Literature Study GuidesBeowulfLines 194 661 Beowulf In Heorot Summary

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Lines 194-661 (Beowulf in Heorot)

Course Hero's video study guide provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Lines 194-661 (Beowulf in Heorot) in the epic poem Beowulf.

Beowulf | Lines 194–661 (Beowulf in Heorot) | Summary

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Summary

Beowulf, a powerful, confident, handsome warrior motivated by loyalty and obligation to aid Hrothgar, enters the story. Loaded with battle gear, Beowulf and his men board a ship and sail to the Danish coast. The guardians of the coast are alarmed by the arrival of elaborately armed men, but Beowulf explains the mission. Impressed by Beowulf, the guards lead the men to Heorot Hall. Beowulf has to again state his cause and remind Hrothgar of the friendship that he and Beowulf's father shared.

Likewise, Beowulf presents many of his accomplishments: he fought numerous beasts, raided a nest of trolls, and even took on several sea monsters. Beowulf declares that he plans to defeat Grendel, and that he will do it without weapons to bring greater honor to the Geats.

Hrothgar makes a speech regarding Beowulf's father and then bares his soul about the murders and embarrassment caused to his kingdom at the hands of Grendel. Hrothgar's courtier, Unferth, becomes jealous of the praise heaped on Beowulf and begins to make a speech to discredit him. Beowulf not only defends himself but also rebukes Unferth for his less than moral actions and lack of courage. Hrothgar's queen, Wealhtheow, sings Beowulf's praises and thanks him for coming to their aid.

Analysis

This segment establishes the relationship between Hrothgar and Beowulf. There is a bond of loyalty between Hrothgar and Beowulf's deceased father, Ecgtheow, which has passed on to the next generation.

Years ago Ecgtheow became involved in a feud with the Wulfing tribe because he killed Heatholaf, one of their members, and could not afford to pay the wergild (penalty) imposed. Hrothgar saved Ecgtheow by paying the fine on his behalf. Beowulf now seeks to repay the debt by defeating Grendel. The culture of the time was very much driven by the heroic code. This code demanded loyalty and also required revenge to be exacted when called for. If a good deed benefited someone, that person was indebted to the person who helped. If someone was wronged, he would take revenge on the other person, no matter how many generations it took until revenge was obtained.

Beowulf makes a number of grand speeches. The hero's conceit doesn't detract from his valiant deeds or stature as it might today; in fact, the people present, especially the queen, are even more impressed by Beowulf. It was expected that the hero warrior would tell of his great deeds to evoke confidence in the people he is defending. While he is boastful, he also demonstrates that he accepts his human frailty by announcing what should be done with his body should he be killed by Grendel.

Unferth's jealous tirade and the back and forth name-calling was actually expected and helps to build an even grander view of the hero. Beowulf does appear to take the insults somewhat personally, but after he debunks Unferth's claims, the goodwill between the Danes and Geats is restored.

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