BEOWULF STUDY GUIDE
Grendel Attacks the Danes (pages 48 – 51)
1. Why does Grendel attack the Danes?
2. Who is Hrothgar?
3. What is Herot?
4. Explain the meaning of the following lines describing Grendel:
"He was spawned in that slime,
Conceived by a pair of those monsters born
Of Cain, murderous creatures banished
By God, punished forever for the crime
Of Abel's death" (19-23).
5. Where does Grendel live?
6. Describe Grendel's method of attack?
7. How is Grendel's attack different from that of an honorable hero?
8. Does Grendel show remorse? Explain your answer.
9. For how long did Grendel's attacks plague Herot?
10. Explain the meaning of the following description:
"His [Hrothgar's] misery leaped / The seas, was told and sung in all / Men's ears"
11. Of what type of figure of speech is the above quote an example?
12. As a result of Grendel's attacks, how has Herot changed since it was built?
13. What do lines 81-84 tell you about the status of a king in Anglo-Saxon tradition?
14. Cite two examples of alliteration from this section. Be sure to include line
The Coming of Beowulf (pages 51 – 55)
1. Who is Healfdane?
2. Who is Higlac?
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3. How is Beowulf described by the author?
4. Who sends Beowulf to Denmark?
5. How many Geats accompany Beowulf on his journey to Denmark?
6. What is the significance of Beowulf and his crew consulting the omens before
leaving home but thanking God for completing their journey safely?
7. a. Who is the first to greet Beowulf and his crew once they reach the shore of
b. How does he serve Hrothgar?
c. What can one infer from his quick actions?
8. Who is Edgetho?
9. What is the purpose or significance of Beowulf's boasting of his heroic deeds?
(See lines 220-269.)
10. Which weapons will Beowulf use to defeat Grendel?
11. Consult lines 258-268 to answer the following question: How does this portion of
Beowulf's speech express a characteristic Anglo-Saxon view of life?
The Battle with Grendel (pages 56 – 59)
1. a What is the meaning of line 289? "And his heart laughed, he relished the
b. Of what type of figure of speech is this an example?
2 What is Grendel's state of mind as he enters the meandhall?
3. a. What is the first thing Grendel does upon entering Herot?
b. Why do you think Beowulf allows this?
3. Explain the metaphor contained in lines 302-304.
4. What happens to Herot during the fight between Grendel and Beowulf?
6. How does the poet depict Beowulf as being larger than life on page 57?
7. Why aren't Beowulf's warriors able to help him defeat the monster?
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8. How does Beowulf finally defeat Grendel?
9. To where does Grendel retreat after battle?
10. a. What does Grendel leave behind?
b. What does Beowulf do with it?
c. Why do you think Beowulf does this?
11. Where do the warriors go in the morning? Why?
12. What do the marshes symbolize?
13. Identify the hyperbole on page 59.
The Battle with Grendel's Mother (pages 60 – 63)
1. a. Identify an example of personification in lines 446 – 450.
b. What is he meaning of these lines?
2. What happens the night after Grendel's defeat?
3. Why doesn't Beowulf's weapon harm Grendel's mother?
4. What is Hrunting?
5. When Grendel's mother attempts to stab Beowulf, what prevents her from inuring
6. Beowulf's method of killing Grendel's mother is ironic. Explain what type of
irony this event exemplifies and explain your answer.
7. What is the significance of the brilliant light that suddenly shines once Beowulf
kills Grendel's mother? (See lines 498-500.)
8. a. What does Beowulf retrieve before he swims to the surface?
b. What happens to the sword? Why?
9. Why doesn't Beowulf take any of the monsters' treasures with him?
10. How many men were needed to carry Grendel's skull?
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The Battle with the Dragon (pages 64 – 76)
1. What is are the relationships between Higlac, Higd, Herdred, and Beowulf?
2. a. When used as a poetic device, what is apostrophe?
b. Identify the apostrophe used on page 65.
3. When this section opens, how long has Beowulf served his people as king?
4. a. How does the dragon terrorize the Geats?
b. Why does he attack them?
5. Which traits do Grendel, Grendel's mother and the dragon have in common?
6. a. Why does Beowulf decide to fight the dragon alone?
b. Is this foolhardy?
7. Why does Beowulf feel that he must justify his use or armor during battle with the
8. a. What happens to Beowulf's shield while fighting the dragon?
b. What happens to his sword?
9. What happens to the warriors who promised to support Beowulf in battle?
10. Who remains with him to the end?
11. Re-read Wiglaf's speech on page 71 (lines 866 – 883).
a. Why does Wiglaf remain loyal to Beowulf?
b. Why does he chastise the other warriors?
12. What might Beowulf's shield symbolize? (See lines 896 – 900.)
13. Who slays the dragon? Why?
14. Describe Beowulf's fatal wound.
15. What vision does Beowulf have as he falls to the ground in pain? (See lines 940 –
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16. Why can Beowulf "leave this life happy"? Re-read his final speech on page 73
for the answer.
17. List Beowulf's final requests.
18. Beowulf passes his jewels, helmet, and mail-shirt to Wiglaf before he dies. Why
or how is this symbolic?
19. Summarize what Wiglaf says to the soldiers who fled when the dragon attacked.
(See page 76.)
The Funeral Fire (pages 76 – 77)
1. Do Wiglaf and the Geats honor all of Beowulf's final requests?
2. How long does it take for the Geats to construct Beowulf's monument?
3. What is the purpose of Beowulf's barrow?
4. List five details about Beowulf's funeral.
5. How is Beowulf described in the last lines of the poem?
6. Is Beowulf's funeral Christian or pagan? Why?
Questions for Interpretation and Discussion
1. The monster played a prominent role in Anglo-Saxon society. How is this
tradition reflected in American society today? Give three examples. Why do you
think modern day cultures continue to be fascinated with the monstrous?
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2. The Anglo-Saxons had a warring nature and a violent society. Find three
examples of this violence in the imagery of Beowulf. (Hint: Reread sections
detailing Grendel's attacks or Beowulf's exploits.) What constitutes safety and
comfort for the Anglo-Saxons?
3. Consider Beowulf's motives in helping Hrothgar and the Danes. Why does
Beowulf risk his life for strangers? Look at his speeches for help in determining
why he acts the way he does. Give three specific examples.
4. Examine the references made to God and religion in Beowulf. What role does
religion seem to play in the life of the Anglo-Saxons?
5. Symbolism: What do Beowulf and Grendel symbolize? What does the dragon
6. Based on what you have read about Beowulf, identify three qualities that the
Anglo-Saxons valued. In your opinion, does our culture value these character
7. In the first part of Beowulf, Grendel repeatedly attacks Herot. In the last part of
the epic, the dragon destroys Beowulf's hall. Based on your reading and analysis
of these passages, what did the mead-hall represent in Anglo-Saxon society?