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Beowulf | Study Guide

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Course Hero, "Beowulf Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed December 16, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Beowulf/.

Beowulf | Lines 852–1250 (The Celebration) | Summary

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Summary

A celebration ensues after Beowulf's grand defeat of Grendel. A minstrel sings Beowulf's praises and tells the tale of Sigemund, the dragon-slayer—also a hero for the ages—and an evil ruler named King Heremod.

Hrothgar expresses his thanks and adopts Beowulf into his heart. The king also expresses that his appreciation is so great that he can't imagine what would be a good enough gift to bestow on Beowulf. Of course, Beowulf, being the hero he is, tells Hrothgar that killing Grendel was something he did without hope of any reward. Beowulf is presented with many gifts, including an arm-ring, a necklace, an ancient and valuable sword, a banner, a helmet, and horses. Wealhtheow makes a grand speech and acts as ambassador for her nephew Hrothulf to be the next heir to the throne.

Analysis

At the celebration the king's poet performs many songs and tales for the guests. These entertainments might serve as foreshadowing and as warnings to Beowulf and to the audience. They demonstrate the power and the pitfalls that come with fame.

In one of the poet's stories, which is based on historical fact, a Danish princess named Hildeburh marries Frisian King Finn in hopes of mending a feud between the Danes and Frisians. The feud isn't squelched, however, and the Danes attack. In the end, Hildeburh's son and brother are killed in Finn's hall. Many Danes are killed and their bodies burned to honor the dead. It is a sad tale that shares the culture and difficult political battles waged during those times.

Hrothgar is indebted to Beowulf for helping restore his kingdom to safety and order. The gifts bestowed upon Beowulf show the greatness of the deed, a hero's reward, and the ruler's generosity. The ceremony and the stories serve as a historical recording of the times and traditions of the Scandinavian people. This section also enlightens audiences about the role of women in the Danish courts and exemplifies their part in politics and ambassadorship. As Anglo-Saxon tribes were often at war with one another, the daughters of each ruler were frequently married off to leaders in rival tribes. Their roles were those of peace-weavers. It was assumed that their presence in the rival royal household would lessen the tension between the two factions and establish peace. In addition, the queen in each realm served as hostess at social functions to ensure that appropriate civil protocol (behavior) was observed to honor the king and guests. Her graciousness also furthers the theme of hospitality.

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