Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 690
1. How does Hrothgar know of Beowulf?
2. What information does Beowulf’s greeting to Hrothgar include?
3. What are the activities at the feast?
4. How does Unferth taunt Beowulf?
5. What is Beowulf’s response to Unferth’s taunts?
6. How does Welthow react to Beowulf?
7. Why does Beowulf meet Grendel bare-handed?
8. How may Grendel’s attack be described?
9. Why are the Geats’ weapons useless when they rush to Beo-wulf’s aid?
10. What is done with the prize of the battle?
1. Years prior to Grendel’s attacks, Beowulf’s father, Edgetho, came to Hrothgar for help. Edgetho had started a feud by killing a Wulfing warrior, Hathlaf; the conflict threatened to become a war between the Wulfings and the Geats. Edgetho’s own people refused him until the feud was settled. The newly crowned, young Danish king Hrothgar was able to end the feud by sending treasure to the Wulfings, and by convincing Edgetho to swear he would keep the peace, thereby averting war. Beowulf was a young child at this time.
2. Beowulf’s greeting to Hrothgar includes the following information: Higlac is his lord and relation; he (Beowulf) is a soldier of some renown (he elucidates his fame with several anecdotes); he wants to kill Grendel with only his bare hands and possibly the help of his soldiers, exclusively; and he explains what should be done with his possessions should he be killed by Grendel.
3. At the feast, the Danes surrender their seats to the Geats and serve them mead (a drink made of water, honey, malt, and yeast which is fermented). Poets sing as the Danes and Geats eat and drink.
4. Unferth taunts Beowulf at the feast by calling him a “boastful fool” and recounting the tale of his swimming contest with Brecca in such a way that it makes Beowulf seem a headstrong, irresponsible boy with no regard for the advice of his elders. He also says that Beowulf lost this contest, as he will the upcoming one with Grendel.
5. Beowulf’s response to Unferth’s taunts is that Unferth is drunk and has confused the facts. Beowulf proceeds to tell him that he was actually the winner of the swimming match, and that he achieved this victory by swimming through a frozen sea and battling nine sea-monsters. He continues by vilifying Unferth as someone who has won no battles and murdered his own brother. In concluding, he reaffirms his vow to kill Grendel.
6. Welthow serves Beowulf the mead after first serving her husband and his soldiers. She thinks of him as God’s answer to their prayers of ridding themselves of Grendel. She is so pleased with his determination to kill Grendel, or be killed himself, that she returns to Hrothgar’s side to repeat this to her husband.
7. Beowulf fights Grendel with his bare hands because he believes Grendel is neither stronger nor braver than he. He thinks his shield and sword would make Grendel helpless, which would be unfair if this is an even match in strength and bravery. Beowulf expects God to choose the victor unless Grendel dies of fright first upon seeing a soldier brave enough to face him weaponless.
8. Grendel hurriedly and silently slides straight to Herot where he snaps open the door, tearing off its hinges. He stops for a moment as he spies the sleeping warriors to delight in what he sees as his upcoming feast. He grabs Hondshew, rips him apart, drinks his blood, and eats him. Next, he clutches Beowulf, who instantly grabs Grendel’s claws. Realizing this is not a Dane he can kill quickly as usual, Grendel struggles to flee from this Geat. Herot trembles as the two sweep down its aisles. Screams ring out as they grapple. Beowulf’s soldiers jump into the fray, only to find their weapons useless. Grendel, growing weaker and angrier, twists away in pain, leaving his claw, arm, and shoulder with Beowulf as he flees to his den.
9. The Geats’ weapons are useless because Grendel had laid spells on them, rendering them blunt.
10. The prizes of battle—Grendel’s claw, arm, and shoulder—are hung from the rafters of Herot.
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