Characters And Themes Of Beowulf English Literature Essay

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He is the main character who is powerful and courageous. He is self confident that he never hesitates to make dare moves against monsters. He is very respectful to the kings including Hygelac and Hrothgar. He responds to King of Dane to help right away and also doesn't take the throne of the Geats for there was son of Hygelac. He also rules with wisdom and kindness when he becomes a king, and sacrifices himself to slay the dragon.

Theme

Heroic and humane natures of a man

The story is about a great man named Beowulf. The book discusses about his heroic nature in fighting and speaking, along with his humane nature of lamenting and regretting.

Good vs. Evil

The story discusses about good and evil. Author often mentions "Lord Almighty," and shows how justice always bring end to the evil nature.

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Summary

End of the Danes' Glory

There was Shield Sheafson, and a boy-child was born to Shield. His name, Beow, became famous. He was a leader of the fight. When Shield died, people put him into a boat, and gave him a funeral. He had a son named Halfdane. Hrothgar was the son of Halfdane. He also was strong in war. He made a hall named Heorot Hall. Then, there was a demon named Grendel, who was annoyed by the "din of the loud banquet." He started to disrupt the parties. He grabbed thirty men and made them into butchered corpses. People wept, but no one could stop Grendel from murders. So Grendel ruled for twelve winters, and King Hrothgar was helpless about this monster. All were endangered, causing constant cruelties on people. He took over Heorot. People vowed to idosls and swore oaths for killer of souls. They remembered hell instead of Lord God almighty. The woe however never stopped, and people were driven to terror every day.

Beowulf Showed Up

The news of Grendel reached the warrior in Hygelac of Geatland. He was a powerful man named Beowulf and had a will to help out the Danes. Elders didn't want him to go, but inspected omens and spurred his ambition. He took fourteen men to go with him. Time went by, and warriors left with weapons and a boat. The sea was calm, and warriors thanked God for it. One of the Danes watchmen saw men unloading battle equipment, so he rode to the shore to challenge them. Beowulf announced that he was son of Ecgtheow of Geats and he wanted to meet Hrothgar. He could help defeat the enemy threatening the Danes and make the land peaceful. The coast-guard took the men to the road, and arrived at Heorot.

They met a soldier named Wulfgar, a Wendel chief well known for wisdom and temper of his mind. Beowulf told him he would like to meet Hrothgar and run his errands. Wulfgar gave a message to Hrothgar, and Hrothgar, who recognized Beowulf's name through his father, Ecgtheow, and welcomed Beowulf. Beowulf introduced himself to Hrothgar, about how he heard about Grendel, how elders supported him for all his great strength. He declared he will fight Grendel and settle the outcome in single combat. He told him to just send back the breast webbing to Lord Hygelac if the battle took him. Hrothgar recollected the memory of Ecgtheow and how he had acknowledged Hrothgar with allegiance. Grendel was now attacking he country, killing all people. He but first took the Geats to feast in Heorot.

During the feast, Unferth, a son of Ecglaf, tried to discredit Beowulf. He told people that Beowulf had lost the swimming contest against Breca, and he wouldn't succeed against Grendel. Beowulf however, corrected Unferth by saying that he had defeated Breca as a strongest swimmer and also fought off sea monsters. He also said he can't recall any fight Unferrth or Breca faced a grave danger during the battle Unferth even killed his own kith and kin. Beowulf reaffirmed his determination to defeat Grendel.

Everyone counted on Beowulf, and people started to laugh and cheer. Hrothgar's queen, Wealtheow came in. She first handed the cup to Hrothgar, then to Beowulf. She welcomed the Geats and thanked God for sending them. Beowulf said he will prove himself with a proud deed or meet death, which pleased the queen. Hrothgar declared he was ready for the night's rest. He wished Beowulf health and good luck, and promised great reward. Beowulf renounced the use of weapons, and left all the battle to Divine Lord. Beowulf and his men rested, and they waited for Almighty God's judgment. Everyone was asleep except for one man who was in fighting mood.

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Beowulf defeated Grendel

Grendel finally came and roamed forth. He was angry and wanted blood. He was trying to rip life from every men sleeping in the mansion. Beowulf watched and waited for him to make the move. Beowulf grabbed a man and killed him. Grendel was going for Beowulf, but Beowulf seized the claw. He was scared that he wanted to flee for the first time in his life. As they fought on, structures of Danes got smashed. Beowulf's warriors worked to defend Beowulf, but they found out none of the weapons work on Grendel. However, Grendel was in pain with Beowulf's attack that he ran away.

People praise Beowulf

The next morning, people were all happy that their days of fear were finally over. Beowulf was praised everywhere. Grendel was dead at last! Hrothgar's minstrel sang about Beowulf. He also sang about tale of Sigemund, the dragon slayer, and King heremod, whom corrupted in late years.

Danes also heard the news, and King Hrothgar thanked God and adopted Beowulf "in his heart." He declared that Beowulf was a child of his hopes and promised he will make Beowulf rich. Beowulf told him about the fight, but regretted about not bringing Grendel's body. Unferth also saw the arm of Grendel, and admitted that Beowulf had defeated Grendel.

The damaged hall was restored. Death is not easily escaped from by anyone. The victory feast began, and Beowulf received armor, rings, helmets, horses, and gold. The other Geats are also awarded with gifts, and rewards are also received by the men who died for the battle. The men alive will enjoy and endure more lives.

Ministrel sang another story about Hildeburh, a Danish princess married to the Frisian King Finn. She lost her son and her brother in a fight at Finn's hall. Danish attacked wildly, but ineffectively. Survivors were given parity of treatment, but the bodies of the slain were burnt. The next spring, the Danes attacked the Frisians in revenge, killing the leader and took Hildeburh back.

The poem was over, and the queen spoke to Hrothgar. She begget to bequeath the land and that Hrothulf will take care of two young sons, Hrethric and Hrothmund, when they inherit the kingdom. She also presented a torque for Beowulf, which King hygelac will die wearing it. More drinking went on, and people finally got into sleep.

Attack of Grendel's Mother

Grendel had died, but Grendel's mother was mad about her son's death. She was also a dark creature searching for revenge of her son. She came to Heorot and started to attack. Grendel's mother devoured warrior, even though she was not as strong as Grendel. Hrothgar heard that his beloved advisor, Aeschere had died. Beowulf was quickly brought to the chamber. Hrothgar told Beowulf that his friend had died by Grendel's mother who tried to avenge for her son. He told Beowulf that she dwelled in dark moors.

Hrothgar leaded Beowulf to the moors, and they found Aeschere's head. They are all scared by the creatures near there. Beowulf wore his armor and took the sword Unferth offered a sword named Hrunting, which had never failed in the hands of anyone. Beowulf told people he will either gain glory or die with Hrunting. After the words, Beowulf dived into the lake.

After some time, Beowulf reached the bottom of the lake, but got captured by Grindel's mother right away. Beowulf's armor protected him. He tried to cut her, but her strong body protected her. He fought back with bare hands. Grendel's mother pulled out a whetted knife, but Beowulf's chain-mail had again saved him. Beowulf found a large sword nearby. He grabbed it, and beheaded Beowulf in one swing. A light appeared, and he cut the head of Grendel off.

Counselors above the lake thought Beowulf had died. They bowed their head and spoke good about the warrior. The Shieldings left. Beowulf returned with the sword's hilt and Grendel's head. The Geats thanked God for hero's return. He displayed Grendel's head in Heorot.

Beowulf's Departure

Beowulf made an account of the fight against Grindel's mother. He said God had helped him that he succeeded in avenging the evil done to the Danes. He presented Hrothgar with the hilt. Hrothgar told Beowulf that they will hold on friendship different from King Heremod, who brought little joy to Danes. He made a lesson about the dangers of power and how no life can be immune to danger. Hrothgar thanked again for protecting the Danes, and held another party.

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Next morning, the Geats were impatient to go back to their own country. He thanked everyone including Unferth for treating them well. Hrothgar declared that the Geats wouldn't find a better man than Beowulf to be a king. Gifts are presented to the Geats, and Beowulf returned gloriously back to home.

Beowulf's back!

Beowulf and Geats returned proudly back to Hygelac's stronghold. Hygelac and queen Hygd welcomed every warrior. Queen Hygd is contrasted to Offa's queen, who was murderous and cruel. Beowulf and his soldiers are greeted warmly, and Hygelac questioned Beowulf about the foreign voyage. Beowulf told how he came to defeat a monster and his mother, and about Hrothgar's daughter named Freawaru who was betrothed to a prince for Heathobards. Beowulf guessed that when the Danes appeared, the Heathobards will take avenge. He then gave Hygelac and Hygd with treasures he earned, including the sword and the neck-ring. Beowulf was now extolled everywhere. Hygelac presented him with a sword and half the land.

Dragon Woke Up

Fifty years passed. Hygelac died, and Beowulf was reigning over the Geats. It was peaceful until one slave stole a cup from dragon's vault. The dragon became angry about the intruder who broached the dragon's treasure. Dragon had kept the treasures from of last survivor of a forgotten race. The Dragon eventually began to belch out flames against the Geat nation.

Beowulf learned that one of his halls has been destroyed. He had a strong shield, but he realized that he is no longer a man he used to be. He flashed back on Hygelac's death by the Frisians, which Beowulf barely escaped. Beowulf was actually a counselor for Hygelac's heir, Hearded, but he also got killed by the Swedes that Beowulf became a king to settle the feuding rule for fifty years.

Beowulf expected this battle to be his last and fell into sadness. He thought about the history, when Hygelac's brothers killed each other accidently. He remembered the wars between the Geats and the Swedes, the proud days in hygelac's time. He had gained a world Naegling which he used forever. He boasted in front of the troops for his past for the last time, and got ready for the fight one to one against the dragon.

Dragon vs. Beowulf

Beowulf finally drew himself and charged on. The dragon also charged against him with a fire. There was a rumble underground. They struck one another with all their might. Beowulf's sword failed him from slaying the dragon, unlike his glorious times. There was only one man remaining with Beowulf named Wiglaf. Wiglaf couldn't flee for all the gifts Beowulf had given him. He told the shirkers how they have pledged to Beowulf for country and loyalty, but how no one's courageous enough to fight. Wiglaf finally decided to aid Beowulf.

The dragon rose again and attacked his enemies with fire. Beowulf's sword again failed. In dragon's third try, Beowulf finally drew blood. Beowulf's hand was burned, even though they managed to kill the dragon. Beowulf discovered deadly poison inside him, and sensed that the death was near. He had Wiglaf to inspect the dragon's barrow for treasure. He told Wiglaf to build a barrow to celebrate him. He finally chose the Wiglaf as an heir for he was the last Waegmundings, and Beowulf died.

Beowulf's Funeral

The dragon was also destroyed. The other warriors who dodged the battle saw Wiglaf comforting Beowulf. Wiglaf, who was mad at them, rebuked them and cursed them for being so useless. Wiglaf told people that Beowulf had died. The messenger predicted that since Beowulf was dead, the geats will be a target of Franks, Frisians, and Swedes. The treasures were going to be buried with Beowulf. The Geats all returned and they all predicted future of darkness. People see the corpses of Dragon and Beowulf. Wiglaf reported Beowulf's last wish about the barrow, and gave orders for funeral. People built a pyre, and funeral held. As the Woman started to cry, everyone lamented about Beowulf's heroic deeds.

Quotes

"Often, for undaunted courage, fate spares the man it has not already marked." (572-573)

Beowulf declares that courage can change your fate, if it hasn't been decided by God

"This formal boast by Beowulf the Geat pleased the lady as well and she went to sit by Hrothgar, regal and arrayed with gold." (639-641)

Boasting pleases the people for it qualifies Beowulf to fight against Grendel

"Like a man outlawed for wickedness, he must await the mighty judgment of God in majesty." (976-968)

Eventually, the God will judge the evil with justice.

"At seven, I was fostered out by my father, left in the charge of my people's lord. King Hrethel kept me and took care of me, was open-handed, behaved like a kinsman. While I was his ward, he treated me no worse as a wean about the place than one of his own boys."

He was fostered by King Hrethel. This led Beowulf become a wise king later.

"When a chance came, he caught the hero in a rush of flame and clamped sharp fangs into his neck. Beowulf's body ran wet with his life-blood: it came welling out." (2690-2693)

Even though Beowulf was a great hero when he was young, he only remained as an ugly corpse when he died.