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TERM PAPER IDEAS
1. Discuss the idea of comitatus and why it was so important to Anglo-Saxon society.
2. What are the qualities that make a hero? Cite the qualities in Beowulf's personality that you think are truly heroic.
3. Some readers describe Beowulf as being more like a god than a man. What are the qualities that make him human?
4. Compare Beowulf to Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey and Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid.
5. How are the historical digressions important to the structure of the poem?
6. What is the relevance of the character Unferth to the poem?
7. Are Hrothgar's tears on Beowulf's departure from Denmark a sign of strength or weakness?
8. Compare Beowulf as a young warrior to Wiglaf.
9. Show how the influence of Christianity affected the lives of Beowulf, Hrothgar, and Anglo-Saxon society in general.
10. What is the role of women in Anglo-Saxon society? Are there any major women characters in the poem?
11. Why do you think the poet repeats the story of the battle between Beowulf and Grendel so frequently? Do these repetitions add to or subtract from the overall drama of the poem?
12. Analyze Hrothgar's sermon to Beowulf on the evils of pride. Discuss the ideas contained within this speech.
13. Why does Wiglaf predict that the Geat dynasty will collapse after Beowulf's death?
14. Compare "The Lay of the Last Survivor" to Hrothgar's sermon on pride.
15. Is Hrothgar himself guilty of excessive pride by building Herot? Discuss this in relation to the feeling of instability and transience that pervaded Anglo-Saxon life.
16. Discuss the father-son relationship between Hrothgar and Beowulf.
17. Define paganism. Discuss how paganism affected Beowulf's character, and what conflicts it created for the hero.
18. What makes Beowulf a great poem? Discuss the way the poet uses language-the precision with which he describes things, his narrative techniques.
19. Discuss the concept of revenge as it occurs throughout the poem. Do you think that revenge is part of the pagan or the Christian tradition?
20. Why does Beowulf insist on fighting the monster alone? Discuss this point in terms of what we know about the nature of the hero.
21. What is the poet's point of view? Does it remain the same throughout the poem or does it change from character to character?
22. Choose one of the historical digressions and show how it connects to the main narrative.
23. Discuss the image of "feasting" as it appears throughout the poem.
24. What does the violence of the battle scenes tell us about Anglo-Saxon society? Relate the notion of violence to the conflict between paganism and Christianity.
25. Who are the major characters in the poem other than Beowulf? Explain.