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MonkeyNotes Study Guide Summary-Beowulf by Anonymous-Free Book Notes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The main theatrical backdrop of Beowulf is Denmark, especially in the regal court of King Hrothgar. The poem begins and ends in Geatland, to the south of Lake Vattern in present-day Sweden. During the poem, Beowulf crosses the sea from Geatland to Denmark. Specific settings are quite varied: Heorot Hall, where Danish banquets are held; the lair of Grendel's mother in a murky lake that boils with blood; the cave of the dragon, which is filled with treasure; and the elaborate funeral pyre built for Beowulf.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Beowulf

Ecgtheow's son, who is strong in mind and body. He is a true hero and a superman. He backs up his extraordinary feats with a powerful sense of social responsibility and morality. He is also engaging and humane.

Hrothgar

The king of the Danes, the son of Healfdene, and the brother of Heorogar. A very just man, he never goes back on his promises and always praises brave and capable heroes. He wishes to make peace with the Heathobards.

Wiglaf

A young and brave Geat who is part of Beowulf's retinue. He helps Beowulf slay the dragon when the rest of the men run away. He also conveys Beowulf's last message to his people.


Unferth

The son of Ecglaf. He taunts Beowulf early in the poem, but later he lends his sword. He is also responsible for slaying his brother.

Grendel

The dreaded monster who threatens Hrothgar's kingdom. Beowulf succeeds in killing him.

Grendel's Mother

The troll wife of Cain. She is a hag who dwells in a cave at the bottom of a large swampy pond.

The Dragon

A monster that ravages Beowulf's Kingdom. Beowulf kills him but loses his own life.

Minor Characters

Scyld Sceafing

The founder of Hrothgar's mighty Danish royal house and the son of Sceaf.

Beowulf, the Dane (usually called Beow)

The son of Scyld who becomes a Danish King. He is a different person from the titular hero of the poem.

Healfdene

The son of Beowulf the Dane. He is the father of Hrothgar, Heorogar, and Halga.

Hrethric

Hrothgar's son and the elder brother of Hrothmund. He is killed when Hrothulf usurps the Danish throne after Hrothgar's death.

Wealtheow

The wife of King Hrothgar. She is a gracious hostess and is the mother of Hrethric and Hrothmund.

Aeschere

The favorite counselor and retainer of Hrothgar. Grendel's mother kills him.

Freawaru

Hrothgar's daughter. She was married to Ingeld in order to end the feud between the Danes and the Heathobards.

Ecgtheow

Beowulf's father, who is a Geat. He is married to King Hrethel's only daughter. When he slays a man, he escapes to Denmark, and Hrothgar pays his blood money.

Heardred

A Geat King who is the son of Hygelac. Beowulf counsels with him and avenges his murder by killing the Swedish king Onela.

Hrethel

Hygelac's father and Beowulf's grandfather. He dies of grief after Haethcyn kills his own brother.

Hygd

The mother of Heardred. Beowulf gives her the necklace that had been given to him by Wealtheow.

Onela

Ongentheow's son. He is slain by Beowulf .

REFERENCES

There are many references to Biblical and historical characters in the play.

SWORDS -- There is a mention of two swords.

Hrunting - Unferth lends this sword to Beowulf before he goes to slay Grendel's mother.

Naegling - Beowulf's sword that fails him when he is fighting against the dragon.

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