Discussion Topics

  1. Throughout the poem, the poet mentions treasure and riches; however, the heroes seem to view treasure as a secondary acquisition.  What role does financial gain play in the poem?
  2. What does Heorot symbolize in the novel?  Does this make Grendel’s choice to specifically target people in Heorot more understandable?
  3. What is the importance of Grendel’s claw in the poem?  Does it make a difference in the structure of the story if Grendel’s claw was at the end of his arm or if it completely replaced his arm?
  4. How does Beowulf embody the code of comitatus?
  5. How does Hrothgar serve as a mentor for Beowulf?  Do you feel that Beowulf learned the lessons that Hrothgar tried to teach him?
  6. Beowulf’s motivations throughout the poem seem very unemotional, while other characters are highly motivated by emotion.  What role did emotion play in the actions of Beowulf’s primary antagonists: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon?
  7. What are Beowulf’s primary failings as a king?
  8. Is Beowulf’s decision to fight the Dragon near the conclusion of the story a selfish sacrifice on behalf of his people or the action of an old man unwilling to accept the limitations of his age?
  9. Why would Beowulf have failed to leave an heir by the end of the poem?
  10. What, if any, differences are there between an epic poem like Beowulf and a modern work of literature? 
  11. In many ways, Beowulf is the precursor of a modern superhero in later stories.  What modern stories do you think reflect the same mythological elements used in Beowulf?
Sign up to continue reading Discussion Topics >

Essays About Beowulf