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Beowulf - Student Study Guide

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Beowulf
STUDENT COPY
Beowulf
All page references come from the Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Press edition of Beowulf,
copyright 2005.
Prelude – “Prelude of the Founder of the Danish House”
Vocabulary
bedecked – decorated
Danes – the residents of Denmark. Hrothgar, Hrothulf, and the Scylding dynasty of
kings mentioned in Beowulf are actually spoken of in other Danish and Germanic
sources (such as the poem Widsith).
foundling – an orphan
hence – “from here;” away
hoard – a hidden stockpile
mail – a coat of flexible metal armor, usually comprised of interlocking rings or
metal scales
mead – a fermented drink made from water, honey, malt, and yeast
prow – the bow, or front, of a ship
stalwart – brave; hardy, sturdy, strong
tenure – the time period during which a person holds an office or position
waxed – grown in number or intensity
whale-paths – ocean routes
woe – deep suffering
wrested – wrestled
1.
Why is it significant for a prince to generously share his wealth?
2.
Describe Scyld’s funeral.
3.
What is the narrator’s opinion of Scyld of Scefing?
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Chapter I
Vocabulary
Bard – a composer and singer of an epic verse
dire – dreadful, threatening
fens – swamps, marshes, bogs
Heorot – “hind” or “stag;” some believe that the hall was located on the island of
Sjaelland, near the modern-day city of Roskilde, Denmark.
jubilant – full of joy; expressing joy
kin – persons who share a common ancestry
moors – a boggy area usually containing grasses and sedges
pinnacles – peaks
primeval – relating to primitive ages
revel – a festive party or celebration
strongholds – fortified locations; fortresses
1.
How does Hrothgar’s family single him out as a leader?
2.
Why does Hrothgar build a mead-hall and what is it called?
3.
Why does Grendel become angry with Hrothgar and the men in the hall?
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4.
What does the bard sing about, and why does this anger Grendel?
5.
Describe Grendel’s heritage, including why he is cursed.
6.
What religious elements are revealed in this chapter?
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Chapter II
Vocabulary
adversity – a state of destitution or calamity
arbiter – a judge
atrocity – a terrible and appalling act
ballads – narrative compositions put to song
betimes – sometimes, at times
blood-gold – the act of paying blood-gold, or wergild, was a method for ending the
cycle of blood feuds that ravaged Scandinavian societies. If one man killed another,
he or his family could pay an amount of money, based on the victim’s social status,
to the bereaved relatives to keep them from seeking vengeance.
bowers – private rooms in a medieval hall
brook – to tolerate
heathen – a member of a group that does not recognize the God of the Bible
illustrious – renowned for a position or deed
lament – grief, sorrow
mirth – happiness displayed with laughter
nefariously – evilly, wickedly
parley – a meeting between hostile parties to discuss peace
sore – serious, difficult
sovereign – a king, ruler
thanes – people who hold lands from their lord; a liegeman, retainer
travails – troubles, sorrows, hardships
unremittant – without pause, unceasing
wight – a living being; a creature
1.
How many thanes does Grendel kill on the first night that he attacks?
2.
What is the result of Grendel’s repeated attacks at Heorot?
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3.
According to ballads, how is Hrothgar affected by his continuous battle with Grendel?
4.
What is the only thing that Grendel will not touch or approach in Heorot, and why?
5.
According to the narrator, why do the Scyldings hold heathen sacrifices instead of praying
to the “Almighty, the Arbiter of factions…”?
6.
Explain whether the narrator is a pagan or a Christian.
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Chapter III
Vocabulary
assuage – to relieve
fain – happily; “because it was desired”
fare – to go, journey; to move
foe – an enemy, adversary
gainsaid – contradicted; spoke against; contrary to
Geats – a seafaring tribe from the south of Sweden who appear to have been conquered during the early Middle Ages
haven – a safe place; a calm harbor where ships can anchor
headlands – points of land that project into a body of water
marauding – raiding
seethe – to be in a state of agitation
sentinel – a sentry, guard
wave-traveler – a ship
whence – where
1.
Who is Beowulf’s king?
2.
Why do Beowulf and a group of Geats travel to Hrothgar’s kingdom?
3.
Why are the Geats noteworthy to the Danish sentry?
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Chapter IV
Vocabulary
pitched – covered in tar (pitch), which makes something waterproof
sage – a knowledgeable person
scintillating – shining or gleaming brightly
unscathed – unharmed
wends – goes on a course; directs a course
1.
The narrator uses a kenning when he says that Beowulf “unlocked his word-hoard.” What
does this phrase mean?
2.
What do the boar-figures symbolize on the men’s armor?
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Chapter V
Vocabulary
boon – a gift, grant, privilege
bucklers – small round shields
helm – a helmet
hither – here
methinks – “I think”
1.
The warriors’ weapons are collected before they are granted an audience with Hrothgar.
What does this action imply about the culture and the relationship between the Geats and
Scyldings?
2.
Why does Wulfgar believe that the Geats are there for glory and not because they are exiled?
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Chapter VI
Vocabulary
abide – to stay; rest
beneficent – kindly disposed; gracious
bulwark – a defensive wall; a source of strength and protection
fell – evil, dark, dangerous
hearth – home; fireside
heralded – hailed, greeted
liegemen – people who have sworn loyalty to a lord; vassals
peerless – incomparable
sagacious – wise; of or relating to a sage
stalwart – stout, sturdy
thither – “to there”
vagrant – a wanderer, especially one who earns subsidence by illegal means
1.
Describe Hrothgar’s reaction to Beowulf’s arrival.
2.
According to Beowulf, why is he qualified to fight Grendel?
3.
How does Beowulf plan to fight Grendel?
4.
What is Beowulf’s only request if he is killed in battle?
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Chapter VII
Vocabulary
dearth – a state of being in need (of something); a lack (of something)
fealty – an oath of loyalty and service made by a feudal vassal to a lord
1.
In the past, why did Beowulf’s father swear loyalty to Hrothgar?
Chapter VIII
Vocabulary
billows – great waves or surging water
buffeted – hit repeatedly, beaten forcefully
main – the high seas
strove – past tense of strive; to have struggled, competed
1.
Of what does Unferth accuse Beowulf?
2.
According to Beowulf, how did his race with Breca begin?
3.
What can be discerned about Beowulf’s personality by his response to Unferth’s insult?
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Chapter IX
Vocabulary
assailed – attacked
bane – a cause of harm or death
blithe – happy and free from worry
festal – relating to a feast
obscurity – the state of being obscure or dark
prowess – power, superior ability
recompense – payment in return, repayment
reprisal – retribution
valorous – brave, courageous
1.
What does Beowulf reveal about Unferth’s past?
2.
Explain Beowulf’s tone and meaning in his statement to Unferth: “Heorot would not have such
havoc if your battle were as bold as your boast is loud! But he has found that he need not fear
reprisal in sword-clashes with your Danish clan, your people, the mighty Scyldings.” (Pg. 29)
3.
What ceremonial act does the queen perform when she arrives in the hall?
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4.
Who serves the men with the mead-cup? What does this custom suggest about the culture?
5.
When does Beowulf expect Grendel to attack?
6.
What does Hrothgar tell Beowulf before they separate for the evening?
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Chapter X
Vocabulary
esquire – the attendant of a warrior or knight
hew – to chop and cut
retinue – a group of servants or attendants
vaunted – boastfully asserted
1.
Beowulf discards his weapons in order to be on equal ground with Grendel. What does
this action reveal about Beowulf’s personality?
2.
How confident are the Geatish warriors in comparison to Beowulf?
3.
How is Grendel described? Why does the author describe him this way?
4.
In what way is the author’s perspective shifting from a pagan viewpoint to a monotheistic
viewpoint?
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Chapter XI
Vocabulary
clamor – a loud continuous noise
crags – large boulders
din – a loud and lingering noise (especially one comprised of various sounds)
gilded – to cover with a thin layer of gold
ire – hateful anger
sate – to satisfy
1.
How is Grendel’s death or defeat foreshadowed?
2.
Why is the word “destiny” capitalized?
3.
How does Grendel react when he encounters Beowulf, who grabs the monster’s arm?
4.
Find an example of alliteration in this chapter.
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Chapter XII
Vocabulary
brandished – waved defiantly (a weapon)
falchion – a broad, curved medieval sword
harrowing – troublesome, tormenting
sinews – muscle fibers
1.
Why can weapons not harm Grendel?
2.
What trophy does Beowulf take from Grendel and place on display?
3.
How is the battle between Beowulf and Grendel an example of good versus evil?
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Chapter XIII
Vocabulary
anon – soon, presently
disparage – to speak ill of; to insult
fallow – not seeded to produce crops; not active
mere – a lake
retainers – household servants
vault – a room with an arched roof
1.
Of whom does the thane sing about in relation to Beowulf?
2.
According to the tale, what happens to the dragon that Sigemund kills?
3.
What similarities do Beowulf and Sigemund share?
4.
Whom does the thane contrast against Beowulf and Sigemund? How does this character
differ from the two heroes?
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Chapter XIV
Vocabulary
baleful – indicating evil; sinister, malicious
reprieve – a temporary suspension of judgment or punishment
travail – toil, painful task
1.
How does Hrothgar react when he sees Grendel’s hand?
2.
Cite an example from this chapter where the father and son motif arises.
3.
Describe Grendel’s hand.
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Chapter XV
Vocabulary
ensign – a flag, banner
quaffed – drank
ridden – very full of
scathe – to injure
sumptuous – rich, lavish, grand
throngs – large crowds, multitudes
1.
What is the condition of Heorot after Beowulf’s battle with Grendel?
2.
Regarding Hrothgar and Hrothulf, the author writes, “Heorot was now filled with friends;
no Scylding folk had yet attempted treachery.” (Pg. 41) What does this statement imply, and
what literary element is being used?
3.
What does Hrothgar give to Beowulf for killing Grendel?
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Chapter XVI
Vocabulary
bard – a composer and singer of epic verse
Frisian – an early medieval tribe of people who occupied parts of what are the modern-day nations of Denmark, the Netherlands, and northern Germany
hauberks – breastplates
hillock – a small hill
plighted – to have given a pledge
pyre – a pile of firewood (especially one used for burning dead bodies)
remnants – that which remains
1.
The bard sings about a battle between what two groups of people?
2.
Describe the events that occur between Finn and Hengest.
3.
Who is Hildeburh, and why does she mourn? How is her situation an example of divided
loyalty?
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Chapter XVII
Vocabulary
bereft – robbed or deprived of
diadem – a royal crown
flagons – large vessels, normally made of metal, used to carry and serve wine
lay – an uncomplicated poem; a ballad
magnanimous – characterized by generosity and nobility in spirit
1.
How is the peace pact between Finn and Hengest broken?
2.
Compare and contrast Beowulf and Hengest.
3.
Why does Wealtheow ask Hrothgar to be gracious and kind towards the Geats?
4.
What is the significance of Beowulf sitting between the young princes, Hrethric and
Hrothmund?
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Chapter XVIII
Vocabulary
bolsters – firm pillows
cuirass – a breastplate
1.
What is particularly special about the collar that Wealtheow gives to Beowulf? What does
the collar symbolize?
2.
What do the warriors do before they go to sleep? Does the narrator approve of this habit?
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Chapter XIX
Vocabulary
barter – to exchange
dauntless – fearless, brave
dolorous – sorrowful, grievous
vassal – a person under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he has pledged allegiance
1.
Why does Grendel’s mother go to Heorot?
2.
Why does the narrator express no sympathy for Grendel’s mother, who has lost her only son?
3.
What does Grendel’s mother take from Heorot?
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Chapter XX
Vocabulary
hart – a deer
heaths – largely desolate areas with scraggly brush for vegetation; vegetation that fills
such an area
hewn – to cut with blows from an axe or heavy cutting instrument
marches – the border-areas, the perimeter
miscreant – a villain, troublemaker
trodden – past tense of tread; to walk along
1.
How is the conflict between the monsters and Hrothgar’s clan similar to a blood-feud?
How does the conflict differ from a blood-feud?
2.
According to Hrothgar, what strange sight can be seen at night on the mere?
3.
How do deer react when chased by hunters to the perimeter of the mere?
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Chapter XXI
Vocabulary
drakes – dragons
lament – to mourn; to strongly regret
serpentine – like a snake; twisted
tumult – a turbulent uprising of a crowd; riot
1.
Beowulf tells Hrothgar, “Do not lament, wise sire! It seems better that each man avenge his
friends than to mourn them to no end.” (Pg. 53) How does this comment portray character
differences between Beowulf and Hrothgar?
2.
How do Hrothgar and Beowulf respond to Grendel’s mother’s attack?
3.Ê
The men track Grendel¿s mother to a place where the water is bloody. What do they find
near the lake-cliff?
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4.
What creatures are swimming in the lake, and how do they react when the warriors arrive?
5.
Describe Beowulf’s state of mind as he prepares to battle Grendel’s mother.
6.
What does Ecglaf’s son, Unferth, do that causes him to fall “short of glory and the honor
of court?” (Pg. 54)
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Chapter XXII
Vocabulary
talons – the claws of an animal, especially a bird of prey
1.
Where does Grendel’s mother live?
2.
Why does Beowulf not kill Grendel’s mother with Hrunting, the sword?
3.
Describe the struggle between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf.
4.
According to the narrator, what is the ultimate reason that the knife does not kill Beowulf?
What literary element does this situation portray?
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Chapter XXIII
Vocabulary
ardent – passionate, shining, fiery
bandying – exchanging back and forth, as in a game
ephemeral – temporary, passing, transitory
fetters – shackles
visage – the face
1.
What does Beowulf use to defeat Grendel’s mother?
2.
How does Beowulf make a final act of retribution on Grendel?
3.
What happens to Beowulf’s newly acquired sword, and why?
4.
What does Beowulf take from the cave?
5.
How long was Beowulf in the water before the warriors lost hope?
6.
How many men were needed to carry Grendel’s head to Heorot?
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Chapter XXIV
Vocabulary
aught – nothing
bastion – a fortification, stronghold
1.
Describe the sword hilt that Beowulf gives to Hrothgar. What story is inscribed on the
hilt?
Chapter XXV
Vocabulary
covetous – envious; desiring the possession of another
nigh – near
overweening – excessively arrogant
yore – time long past
1.
What warning does Hrothgar give to Beowulf?
2.
How is Hrothgar more in keeping with Christian morality than pagan tradition?
3.
Unferth gives Beowulf Hrunting, the sword, as a gift. Beowulf accepts the sword, and makes
no mention of its failure when he fought Grendel’s mother. What does Beowulf’s behavior
reveal about his personality?
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Chapter XXVI
Vocabulary
wielding – waving around; carrying
1.
What does Beowulf tell Hrothgar in the morning?
2.
Why does Hrothgar cry when he bids Beowulf farewell?
3.
How is Beowulf’s behavior different from when he first arrived in Hrothgar’s court, and why?
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Chapter XXVII
Vocabulary
burnished – polished
pretense – a claim, especially unsupported, to a distinction or accomplishment
1.
What does Beowulf give to the boat-warden?
2.
How did Queen Thyrth earn a terrible reputation? Is her behavior customary in Germanic
culture?
3.
The author writes, “Although she is without peer, no wife should, upon false pretense of
injury, take the life of a warrior thane!” (Pg. 66) What does this statement suggest about
the roles or rights of women in this culture?
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Chapter XXVIII
Vocabulary
abject – utterly hopeless, desperate
beseeched – asked earnestly; implored
carnage – extensive slaughter, especially in battle; bloodshed
sagacious – showing keen perception and sound judgment
1.
What does Beowulf tell Hygelac about Hrothgar’s daughter, Freawaru?
2.
According to Beowulf, what is the purpose of the marriage between Freawaru and the son
of Froda? Does Beowulf think that the marriage will be successful, and why or why not?
3.
Of what is Grendel’s satchel made, and what does Beowulf say the monster wanted to put
in his satchel?
4.
What do the Danish people do with their dead? Why are they unable to give Æschere a
proper funeral?
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Chapters XXIX – XXXI
Vocabulary
barrow – a tomb or vault usually buried beneath a small hill or mound
bastion – a fortified place; strong defense, usually used figuratively
hides – units of measurement for land in medieval England. One hide was the
amount required to support a family, or approximately 60 – 120 acres, depending
on the quality of land.
requitals – payment for services
venerable – worthy of respect or reverence
1.
What does Beowulf do with the treasure he receives from Hrothgar, and why?
2.
What is Beowulf’s greatest natural gift? Provide two examples from the story that prove
his talent.
3.
Why had Geatish warriors considered Beowulf “weak and an unpromising prince” before
her was honored by Hygelac? (Pg. 72) What does the warriors’ viewpoint say about their
culture?
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4.
What does Hygelac bestow upon Beowulf for his service?
5.
Both Beowulf and Hygelac own land and estates because of their inheritance, but why
does the kingship go to Hygelac?
6.
How long is Beowulf king before trouble with a dragon begins?
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Chapter XXXII
Vocabulary
respite – a brief delay or interval
tankard – a large drinking cup with a handle and a lid
1.
Why does a slave hide in the dragon’s lair?
2.
What is the origin of the dragon’s treasure, and who hid it?
3.
What does the slave remove from the cave, and why?
4.
How does the dragon know that a man took the cup?
5.
How does the dragon respond to the theft?
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Chapter XXXIII
Vocabulary
bereaved – in the state of being bereft
Hetware – a Frankish tribe that lived near the Rhine River
hordes – wandering tribes or groups
1.
When does the dragon attack and why?
2.
Why does Beowulf have a shield made out of iron?
3.
Following Hygelac’s death, whom do the people and Hygd wish to be king? Why does he
refuse?
4.
When Hygelac dies in battle, Beowulf is the only surviving warrior. Beowulf is forced to
swim from the battle carrying how many coats of mail?
5.
How does Heardred die?
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Chapter XXXIV
Vocabulary
dirge – a funeral hymn
elsewhere – death, the afterlife
lament – to feel deep sorrow or regret; mourn
1.
How does Beowulf find the dragon’s cave?
2.
How many men seek out the dragon?
3.
When Beowulf was a youth, why was King Hrethel unable to seek a blood-price for his son’s
death?
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Chapter XXXV
Vocabulary
dire – dreadful, terrible
duress – imprisonment
fray – a fight, battle
Hugas – another name for the Frisians, or a tribe from their lands. Little historical
information appears to exist regarding the Hugas, apart from what is written in
Beowulf.
vanguard – a group or line of troops that advances in the forefront of others
1.
Before entering the cave, why does Beowulf retell the major battles of his life?
2.
How many men enter the cave to fight the dragon?
3.
Why does Beowulf’s attack not go as well as he had planned?
4.
What do the warriors do when Beowulf is in trouble?
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Chapter XXXVI
Vocabulary
bequest – something that is bequeathed; a legacy of some sort passed on from one
generation to the next
boss – a knob or protuberance at the center of an ornament (such as a shield)
glaive – a spear that has a knife or dagger-sized blade attached to its point
1.
Who helps Beowulf and why?
2.
According to legend, why are iron blades useless to Beowulf in battle?
3.
How does the dragon fatally injure Beowulf?
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Chapter XXXVII
Vocabulary
asunder – split apart, separated
winsome – charming, attractive
1.
How is the contrast between Beowulf and Wiglaf similar to that of Beowulf and Hrothgar
earlier in the novel? How do they differ?
2.
What thoughts comfort Beowulf while he is dying?
3.
What image does Beowulf wish to see before he dies?
4.
How are Beowulf’s battles with Grendel and his mother similar to Beowulf’s battle with
the dragon? How are they different?
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Chapter XXXVIII
Vocabulary
cairn – a mound of stones that serves as a marker or memorial
tarry – to stay for a time longer than originally intended
1.
What does Beowulf instruct Wiglaf to do?
2.
What does Beowulf give to Wiglaf before he dies, and what is the significance of this action?
Chapter XXXIX
Vocabulary
avail – to be of use or help, as in accomplishing an end
ignoble – not noble in character or quality
laggards – people who lag behind
wane – to lessen in number or intensity
1.
What does Wiglaf say to the warriors when they return? How are they punished for their
cowardice, and is the punishment fitting for their culture?
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Chapter XL
Vocabulary
Franks – the name given to a group of tribes that once inhabited the region of the
Roman province of Gaul, the area that is roughly the modern nations of France,
Belgium, and parts of western Germany
Merowings – a tribe of the Franks that eventually came to found the Merovingian
dynasty of Frankish kings that began to rule in the early 5th century
throng – a crowd
1.
What do the people anticipate will happen once news of Beowulf’s death travels, and why?
2.
Why do the Geats expect trouble from the Swedes?
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Chapter XLI
Vocabulary
citadel – a place of safety
crag – a steep, rugged rock that rises above others or projects from a rock mass
dolorous – mournful
1.
Who are Eofor and Wulf Wonreding, and what did they do?
2.
What do the Geats decide to do with the dragon’s treasure?
3.
How do the Geats mourn for Beowulf?
4.
What do the men find lying near Beowulf’s body?
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Chapter XLII
Vocabulary
balefire – a bonfire
bier – a platform on which a coffin or corpse is placed
1.
How is the treasure cursed, and why is Beowulf exempt from the curse?
2.
In what way was Beowulf’s death noble?
3.
What is done with the dragon’s body?
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Chapter XLIII
Vocabulary
extol – to praise highly
1.
What is hung on Beowulf’s funeral pyre?
2.
What does the woman sing about during Beowulf’s funeral? Why is this woman put in the
story?
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