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Study Guide for Beowulf

and Anglo-Saxon Period


AD 449

GermanictribesinvadeEngland.Angles,Saxons,andJutes
settleEngland.RomansWithdraw.
CeltsFleetoWalesandNorthernFrance(Brittany).
The first recorded Anglo-Saxon settler in England: Hengest
came to England with Horsa at the invitation of King Vortigern
to fight the Picts. The same Hengest then attacked Vortigern
and the Britons, won many battles, and instigated the Kingdom
of Kent.
DanesandGeatsstrugglewithothertribesinZealandand
Sweden.
Essential Questions

1. Beowulf is an epic poem. Define epic poem.


2. Which parts of the heroic cycle does Beowulf
represent?
3. What are the three stories in the plot of Beowulf?
4. What language was Beowulf sung in? Composed in?
5. Who composed Beowulf? When? Why?
6. How does the poet show alliteration?
AD 510 to 521

Hygelac,kingoftheGeats,wonthebattle at Ravenswood in
about 510AD.
Hygelac was killed when he was attacking the Frisians in about
AD521.
Beowulf,nephewofHygelac,isayoungman.
AD 550 TO 580

EstimateofBeowulfsdeathvariesfrom550to580.
Rich Ship Burials of Vendel and Valsgarde in Sweden.
ThepoemBeowulfcouldnothavebeencomposedbefore
Beowulfsdeath.
Thusthe6thcenturymarkstheeventsofBeowulfsepicstory.
AD 597

St. Augustin arrives in Kent to bring Christianity to England.


First Anglo-Saxon conversions to Christianity occur.
King Ethelbert converts to Christianity.
In Ireland, missionaries convert northern tribes.
Within 75 years most of England is Christian.
AD 625

SuttonHooshipisburiednearSuffolk..
TheburialmayhavebeentiedtothepalaceofRendelsham.
SomescholarsbelievethatBeowulfwascomposedinRedelsham
nearSuffolk.
NotonlywastheshipburialuncannilyliketheburialsofScyld
andBeowulf,butthegravegoodsrevealedtheEastAngliancourt
oftheWuffingastobeunexpectedlysophisticatedandclosely
linkedtotheSwedishroyalhouseatUppsala.
Perhaps the poem was composed to show East Anglicans their
Scandanavian heritage.
680 to 731

AgeofBede680to730inNorthumbria.
Monkstranscribereligiousandhistoricaltexts.
SomescholarsthinkBeowulfwascomposedduringthistimein
Northumbriabyapoetmonkworkingfromastorysongpassed
downorally.
757-796

ReignofKingOffainMercia.
ReferencestoOffaappearindigressionswithinthelargertext
ofBeowulf.
ThedigressionaboutOffacouldbeawaytopraiseOffas
patronage.
871 to 899

ReignofKingAlfredtheGreat.
UnderAlfredtheGreatspatronage,themanuscriptiswritten
inWestSaxondialect.
AlfredunitesallkingdomsinSouthernEnglandandcausesthe
Vikingstoretreatnorthofalinedeterminedbyatreatycalled
theDanelaw.
18th century

TheonlymanuscriptofBeowulfwasdiscoveredburntand
stainedfromfire.
ThemanuscripthadsurvivedHenryVIIIsdestructionofthe
monasteriesinthesixteenthcentury.
TheGeographyofBeowulf
The Heroic Cycle
Returnshomevictorious.
Departure
Temptation
The Return Sacrifice FightsMonsters.
ResistsFear.
ThreeTemptations.

Followers Fulfillment
EverybodyCheers!
Killsmonstersforaliving.
SlaysDragons
Physicaland
Psychological.
Definition of a Hero:
Someonewhohasachievedbeyond
thenormalrangeofexperiences.
Motherhood
Enteringtheworld
asachild
Responsibilityto
humanity
AccidentalHero:LukeSkywalker
ChosenHero:Firefighter
TypesofHeroes
TheTypes: TheExamples:
Physical:DeedHero,faces GeorgeWashington
physicaltrials StonewallJackson
Psychological:Emotional, MartinLutherKing
Mental Gandhi
Oprah
Einstein
AbrahamLincoln
Spiritual Jesus
Moses
JesseJackson
MotherTeresa
AntiHero AdolphHitler
DevilConcept
Beowulf
GrendelAttacksHerot
DiscussionNotes

Reference:pp.1837
Writelinenumbers
Adddiscussionnotestopostitsinyourtest
ASummaryofSectionI:
Hrothgar, king of the Danes, has built the greatest
of Viking mead halls. Heorot, as the hall is
known, is the greatest gathering place so grand
that the tales of its splendor have spread far and
wide.
Then, Grendel strikes. A blood-thirsty monster,
Grendel stalks the hall at night, killing the
sleeping soldiers and bolting down their bodies
hand and foot. No one can match Grendels
strength. The Danes become so afraid that they
leave the mead hall for twelve years, which hurts
Hrothgars pride.
Lines5to13
What is the poet alluding to in these lines?
Callandthepoetsclearsongs,sung
Oftheancientbeginningsofusall,recalling
TheAlmightymakingtheearth,shaping
Thesebeautifulplainsmarkedoffbyoceans,
Thenproudlysettingthesunandmoon
Toglowacrossthelandandlightit.
Lines31
Herot

Meanshartorstag.thehart
wasasymbolofkingshiptothe
AngloSaxons.
Lines37to48
Why do none of Hrothgar's
men challenge "Grendel?

Knowingbyitstracksthatsomedemonhadtorn
Hisfollowersapart.
Lines52to58
Grendel symbolizes evil.
The conflict is not only between men
but also between good and evil.

Nosavageassaultquenchhislust
Forevil.
Distancewassafety;theonlysurvivors
Werethosewhofledhim.Hatehadtriumphed.
Lines81to85
God prevents Grendel from
touching Hrothgar's throne.

henever
DaredtotouchkingHrothgarsglorious
Throne,protectedbyGodGod
WhoseloveGrendelcouldnotknows.
Lines86to89
The helplessness of Hrothgar
and his men lasts for twelve years.

Thebestandmostnoble
Ofhiscouncildebatedremedies,sat
Insecretsessions,talkingofterror
Andwonderingwhatthebravestofwarriorscoulddo.
Lines90to94
Pagan elements intermixed
with Christian elements.

Apaganscopmayhavecomposedandsungthestory.
AChristianmonkmayhavetranscribeit.

Andsometimestheysacrificedtotheoldstonegods,
Madeheathenvows,hopingforHells
Support,theDevilsguidanceindriving
Lines109to110
The Geats

TheGeatslivedinwhatistodaysouthwesternSweden.
Higlac,kingoftheGeatsandBeowulfskinsman,waskilled
inaraidontheFranksin521.Inthecompletepoem,the
endofthepoemforecaststheGeatsdefeatbyanothertribe,
theSwedes.
Line139
The Mail Shirt of Armor

Composedofasmanyas
twentythousandsmalliron
ringsrivetedorweldedshut,
creatingameshneteffect.
Lines142to143
Was Beowulf offensively arrogant
or just providing his credentials?

Higlacismycousinandmyking;
thedaysofmyyouthhavebeenfilledwithglory.
Lines163to174
Why does Beowulf intend to fight
Grendel without a sword?

Ihaveheard,
Too,thatthemonstersscornofmen
Issogreatthatheneedsnoweaponsandfearsnone.
NorwillI.MylordHiglac
MightthinklessofmeifIletmysword
Gowheremyfeetwereafraidto,ifIhid
Behindsomebroadlindenshield.Myhands
Aloneshallfightforme
Lines184to189
Introducing the character of Beowulf
and the Anglo-Saxon concept of fate..

Andifdeathdoestakeme,sendthehammered
MailofmyarmortoHiglac,return
TheinheritanceIhadfromHrethel,andhe
FromWayland.Fatewillunwindasitmust!
Lines190to205
Hrothgar reminds Beowulf of the
time he helped Beowulf's father.

Hrothgarwasonce,likeBeowulfnow,inapositionto
restorepeacetoatroubledland.
Beowulfnowcomestorepayhisfathersdebit,
tohonorthemanwhoenabledhisfathertoreturntohis
country.
Lines207to212
What does Horthgar's speech
tell us about him?

Astrongking.
Loyaltohisallies.
ButbrokenbyGrendelsreignofterror.
Acompassionaterulermourningthe
deathofhisthanes.
SummaryofSectionII:
News of Hrothgars plight reaches the land of the Geats,
where young Beowulf lives. His father and Hrothgar
have been friends in their youth, and Beowulf feels it is
his duty to go to Denmark to lend his air to his fathers
old friend.
Beowulf arrives in Hrothgars kingdom and is met by the
tragic sight of the ruined Heorot. The remaining Danes
are frightened and bitter, and the old king is broken in
despair. When they hear that Beowulf intends to face
Grendel, they are astonished to his claim. One of the
men, Unferth bristles at Beowulfs boasting. Unferth
says he has heard tales of a swimming contest between
Beowulf and Brecaa contest Beowulf lost.
SummaryContinued:
Beowulf sets the score straight by telling the real
story of the contest, in which he had to take time
out from the swimming to battle sea monsters.
Unferth is agitated by Beowulfs confidence, but
Beowulf is firm in his resolve. The Danes leave
Heorot as night falls. Beowulf waits for Grendel.
Grendel rises from his lair and makes his way to
Heorot to feed once more on the flesh of men.
But as he approaches, Beowulf grabs the
monsters arm and refuses to let go. They battle
long and hard, but Beowulfs determination wins
out. In a final, wrenching tug, Beowulf pulls off
Grendels arm. The monster, mortally wounded,
slinks off to his den.
Lines233to238
What is Unferth's motive
for challenging Beowulf?

angrythatanyone
InDenmarkoranywhereonearthhadever
Acquiredgloryandfamegreater
Thanhisown:
Lines239to245
A hero's challenge by a
character of inferior status.

Aregularmotifofheroicpoetry.
Allowstheherotoshowselfassertivenessandrestraintandcourtesy.
YoureBeowulf,areyouthesame
Boastfulfoolwhofoughtaswimming
MatchwithBrecca,bothofyoudaring
AndyoungandproudOlderandwiseheadswarnedyou
Notto,butnoonecouldchecksuchpride.
Lines266to267
Beowulf's great courage and his compassion.

Butthetruth
Issimple:Nomanswimsinthesea
AsIcan,nostrengthisamatchformine.
Lines272to290
Examples of Alliteration

Lookforconsonantandinternalvowelsoundrepetition.
Lines293to297
In what ways does Beowulf compare
his defeat of the sea monsters to a feast?

Offeringtheedgeofmyrazorsharpsword
Butthefeast,Ithink,didnotpleasethem,filled
Theirevilbellieswithnobanquetrichfood,
Thrashingthereatthebottomofthesea.
Lines305to306
What does Beowulf believe about fate?

Fatesaves
Thelivingwhentheydriveawaydeath
bythemselves!
Lines315to321
Unferth serves as a foil to Beowulf.

Afoilinliteratureisacharacterwhocontrastswithanother.
Notalesofyou,Unferth,telling
Ofsuchclashingterror,suchcontestsinthenight!
Breccasbattleswereneversobold;
Neitherhenoryoucanmatchme
Youmurderedyourbothers,
Yourownclosekin.
Lines320to321
Wergild or "Man- Payment"

Killingoneskindredwasa
heinousactamongAnglo
Saxonnobility.
Wergildcouldnotbemade
toonesownrelatives.
Onecouldnotmakeamends
forthemurderofkin.
Lines340to343
Batman and Beowulf

Whatworksarebasedonthebasicthemeofgoodvs.evil?
Movies?
ScienceFictionHeroes?
WhataresomesimilaritiesbetweenheroeslikeBatmanand
Beowulf?
hebelieved
InBeowulfsboldstrengthandthefirmnessofhisspirit.
Lines345to563
Welthow, Hrothgar's Wife

sheraisedaflowingcup
ToHrothgarfirstwishinghimjoy
ShesalutedtheGeats
Greatprince,thankedGodforansweringher
prayers,
Forallowingherhandsthehappyduty
Lines364to369
Life without Greatness or Courage

Letmeliveingreatness
Andcourage,orhereinthishallwelcome
Mydeath!
Lines379to381
Personification

Howisthecomingofnightpersonifiedasthesunsets?

Whennighthadcoveredtheearthwithitsnet
Andtheshapesofdarknessmovedblackandsilent
Throughtheworld
Lines388to391
What is the purpose of
Hrothgar's promise to Beowulf?

TheContract:
Makethisbestofallmeadhallsyours,andthen
keepitfreeofevil,fight
Withgloryinyourheart!PurgeHerot
Andyourshipwillsailhomewithitstreasureholdsfull.
Lines421to429
Why does Beowulf allow Grendel to slaughter
one of the Geats before taking action himself?

GrendelsnatchedatthefirstGeat
Hecameto,rippedhimapart,cut
Hisbodytobitswithpowerfuljaws,
Drankthebloodfromhisveins,andbolted
Himdown,handsandfeet;
Lines432
Kennings

Shepherdofevil
Guardianofcrime

Seepages48and49for
moreaboutkennings.
Lines451to463
The Magnificent Treasures
Described in Beowulf

Wallsshapedandfastenedwithiron.
Goldcoveredboards.
Ivoryandironandwood.
Aroofofgold.

TheburialmoundatSuttonHooinEastAngliayieldedmany
treasuresprovingtheartisanswerecapableofmagnificent
treasures.
Lines475to479
Anglo-Saxon Code of Honor

AllofBeowulfs
Bandhadjumpedfromtheirbeds,ancestral
Swordsraisedandready,determined
toprotecttheirprinceiftheycould.
Lines487to493

What additional evidence
is there that the fight
between Grendel and
Beowulf is symbolic of the
war between good and evil?

whatitmeant
TofeudwithAlmightyGod;
Lines515to517

Why does Beowulf hang Grendel's
arm from the rafters of Herot?

Thevictory,fortheproof,hanginghigh
FromtherafterswhereBeowulfhadhungit
Lines528to534

The Vision of Hell

SimilartoSermon17of10thc.BicklingHomiliesinwhich
St.PaulvisitshellundertheprotectionofSt.Michael.

Thewaterbloody,steamingandboiling
Inhorriblepoundingwaves,heat
Suckedfromhismagicveins;buttheswirling
Surfhadcoveredhisdeath,hidden
Deepinmurkydarknesshismiserable
End.,ashellopenedtoreceivehim.
Lines546to558

Images of Death and Darkness

Findtheimagesofdeathand
darknessinthedescription
ofGrendelslair.Listthem.
SummaryofSectionIII:
King Hrothgar and his men return to Heorot to toast
Beowulfs victory. The rowdy celebration features a
contest of strength. Unferth challenges Beowulf once
again. In the midst of all the revelry, there is a scream
of mortal agony. Grendels mother has struck in
revenge. Beowulf sets out to find her and bring an end
to the reign of evil.
Beowulf travels to the lake where the monster hides.
Armed with only his inner determination and nobility of
purpose, Beowulf dives deep to the bottom, where the
she-monster awaits him. Again, Beowulf is victorious.
Content that he has restored peace to King Hrothgars
land, Beowulf sets sail for his home country.
SummaryContinued:
Fifty years pass. Beowulf becomes king in his own
country. He rules wisely and his people love him
for his generosity. The fame of his deeds has
brought honor and renown to his name throughout
the Viking world.
Then, a dragon awakes and brings terror to the
land. Beowulf announces that he will put his
monster to sleep as he did the monsters in his
youth. A young warrior, Wiglaf, approaches the old
king and swears to stay by his side in the heat of
combat. Beowulf welcomes him and the two go
into the fiery battle.
SummaryContinued:

Although he is old now, Beowulf is still driven by his


noble courage. He succeeds in wounding the
dragon seriously, but the dragon lashes Beowulf
with his poisonous flames. Wiglaf delivers the
death blow, and then discovers his dying king. With
his final breath, Beowulf passes his mantle of
leadership on to young Wiglaf.
A great mound is erected near the edge of the sea,
and Beowulf is laid to rest. All the people pay
tribute to the great King Beowulf: a man of true
kindness, great deeds and noble name.
MakingMeanings

Answerquestions1through8onp.38.
Createachartthatdescribesthethreebattles:
BeowulfwithGrendel.
BeowulfwithGrendelsmother.
Beowulfwiththedragon.
Usethesequestionstoaskquestionsandprepare
forprojectsandtest.SubmitOnOct.2nd,the
dayoftheBeowulfandOldEnglishtest.
Lines595to612
Characteristics of an Epic Hero

Exhibits superhuman strength;


nothing can stop him!

Angry; the steel-edged blade lay where


Hed dropped it. If weapons were useless hed use
His hands, the strength in his fingers. So fame
Come to the men who mean to win it
And care about nothing else!
Lines633to637
Christian Parallels

Critics who trace Christian parallels throughout the epic have


commented that Beowulfs immersion into the lair is a kind of
baptism by which he is washed clean of sins.

Then he saw, hanging on the wall, a heavy


Sword, hammered by giants, strong
And blessed with their magic, the best of all weapons
But so massive that no ordinary man could lift
Its carved and decorated length.
Lines667to701
Beowulf Remains the Epic Hero

Read the selection


and answer the
following question:
To what extent has
Beowulf remained
an epic hero?
Lines746to749
Comitatus

Some critics see the failure of Beowulfs men to come to his aid
as an ominous forecast of the demise of the Anglo-Saxons,
whose society was built around the code of the comitatus, in
which a leader who rewarded his loyal followers with riches
expected loyalty in return.

None of his comrades


Came to him, helped him, his brave and noble
Followers; they ran for their lives, fled
Deep in a wood.
Lines789to790
Alliteration
Butchered by his savage beast: We swore
That these swords and armor were each for us all!

What examples of alliteration


can you find in the passage?
Lines829to834
Hero Until The End
And then twelve of the bravest Geats
Rode their horses around the tower,
Telling their sorrow, telling stories
Of their dead king and his greatness, his glory;
Praising him for heroic deeds, for a life
As noble as his name.