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Beowulf

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Author
-Unknown

Information About the Author as Related to the Assigned Work


-Beowulf is written in Old English. It is believed that Beowulf was composted
between the eighth and eleventh centuries.

Author’s Major Works


-None

Assigned Selections for This Class


-Beowulf

Major Characters in Assigned Work or Works


-Beowulf
-Grendel
-Wiglaf
-King Hrothgar
-Grendel’s Mother
-Unferth
-Heorogar
-Hygelac
-Wealththeow

Synopsis or Plot Summary


-The King of the Danes, King Hrothgar, is concerned about a demon named Grendel.
Each night Grendel attacks King Hrothgar’s mead hall killing King Hrothgar’s people.
The mead hall is called Heorot. A Geat fighter named Beowulf ventures to Heorot Hall to
help King Hrothgar because King Hrothgar helped Beowulf’s father in the past. The first
time Beowulf encounters Grendel he decides to only use his hands. Beowulf rips
Grendel’s arm off and kills him. The entire town celebrates. The fun quickly ends. While
all the partiers are sleeping in Heorot Hall, Grendel’s mother decides to seek revenge.
Grendel’s mother gets alarmed when some of the warriors wake up and quickly goes
back to her lair. Beowulf and his fellow warriors travel to Grendel’s mother’s lair. They
endure a strenuous obstacle through a lake to find her cave. Beowulf grabs one of
Grendel’s mother’s swords and slays her with it. Beowulf then returns to his people with
the sword and Grendel’s head. Beowulf goes back home to Geatland and becomes a lord
in King Hygelac’s court. After King Hygelac and his family are murdered in various
feuds, Beowulf becomes the King of the Geats, where he reigns for fifty years. Then
Beowulf comes across a vicious dragon that was woken by a robber. The dragon goes
crazy and starts attacking the Geats. Beowulf takes some warriors with him, including the
thief to get to the dragon’s lair. Wiglaf is the only warrior that stays by Beowulf’s side.
Beowulf conquers the dragon, but is severely hurt in the process. Beowulf passes away a
hero. The Geats made a funeral pyre for him covered with various treasures.

Author’s Literary Techniques and Examples/Style of Writing


-Darkness and Light- Imagery is a significant device used in Beowulf. When Beowulf
travels to Grendel’s mother’s lair, he is forced to venture through the darkness of the
underwater. When Beowulf defeats Grendel’s mother he explains that the darkness fades
away. “A light appeared and the place brightened the way the sky does when heaven’s
candle is shining clearly” (lines 1570-1521, page 148).

-Swords- Swords are frequent items brought up throughout Beowulf. Such as when King
Hrothgar provides Beowulf with a sword after killing Grendel, “Then Halfdane’s son
presented Beowulf with a gold standard as a victory gift, an embroidered banner; also
breast-mail and a helmet; and a sword carried high, that was both precious object and
token of honor” (lines 1019-1023, pages 134-135).

-Digressions- A digression mentioned in Beowulf is when Beowulf discusses his


swimming competition with Breca. He mentions this when Unferth summons him.

-Alliteration- “Their mighty prince, the storied leader, sat stricken and helpless” (lines
129-130, page 115).

-Simile- “Over the waves, with the wind behind her and foam at her neck, she flew like a
bird” (lines 217-218, page 117). “It was like the misery felt by an old man who has lived
to see his son’s body swing on the gallows” (lines 2444-2446, page 167).

-Kenning- “…but the throne itself, the treasure-seat” (line 168, page 116).

Implications for Today’s Society


-Beowulf teaches readers about strength, loyalty and bravery. Beowulf was a courageous
warrior.
-Beowulf teaches readers to not be selfish. Beowulf is quick to decide to defeat Grendel.
-If you are brave and confident, use those traits to help others. Beowulf used his qualities
to help people of another land.
-Revenge is never justified.
-To every action, there is a consequence. Grendel’s mother wants to seek revenge for her
son’s death, but when she tries to do so, she fails.

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