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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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VERSE 20

Hrothgar is beside himself. "Anguish," he tells Beowulf, "has descended on the Danes." It's surprising, in a way, that the king is so shocked. In the course of his speech we learn that, in fact, Grendel had been seen in the company of another monster. Why didn't the Danes expect this other creature to appear one day?

Hrothgar's speech to Beowulf contains a description of the swamp, or "mere," where Grendel's mother lives. The description is realistic and dream-like at the same time. The trees growing over the lake "are covered with frozen spray."


A deer pursued by hunters would prefer to die on the shore of the lake rather than seek shelter and safety in the water. During storms, "waves splash toward the sky,/As dark as the air, as black as the rain/That the heavens weep" (1374-76). It's the poet's ability to evoke a landscape or scene, as much as his insight into human nature, that has established Beowulf's place in the tradition of great literature.

The king begs Beowulf to help him once again. He's visibly shaken by the death of his friend Esher. His speech displays the capacity and depth of his feelings. Of everyone in the poem, Hrothgar is the person most capable of relating to the events in the world in a way that is truly human.

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Barron's Booknotes-Beowulf-Free Chapter Summary Synopsis
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