What are the descriptions of social customs in Beowulf?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beowulf depicts several social customs of its time, and one of the most significant customs is the process of gift giving. Within the world Beowulf describes, the process of giving gifts is seen as supremely important, and it is especially important to the relationships of lords or kings and their warriors. Usually, kings gave fine gifts (such as rings, armor, weapons, gold, and other treasurers) to warriors who had distinguished themselves on the battlefield or who had shown great courage in general. As such, receiving a sumptuous gift from one's lord was a sign of one's importance within society, and the more gifts a warrior had, the more important he was deemed to be. It is accordingly a great honor when Hrothgar showers Beowulf with gifts, as they function as physical proof of his prowess as a warrior and his status as a hero. Indeed, scarcely a great deed in the poem goes by without a solemn exchange of gifts between the parties involved, and so we can assume that the giving of gifts was a vital social custom at the time of the conception of Beowulf.