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On their way to Hrothgar's palace, the Geats are stopped by a Danish warrior, Wulfgar, who also asks them to identify themselves. At this point the action of the poem has slowed down considerably. Beowulf steps forth a second time, identifies himself and his men, and requests an audience with Hrothgar. Wulfgar is satisfied that the visitors are well intentioned-it's hard not to be impressed by the nobility of their weapons and armor-and encourages Hrothgar to receive them.
The conversations between Beowulf and the watchman, and between Beowulf and Wulfgar, are obviously repetitive. There are many such instances throughout the poem where the poet repeats himself, often telling the same incident from different points of view. When this occurs, ask yourself whether this technique adds or detracts from the drama of the story. Is it necessary for Beowulf to introduce himself twice, and yet a third time, even more elaborately, when he finally meets Hrothgar? What do the speeches reveal about Beowulf's character?
His willingness to endure the questions of the king's intermediaries reveals an ability to comply with the formalities of any given situation. Be patient, not arrogant, the poet is telling us, and you'll get what you want.
All the speeches in the poem resemble the lines spoken by an actor or actress in a play. It's important to remember that the poem was first recited orally, and that the performer acted each part to the best of his ability.
Though suspicious of strangers, the Danes are an intuitive people. Wulfgar is described as being famous not only for his strength and courage, but also for his wisdom. Wisdom, in this case, might be defined as an understanding of human nature.
Hrothgar tells Wulfgar that he knew Beowulf when he was a boy. He senses that Beowulf's arrival is a sign that the luck of the Danes is changing, and that God is now acting in their favor. Beowulf's prowess as a warrior is well known, and Hrothgar is confident that he'll be able to defeat Grendel.
Beowulf's speech to Hrothgar is a combination of youthful boastfulness and an understanding that, as one critic has put it, "the wages of heroism is death." It's his self-proclaimed mission in life to enter into situations where death is a possibility. He's also aware that it's ultimately up to God whether he achieves success against Grendel or whether he's killed by the monster.
Beowulf's character embodies the major conflict of his times-the conflict between the old pagan rituals and the influence of Christianity. Recall the definition of epic poetry, and ask yourself whether Beowulf's personality conforms to the definition of the epic hero.
There's nothing offensive about Beowulf's boastfulness, he's merely stating what he believes to be true, almost as if he were talking about another person. Telling Hrothgar about his past exploits as a warrior against the Geats' enemies and as a hunter of sea monsters, he's presenting the king with his credentials. Fighting Grendel is a job he feels he was born to do. If he has any doubts about himself, he's not going to reveal them at this moment.