Beowulf | Study Guide


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Course Hero. "Beowulf Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 Aug. 2016. Web. 28 May 2022. <>.

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Course Hero. (2016, August 25). Beowulf Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 28, 2022, from

In text

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Course Hero. "Beowulf Study Guide." August 25, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2022.


Course Hero, "Beowulf Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed May 28, 2022,

Plot Summary

Course Hero's video study guide provides an in-depth plot summary of the epic poem Beowulf.

Beowulf | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


With loyalty and heroism in mind, Beowulf comes to the rescue of the Danes and King Hrothgar. They have suffered at the hands of an evil monster, Grendel, who has pillaged their kingdom for more than 12 years and killed many men.

Beowulf, nephew to the king of the Geats, sails across the seas to try to defeat the beast. Once he has convinced Hrothgar and Unferth of his many feats, they allow Beowulf to defend the hall from the monster. Because of his code of honor, Beowulf lays down his armor and sword so that he is Grendel's equal and has no unfair advantage. Upon Grendel's arrival a great battle ensues, and Beowulf—with his mighty strength—tears Grendel's arm from his body.

Mortally injured, Grendel retreats home to die. Prepared to avenge her son's death, Grendel's mother arrives the next day and kills one of Hrothgar's elders. Beowulf follows her down into her swampy home and attempts to fight her, but his sword doesn't make a scratch on the horrible beast. He grabs a magical sword hanging on her wall and wields a deadly blow.

Then, he spots Grendel's corpse and severs his head. Grendel's poisonous blood melts and destroys the sword down to its hilt. Beowulf comes to the surface and presents Grendel's head and the hilt to Hrothgar. A grand celebration in Beowulf's honor ensues.

Beowulf then returns to the Geats, where he is proclaimed a hero. Eventually, Beowulf becomes a great king of the Geats. But, as with Hrothgar, all good things must come to an end. Fifty years into his reign, a great dragon is disturbed. A man happens upon the beast's lair and steals some of the treasure the dragon has been hoarding for years. The dragon seeks his revenge and wreaks havoc in Beowulf's kingdom. Beowulf knows that it will be difficult to defeat the beast, but he has the best armor and swords. With his loyal warriors, he sets out to defeat the dragon. Beowulf orders his men to stay back while he battles the dragon alone. The warriors agree and, upon seeing the dragon, all of his warriors run from his side—except a young thane called Wiglaf. Although Beowulf fights heroically, he is fatally wounded. Before Beowulf dies, Wiglaf presents him with some of the riches from the dragon's hoard.

The story ends much like it starts: with a death and an elaborate burial. Beowulf is laid to rest with a mountain of treasure to mark his heroic life. Sadly, at his death Beowulf finally shows some fallibility and dies without naming an heir—a kingdom without an heir is at great risk of pillaging, death, and enslavement.

Beowulf Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 Grendel terrorizes Heorot for 12 years.

Rising Action

2 Beowulf arrives to fight the monster.

3 Beowulf kills Grendel.

4 Grendel's mother arrives to avenge his death.


5 Beowulf kills Grendel's mother.

Falling Action

6 As king, Beowulf fights, kills the dragon.


7 Beowulf dies from his injuries.

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