build him a tomb and call it Beowulf’s tower?
A. He wants sailors and passing boats in the future to see the tower and remember his name.
16) The hero of an epic poem, such as Beowulf, normally embodies the ideals of conduct that are most valued by the culture in which the epic was composed. Write an essay in which you show how Beowulf embodies the ideals of conduct in the Anglo-Saxon culture. You should mention at least four of Beowulf’s virtues. For each one, cite the part or parts of the epic where the virtue is displayed.
A. such virtues as bravery (e. g. , He faces death at the hands of three monsters fearlessly. ); fairness (He fights Grendel bare-handed. ); responsibility (He feels it’s his duty to help the Danes. ; concern for others (He saves the communities the monsters ravage. ); piety (He thanks God for his victories. ); ambition (He wants to earn fame by his deeds. ); loyalty (He’s good to his subjects. ); and intelligence (He plans how he will battle Grendel and the dragon. ).
17) What are Beowulf’s virtues? How might these virtues be especially important to a warrior society? Support your answers with details from the selection.
A. Among Beowulf’s virtues are
b. loyalty and sense of duty.
c. strength of character.
d. determination and stoic resolve.
Students could say that these virtues are valued in a warrior society because
a. warriors engage in battle and battle requires courage.
b. warriors are surrounded by conflict and need to be able to depend upon their comrades for support.
18) One of the major themes in Beowulf is conquest. What lessons can you learn from reading about the battles and accomplishments of the characters in this epic? Provide evidence from the text to support your opinion.
A. good versus evil, the virtues of the epic hero, the military role, belief in God and fate, or social and cultural values. They should support their opinions with appropriate evidence from the text.
19) Write a one-paragraph response in which you use your knowledge of the epic hero and evidence from Beowulf to answer this question: Are Beowulf and Wiglaf suitable figures for an epic?
A. Beowulf and Wiglaf held the characteristics of an epic hero, which may include qualities such as bravery and loyalty; belief in both fate and God; participation in noble battles symbolic of good versus evil; representative of cultural, social, and religious values; and part of legend or hero tale.