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Beowulf Study Guide

Beowulf Study Guide

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Published by lac118
Beowulf Study Guide for High School Students
by Glencoe.com.
Beowulf Study Guide for High School Students
by Glencoe.com.

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Published by: lac118 on Sep 08, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/18/2012

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Study Guide
for
Beowulf 
A translation by Burton Raffel
T
H E
G
L E N C O E
L
I T E R A T U R E
L
I B R A R Y
 
   C  o  p  y  r   i  g   h   t   ©   T   h  e   M  c   G  r  a  w  -   H   i   l   l   C  o  m  p  a  n   i  e  s ,   I  n  c .
Meet the Geats, Danes,and Swedes of 
 Beowulf 
B
y the time that
 Beowulf 
was written down, Germanic tribes from Scandinavia and elsewhere in north-ern Europe had been invading England’s shores for centuries. The principal human characters in
 Beowulf 
hail from three Scandinavian tribes: the Geats, the Danes, and the Swedes. The genealogy of these tribes is shown below.
Beowulf 
Study Guide
13
THE GEATS
SwertingHrethelHerbaldHathcynHiglac(
m.
Higd)daughter(
m.
Edgetho)
BEOWULF
Herdreddaughter(
m.
Efor)
THE DANES
ShildBeoHealfdaneHergarHrothgar(
m.
Welthow)HalgaYrs(
m.
Onela)HrothmundFreaw(
m.
Ingeld)HrethricHerwardHrothulf 
THE SWEDES
OngenthoOhtherOnela(
m.
Yrs)EanmundEadgils
 
One of the most important remains of Anglo-Saxon literature is the epic poem
Beowulf.
 Itsage is unknown; but it comes from a verydistant and hoar antiquity . . . It is like a pieceof ancient armor; rusty and battered, and yet strong.
 —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
BACKGROUND
It is a curious fact that some of the world’s great-est literature has come to us from an unknownhand.
 Beowulf,
the first epic poem in the Englishlanguage, ranks high among such literature.Scholars believe that this epic about a brave war-rior who vanquishes evil monsters was composedbetween the mid-seventh century and the end of the tenth century. Some of the story materials thepoet uses may have been passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next.
 Beowulf 
was probably composed in writing byone man. Although no one knows the identity of the author, he lived in what is now England,probably somewhere north of the river Thames.Little more can be said about the author with cer-tainty, except that he was highly skilled in poetictechnique and was thoroughly familiar with thetraditional themes and legends of early Germanicculture.What is it about
 Beowulf 
that moved theAmerican poet Longfellow to compare it to “apiece of ancient armor; rusty and battered, andyet strong”? Perhaps it is that the poet fused earlyGermanic history, legends, mythology, and idealswith Christian faith and values to create anenduring work of art that inspires as it entertains.Or perhaps it is that we still cherish many of thequalities that Beowulf embodies—among themcourage, loyalty, and generosity.
THE TIME AND PLACE
The poem is set mainly in Denmark and Geatland(now southern Sweden) during the sixth century.The map at right shows the locations of peoplesmentioned in
 Beowulf.
The proximity of those peo-ples to one another, together with the warrior codethey followed, made for frequent clashes.
CHARACTER LIST
Much of the early action takes place in Herot, agreat mead hall, or banquet hall, where the well-loved and generous Danish king Hrothgar holdscourt. The following list includes the principalcharacters in
 Beowulf,
some of whom appear inthe genealogies on page 13.
Beowulf,
an ideal warrior of the Geats and thehero of the poem
Dragon,
a fire-breathing, snakelike monster thatterrorizes the Geats
Grendel,
a monster with human qualities thatterrorizes Herot for twelve years
Grendel’s mother,
a monster that also terrorizesHerot
Hrothgar,
Danish king and builder of Herot
Higlac,
king of the Geats and uncle of Beowulf 
Shild,
legendary king of the Danes and great-grandfather of Hrothgar
Unferth,
a warrior in Hrothgar’s court whochallenges Beowulf’s bravery
Welthow,
Hrothgar’s wife
Wiglaf,
a young warrior and relative of Beowulf 
 C  o p y i   g t   ©  eM c  G aw-i  l  l   C  om p ani   e s  ,I  n c .
Introducing the Poem
14
Beowulf 
Study Guide
North Sea 
 B a
  l
  t
  i c
S
  e
 a
Swedes Geats Jutes Frisians Franks Danes 
Early Denmark and SwedenDuring the Time of Beowulf

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