Virtue and Beowulf
English 12CP Beowulf–Exam Questions Directions: Create a thoughtful, organized, and well-developed essay response to one of the following prompts. Treat your response seriously, and make sure that your response highlights your analytical skills as well as a critical understanding of the poem. You must include compelling details from the poem to support your conclusions. 1. Many critics and teachers believe that Beowulf contains themes that are relevant to modern life. Do you agree or disagree? Explain your opinions using details/lines from the poem for support. 2. The pagan Germans, Greeks, and other ancient peoples believed that fame and lory are the only things that will survive a human being’s death. What evidence do you find in this poem of the importance placed on a person’s public reputation? 3. The hero of an epic poem normally embodies the ideals and conduct that are most valued by the culture in which the epic was composed. What are four (4) of Beowulf’s virtues and for each one, cite the part or parts of the epic where the virtue is displayed. 4. Beowulf and Wiglaf are formidable warriors who kill the dragon in Beowulf. How else do they compare? Find evidence in the poem which shows their similarities and differences. 5.
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 opinions. 6. 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? 7. 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?
Explain how the belief in destiny influences the thought and actions of at least three (3) characters in Beowulf. Provide examples from Beowulf to support your positions. 8. Frustrated pride may lead to spite, just as loyalty may lead to vengeance, and eagerness for glory may turn into greed. Explain how each creature Beowulf battles represents an extreme and dangerous form of warrior values and behavior. 9. Through much of the poem Beowulf embodies the virtues of self-reliance and individualism. Interestingly, “The Last Battle,” although championing these same virtues, seems to offer a different set of values.
Identify two (2) specific instances in the poem (prior to “The Last Battle”) that reflect these values of self-reliance and individualism, and then explain what different set of values might be reflected in the events which occur during and after “The Last Battle”. 10. Is Beowulf a believable character, or is he “too heroic”? Fully support your response using details from the poem, and also explain how his believability affects your sympathy for him. (Be careful not to write him off too quickly by focusing only on his supernatural powers. Your response should reflect a deep analysis and understanding of his character)