Essential Passages by Character: Beowulf
Essential Passage 1: Chapter IX
To a man, the warriors rose up; he spoke man-to-man, did Hrothgar to Beowulf, and wished him luck while granting him command in the mead-hall, adding these words: “Since I could lift up hand and shield, I never before trusted the guardianship of this noble Dane-Hall to any man—except to you on this occasion. Have now and hold this peerless house; remember your fame and be valiant; keep watch for the foe! No desire of yours will be unfulfilled if you come through the battle boldly with your life.”
Beowulf has come to Denmark, to the realm of Hrothgar, on news that the monster Grendel is terrorizing the land. Seeking for adventure in which he can gain honor, Beowulf brings a company of fourteen fellow Geats to fulfill the quest. Hrothgar, beset by the monster that has overtaken his royal hall of Heorot and killed his warriors, is grateful that so strong a champion has come, a man whom he knew in the Geat’s childhood, and whose fame has spread across the seas. In gratitude, Hrothgar yields his place as champion of his own people to Beowulf, granting him the hall of Heorot to defend and protect. Heorot is a symbol of his power, and thus he guardedly gives it into Beowulf’s control. Never before has he yielded any part of his power and authority to any other man, yet, in his age, he has become unable to deal with this new challenge. With a last warning to stand guard, reminding that his fame and reputation stand on his ability to defeat Grendel, Hrothgar departs.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter XXI
Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, spoke: “Do not lament, wise sire! It seems better that each man avenge his friends than to mourn them to no end. Each of us must await the end of his path in this world, and he who can, should achieve renown before death! That is the best memorial when life is past and a warrior's days are recounted. Rise up, oh warden of the realm! We ride forth promptly to catch the trail of Grendel's mother. Mark my words—she shall find no shelter, neither in the earth of the fields, nor the mountainous woods, nor the ocean's depths—wherever she may flee! Have patience and endure your woes this day, as I suspect you shall.”
Grendel, the monster that has invaded Heorot, has been vanquished. Crawling away to die in his water-hidden chambers, he has left behind his arm that Beowulf wrenched from him with his bare hands. Hrothgar has celebrated the return of his home with a feast. However, the next night, Grendel’s mother storms the hall, seizing and killing Hrothgar’s closest and most beloved advisor. Hrothgar is overwhelmed by another conflict following so quickly on the heels of the other. His courage begins to fail, but Beowulf gently remonstrates him for his lack of heart. Knowing that death is certain for all, it is best to win glory while one can, since that is all that will remain after the warrior is gone. Beowulf thus rather bluntly tells Hrothgar to “man up” and show some spine. It is Beowulf, who has so often shown courage and prowess in battle, who will avenge the death of Aeschere. It is in avenging a death that this warrior will now gain glory.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter XLIII
They placed in the barrow collars,...
(The entire section is 1455 words.)
Essential Passages by Theme: Honor
Essential Passage 1: Chapter XXI
Beowulf, son Ecgtheow, spoke: “Do not lament, wise sire! It seems better that each man avenge his friends than to mourn them to no end. Each of us must await the end of his path in this world, and he who can, should achieve renown before death! That is the best memorial when life is past and a warrior's days are recounted."
Beowulf has successfully vanquished the monster Grendel. However, on the heels of this victory comes an attack by Grendel’s mother, bent on vengeance for the death of her son. Hrothgar, beginning to show his age, is feeling overwhelmed by this new challenge. The death and damage that Grendel inflicted on Heorot have drained the courage and purpose from his heart. Yet Beowulf steps in—reprimanding and encouraging—to say that this challenge is not beyond Hrothgar's depleted strength. A man’s life does not find fulfillment in rest, but in glory. Glory is achieved by meeting the trials and tribulations that life hands a man. Warning has been given of allowing a death to go unavenged, and this dishonor cannot fall on Hrothgar. His legacy to his people is the honor with which he meets such challenges, not his ability to avoid them.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter XXII
The life of the son of Ecgtheow, prince of the Geats, would have ended there underneath the wide earth if his armor of war, hard net of battle, had not aided him; and the Holy God, wisest Maker, wielded the victory. The heavenly Ruler championed his cause, and he soon stood on his feet again.
Beowulf has entered the cavern where Grendel’s body lies, guarded by his equally monstrous mother. Beowulf, in vengeance for the attack on Heorot and the death of Hrothgar’s most trusted advisor, must vanquish this new monster, though she herself is justified in her mind for avenging the death of her son. In the battle with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf fights valiantly but not without challenge. The monster has hit him hard with her knife, but the blow is deflected by his mail shirt. The battle gear that he has brought with him, swimming down through the watery depths to Grendel’s cavern, was worth the effort. Yet it is not armor alone that has saved him, Beowulf acknowledges. It is the grace and mercy of God that has aided the warrior and his armor to turn back the attack.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter XXV
“Drive such evil thoughts from you, dear Beowulf, most excellent youth! Choose for yourself a better course of eternal profit, and do not tend toward arrogance, famed warrior! Your might is in bloom for only a while, but before long sickness or sword shall diminish your strength, either by the fire's fangs or the waves of a flood; by the bite of a blade or a wielded spear; by age or by the darkening of your eyes' clear beam. Death...
(The entire section is 1278 words.)