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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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VERSES 24-25

In his triumphant speech to Hrothgar on his return to Herot, Beowulf attributes his success against Grendel's mother to "God's guidance." He realizes that without the magic sword he might have lost his life. Again the poet backtracks and, in Beowulf's voice, retells the story of finding the sword and killing the monster.

NOTE:

The relationship between Grendel and his mother is one of kinship and parallels the many blood relationships that the poet describes throughout his story.

In the ancient letters, "runes," written on the hilt of the magic sword, the old king reads the battle between good and evil and the history of the evil giants. Then Hrothgar, realizing that Beowulf's work in Denmark is over, warns the Geat hero against letting his successes and fame go to his head. He advises Beowulf not to become like Hermod, the Danish leader whose story the poet has already told us (900). Hermod abused his power, brought destruction to his people, and ended his life alone and friendless.

It's up to God, Hrothgar tells Beowulf, to grant men wisdom, greatness, and wealth. Yet once a person has power and fame he must learn how to use it correctly. A prosperous person forgets that he's been blessed with God's favor. He allows pride, devilish pride, to grow in his heart and soul. Before he knows it his body fails him; it's too late to make amends for the evil things he's done. The greatest evil, we learn, is not taking advantage of God's favor. If he gives you wealth or power, use it well. If you don't you'll die alone, bitter, and filled with regret.

Death is inevitable, Hrothgar tells Beowulf, even for the greatest of warriors.

How closely is Beowulf listening to Hrothgar's sermon? The great hero doesn't respond and for the moment we have no way of knowing what he's thinking. Hrothgar's speech ends with the promise of more treasures-possibly that's what Beowulf is really interested in.


The warriors sit down to yet another feast, a farewell dinner because the next morning the Geat warriors plan to begin their voyage home. There's a feeling of peace and serenity in the hall. The warriors can finally all go to bed without the fear that some new danger lurks in the shadows.

Eating, sleeping, gift-giving-these scenes seem to follow a set pattern. First joy occurs, then sorrow. Possibly a new feud will begin the next day or an act of treachery will occur. These people (with the possible exception of Hrothgar) live very much in the present moment; they accept instability and sudden change as a fact of life. From day to day, from night to night, no one knows what to expect.

No monster comes to haunt the great hall in the middle of the night. Instead, "a black-feathered raven" is singing outside the windows.

Except for the raven, the night passes uneventfully. The Geat warriors, anxious to return home, rise early and begin preparing for their voyage. Unferth, still trying to make up with Beowulf after his initial blunder, offers him his sword, Hrunting, as a farewell gift. Beowulf, with Hrothgar's sermon on pride still fresh in his ears, accepts Unferth's gift forgivingly. His words of thanks, the poet tells us, "were spoken like the hero he was!"

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