Beowulf. Reading Questions.

  1. In line 11 the bard (poet) says "That was a good king". Read the previous lines and determine, what does it take to be a good king in that society?
  2. What is the mead-hall that Hrothgar built and what is its purpose? Lines 65-80.
  3. What does the bard sing about in the mead-hall?
  4. What is Grendel's lineage?
  5. Why is Grendel angry?
  6. How does Grendel deal with the Danes?
  7. What can Grendel not touch and destroy in the mead-hall? Why?
  8. What are Beowulf's achievements that make him capable to fight Grendel?
  9. How is Beowulf met on the shore?
  10. What are some heroic feats that Beowulf has performed? Lines 419-425.
  11. What instructions does Beowulf give Hrothgar should he die in battle against Grendel? Lines 450-455.
  12. How did Hrothgar and Beowulf's father become friends? Lines 459-473
  13. Notice the importance of feasting, comradeship and song in this section. Find examples.
  14. Why is Unferth angry?
  15. What is Unferth's opinion of Beowulf? Why is this type of behavior improper?
  16. How are the two stories of the swimming (most likely rowing) competition with Breca narrated by Unferth and Beowulf different?
  17. What does Beowulf promise (boast) Hrothgar's wife as he is given the goblet to drink mead? (630-638)
  18. Notice all the references to God in this section. How does God figure in the fight between Beowulf and Grendel that is about to happen later?
  19. Are the men convinced that Beowulf will win the battle? Why? (690-696)
  20. Is there anything in the description of the fight between Beowulf and Grendel that stands out?
  21. Notice the description of the strength of the mead-hall, as the battle rages. (766-774)
  22. Beowulf's men can't do much to help him with their swords. Why not?
  23. How does the battle finally end?
  24. In lines 817-818 the poet says "Beowulf was granted the glory of winning." Why "granted", do you think?
  25. What finally happens to Grendel?
  26. What happens to Grendel's arm? For what purpose, do you think?
  27. How is Beowulf's fame spread? (855-672)
  28. How does the Christian poet fit God into Beowulf's success? Find examples. (927-955)
  29. How would you argue either of these points?
    1. Grendel was destined to die by God's will. Beowulf is is God's tool who makes sure it happens.
    2. Beowulf's superior strength and heroism is the cause of Grendel's death
  30. Cleaning of the mead-hall - cleansing the hall of evil.
  31. How is Beowulf rewarded by Hrothgar?
  32. After describing the rewards, the poet says, "A fair witness can see how well each one behaved." What do you think that means? (1048)
  33. Skip the poet's song. (1070-1158)
  34. What role does Hrothgar's wife play at the celebration?
  35. What does Grendel's mother take with her as she leaves Heorot in panic?
  36. How does Beowulf reply to Hrothgar's request to fight Grendels mother?
  37. How would you comment on this quote from Beowulf: "It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning." (1383-1385).
  38. Describe in few words the swamp where Grendel's mother lives. What is the surrounding nature like? What sort of creatures live there?
  39. Notice how Beowulf prepares himself for battle. (1441-1490).
  40. How does Unferth contribute to Beowulf's preparation? What is unusual about it? What do you think is the significance of the act?
  41. What instructions does beowulf give Hrothgar should he die in the battle?
  42. Describe in few details the battle between Grendel's mother and Beowulf.
  43. How does Beowulf kill Grendel's mother?
  44. What does Grendel bring back to the surface at the end of the battle?
  45. What wise advice does Hrothgar give Beowulf during the celebration? (1757-1768)?
  46. What does Beowulf promise Hrothgar as he is about to leave?
  47. Summarize Hrothgar's reply to Beowulf. (1840-1865)
  48. How does the poet praise Hygelac's young wife? (1925-1930; 1980-1983)
  49. How does king Hygelac reward Beowulf?
  50. What arouses the dragon's wrath?
  51. What does the dragon do in reprisal?
  52. In what ways is the dragon different from Grendel? Is the dragon a greater or lesser threat than Grendel?
  53. Provide a short summary of how Beowulf became a king of the Geats. (2355-2397)
  54. Disregard the history of the battles in lines 2425-2489.
  55. Who is Wiglaf?
  56. How was the dragon killed? What is Wiglaf's role?
  57. How does Beowulf die?
  58. What does Beowulf want for his funeral?
  59. What punishment does Wiglaf order for those men who fled from the scene of battle? (3884-2891)
  60. What fear is there from the neighboring people now that Beowulf is dead?
  61. (2910-2923; 3000-3004)
  62. Comment on Wiglaf's speech in lines 3075-3087? Could Beowulf's death been averted?
  63. Provide a short description of Beowulf's funeral pyre and funeral.