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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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VERSE 19

It's the middle of the night and all the warriors, both Danes and Geats, are asleep. Beowulf and his men aren't sleeping in the great hall, however, but "had been given better beds." By now we can expect almost anything to happen. All the drama of the last few verses has been directed toward this moment.

The main theme of the Finnsburg Episode was revenge. Now Grendel's mother appears-from out of the same swamp where her son had lived-to avenge her loss on the inhabitants of Herot.

Once again the poet tells the battle between Grendel and Beowulf.

NOTE:

Are all these repetitions of the same event necessary? Let's assume that the poet in the oral telling of the story backtracked every few verses to remind his audience of what had happened. Also, when you tell someone a story it's often natural to repeat some things in a different way for emphasis. Some critics feel the repetitions detract from the poem while others think they add to the tension. This is something you'll have to decide for yourself.


The visit from Grendel's mother, the poet tell us, ended the good fortune of the Geats. It seems only a few hours have passed since Grendel's death, enough time for another banquet.

NOTE:

Is the poet being overly moralistic here? Every time you truly enjoy yourself, he's saying, something horrible happens to you. It's a mistake to feel too self-confident, too sure of yourself. Evil-whether it takes the form of a monster or a treacherous warrior-is always in the air.

Grendel's mother enters the hall where the warriors are sleeping. (Why do you think the Danes neglected to post any soldiers at the door of Herot?) They wake in time to ward off the attack with their swords but the monster manages to escape with one victim in her claws. The poet, again, leaves it up to your imagination to visualize Grendel's mother.

After she escapes, the warriors realize that she managed to steal back Grendel's claw from where it was hanging on the rafters. The victim turns out to be one of Hrothgar's closest advisers, "the man he loved most of all men on earth." The king summons Beowulf and his men. There's a feeling of desperation in the air, but as Beowulf walks through the halls of Herot on his way to the king's throne, he "Rehearsed the words he would want with Hrothgar;/He'd ask the Danes' great lord if all/Were at peace, if the night had passed quietly" (1318-20). We know Beowulf realizes that something is dreadfully wrong-no doubt he can hear the uproar from the main hall-but he also knows that it's his job to convey confidence and self-control. At this moment the young warrior seems wiser and more mature than the aging king.

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