Evaluation of the Book Beowulf

1. How do the heroic societies and values of Beowulf compare to those of The Iliad? Where do we see parallels and divergences? How does the practice of gift-giving, for example, stabilize (or destabilize) loyalties and allegiances?

2. The opening of The Iliad assigns agency and power to various actors and forces like Achilles, Zeus, and fate. Here in Beowulf, the author sets pagan practices and beliefs alongside those of Christianity as well as fate. Where do these forces—particularly the pagan and the Christian—seem to be in conflict with each other, and how does this conflict shape the poem and our perception of its characters?

3. As in other poems we’ve read, Beowulf presents several situations in which hospitality plays a crucial role. This hospitality seems oddly threatened when Hrothgar greets Beowulf with some potentially contentious family history. He says, “There was a feud one time, begun by your father” (459). Why might Hrothgar have brought this up, and what does it reveal about the limits or boundaries of hospitality?

4. In the section of the poem we’re reading, there are two poetic interludes that the poet juxtaposes alongside his own poem of Beowulf. How do these poems offer critical commentary (or foreshadowing) on the events of the poem?

5. How does the poet craft Grendel’s monstrosity not merely as a fact of physical might, but also through other elements like landscape and myth?

part 2

focusing on the poem that ends the first reading. We’re going to revisit the question I posed for Thursday: how does this poem offer critical commentary (or foreshadowing) on events in the larger poem?

2. How does Beowulf’s combat with Grendel’s mother compare to the fight with Grendel? How does this fight give the Beowulf poet an opportunity to add Christological dimensions to Beowulf’s character?

3. The poet praises Hrothgar as a good king partially because he’s so good about giving gifts. The poet also reveals that gifts can be problematic in certain situations. How do we see gift-giving—the dispensing of rings—as both necessary and dangerous to a king’s rule?

Beowulf is the Book


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