Beowulf – A Student Guide
After reading Beowulf and your teacher’s instruction, discuss the following ideas with your teacher. Choose #1, #2, #3, or #5 and write a short essay (one to two pages) for your teacher.
1. Beowulf was warned about the transience of treasure and power from Hrothgar. Do his actions at the end of the narrative signify that he listened to Hrothgar? Is the philosophy Hrothgar takes primarily influenced by Christianity, by secular experience, or both?
2. Why did Wiglaf order that the treasure Beowulf won from the dragon by buried and burned in Beowulf’s funeral pyre, when Beowulf sacrificed his life for the security it would bring his people? Do you think Wiglaf was too pessimistic, or did he understand the forces at work that would bring an end to Geatish society better than Beowulf did?
3. Compare and contrast the emotive expressions of Hrothgar with the even-tempered behavior of Beowulf. Contrast the Christian ideals presented in the speeches by Hrothgar and Beowulf. How do the Christian and pagan ideals in this story appear to be at conflict?
4. Beowulf had the power of 30 men and Grendel killed 30 men. Both King Beowulf and King Hrothgar had 50 year reigns. Why do you think the numbers in the poem were round numbers and were repeated?
5. What was the true role of the queen in this society, using Queen Wealhtheow as an example?