Short Essays Topics For Beowulf

Lines 1-370
1. Discuss how the importance of lineage, as seen in Beowulf, has changed in modern culture. Cite specific examples of cases where lineage is still discussed and considered important today—i.e., the few remaining royal families, members of families with long histories of political involvement, and children of notorious or celebrated people. Also note ways in which lineage has, and unfortunately, continues to be used against people in modern culture.

2. Beowulf comes to the Danes to assist Hrothgar’s men in the defeat of Grendel. Yet it has been 12 years since Grendel’s last attack on Herot. Discuss what might have happened during these 12 years to keep Grendel’s need for vengeance alive, and why a young leader brought 14 men across the sea to assist in the battle.

Lines 371–835
1. Despite the fact that Beowulf is a boastful and confident young man, he has a history of keeping his promises. Discuss how this is evidenced in this section of the poem.

2. When Beowulf first arrives at Herot, Unferth tells the story of Beowulf’s swimming contest with Brecca; then Beowulf gives his version of the same contest. How do you account for each of the differences in Unferth and Beowulf’s versions of this contest?

Lines 836–1,250
1. At the second feast, poetry is sung; each poem seems to have a specific moral for the listeners, rather than just entertainment. What are the lessons inherent in the songs of Siegmund and Finn?

2. Hrothgar, an older king, relies upon Beowulf, a young warrior, to save his country. While Hrothgar is considered a good and fair king, Beowulf is something of a legend already. How does the poem indicate, specifically, that each respects the other’s accomplishments?

Lines 1,251-1,650
1. Discuss the specifics of how and why Unferth’s opinion of Beowulf changes after his defeat of Grendel and Grendel’s mother, and Unferth’s loan of a sword to Beowulf.

2. Explain how Grendel’s mother’s actions are both similar and dissimilar to those of a grieving human mother, had her child been murdered.

Lines 1,651–1,887
1. Discuss the lesson of Hermod’s story, and the “message” his death would give the audience.

2. Although Hrunting...

(The entire section is 980 words.)

During today's on-the-ground classes, students suggested essay topics for Beowulf. Here are some of the topics that were mentioned:
• Explain how the use of allusions (to the Bible and other works) helps illuminate the theme of Beowulf
• Analyze the differences in the three fights and explain how they trace the development of Beowulf as a hero
• Was Beowulf’s confidence/cockiness an asset or a tragic flaw?
• Compare the idea of an honorable hero in Beowulf’s time to modern representations
• How do elements of language influence elements of literature? How does the language in Beowulf influence the reader’s understanding?
• Compare Beowulf to modern heroes; how they’re different, better/worse, characteristics (societies/differences in culture and how they affected individual perspectives and decisions)
• How does Beowulf represent everything the Norse stood for (morals, values etc.)?
• Compare myth & reality: which elements of Beowulf appear to reflect the reality of the time, and which elements serve storytelling purposes?
• How did the evolution of the English language favor some ideas and omit others?

·      In your opinion is Beowulf a prideful hero or just a reflection of the time period?  Do you think the character was intentionally designed for effect or merely a product of the times?

·      Compare Beowulf with a modern hero (Iron Man, e.g.).  How are the two personalities similar/different, and how do they suit their respective storylines?

·      Define the symbolism in Beowulf and explain how it developed the story.

·      Describe how Beowulf portrayed the morals, values and culture of the Danish people.

·      Compare Beowulf with a tragic hero from Ancient Greece.

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