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.
Students may mention 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.).
Is good a more powerful force than evil in the modern world? Explain your opinion.
I would say no, because all you hear about today is evil, evil, evil! More evil things are happening today then good things. You rarely hear any good things that happen.
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.
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.
How is sympathy for Beowulf encouraged in this epic? Support your ideas with reference to the poem.
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.
All epic heroes overcome powerful forces that arise from their particular ways of life. Modern heroes may conquer the unknowns of outer space or bring food or medicine to hungry people. The Anglo-Saxon hero slew monsters. Of course, monsters exist only in fantasy. But a monster may be an archetypal symbol for some broader problem or challenge a society faces. What challenges of Anglo-Saxon life are represented by the monsters Beowulf faces? Use your knowledge of Anglo-Saxon society and of Beowulf. Write a paragraph explaining your answer. To support your point, use specific references, including at least one example of imagery, from the poem.
The Anglo-Saxon age was a time of frequent warfare, involving ruthless marauding and ferocious attacks on peaceful settlements. The monsters’ attacks on human settlements may symbolically represent attacks by enemy nations. No doubt each side viewed the other side’s warfare as monstrously bloodthirsty—each side demonized the other. Grendel commits wholesale slaughter at Herot, delighting in the blood he spills; Grendel’s mother takes savage revenge; the dragon, furious because of the theft of his jewels, lays waste to all the land of the Geats. Each monster is relentless, merciless, and vicious, like an invading warrior. The image of a dragon jealously guarding his treasure makes this monster seems particularly like an archetype of the human enemy. The image of Grendel invading the hall while his enemies are asleep and blood spurting all around is also similar to something human warriors might have been seen doing.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
good vs. evil; the glorification of generous rulers who try to do good for others; the importance of dedication, bravery, and fairness. Those who disagree may say that the emphasis on the forces of good winning by physical strength and violence should not be relevant to today’s world, that the battle of good vs. evil is too simplistic, or that heroes of Beowulf’s perfection are implausible and irrelevant.
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.
Students may write about 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.
What are Beowulf’s virtues? How might these virtues be especially important to a warrior society? Support your answers with details from the selection.
Among Beowulf’s virtues are a. courage. b. loyalty and sense of duty. c. strength of character. d. determination and stoic resolve. e. tenacity. 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.