Reading Guide: Beowulf by SGOVhy96

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									Name:                                         Period:                                     Date:

                                    Reading Guide: Beowulf
Background
   Even though Beowulf is the “national epic of England,” the action takes place in sixth-century
    Scandinavia. The story was passed via the oral tradition before it was finally recorded in Old English
    during the eleventh century. By then, multiple English poets had contributed English manners, customs, and
    values to the plot.
            o Unlike Paradise Lost, which is a literary epic, Beowulf is a folk epic.

   Major themes revolve around issues of kinship (“king” derives from the same root), blood vengeance, and
    wyrd, the Old English word for fate.

   Major Characters: (Note that most of the names in Beowulf are typical Germanic compounds. Family names
    often alliterate, and masculine names generally have military associations.)

            o   Beowulf: illustrious warrior from the land of the Geats in Sweden (may derive from beo for
                “bee” and wulf for “hunter”  “bee hunter” = bear)

            o   Hrothgar: king of a Danish realm terrorized by a monster (combination of words meaning
                “glory” and “spear”)

            o   Grendel: monster that terrorizes Herot, Hrothgar’s mead-hall

            o   Grendel’s mother: monster that retaliates after Beowulf defeats Grendel

            o   Dragon: monster that goes on a rampage in the land of the Geats

            o   Wiglaf: warrior who helps Beowulf fight the dragon




Questions
1. How does the poet account for Grendel’s origin?


2. How does the poet account for the survival of Hrothgar’s throne?


3. Note the poet’s introduction of Beowulf.

4. How does the way in which Beowulf puts the watchman at ease display the values of the Anglo-Saxons?

                                                                                               Currin/AP Lit
5. What is Grendel’s supposed advantage in battle? What happens to change that?


6. Note the description of the monster’s lair.

7. How does Beowulf indicate his willingness to accept fate?


8. In what ways does the battle with Grendel’s mother differ from the battle with Grendel?


9. Why do the Danes leave the lake while the Geats stay behind?


10. How does Beowulf’s third battle compare to the previous fights?


11. What is the significance of Wiglaf’s words and actions?


12. What is Beowulf’s final request?



                             Classwork Activity: Beowulf-Style Boast
Review Beowulf’s “boasts”: (ll. 114-116, 173-198,
236-264, 630-649).                                      EXAMPLE:
What are the “ingredients”?                             Hail, mighty pupils! Know that I,
     who he is                                         Ms. Currin, born of doctor and teacher
     where he’s from—geographically and/or             In Laurinburg, in the Carolina County
        biologically                                    Of Scotland, am here to save your mortal brains
     why he’s the man for the job                      From academic agony and despair.
Remember, we might see this boasting as “rude,”         In my youth I seized a trophy
but the Anglo-Saxons would not have. It was             From the inferior spellers around me
manly, heroic, and totally expected in their culture.   And went on to serve my team
Now it’s YOUR turn!                                    To a not unexciting volleyball victory.
                                                        My summers were spent as a camp counselor,
FORMAT:                                                 Training young women in the ways of the woods.
    20 lines (approx. 5-10 words each)                 Their arrows were swift; their canoes were steady.
    NO end rhyme                                       Never did they fear under my watchful care.
    LOTS of alliteration                               Long was my journey to the Forest of Wake,
    at least two of the following: metonymy,           But there I gained much from the great knowledge-givers.
     synecdoche, litotes, kenning (underlined)          Their love of learning led me to the Borough of Greene,
                                                        Where my mind was equipped with the tools of a master.
CONTENT:                                                And now I am here, in the land of Forsyth,
                                                        Guiding young pupils in the legendary ways
   your “roots”
                                                        Of the hallowed and powerful literary canon.
   why you’re so great
   your amazing post-graduation plans

								
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