English 11 – Beowulf Study Guide

English 12 – Beowulf Study Guide
Terms and definitions:
Werguild = “man payment” If a leader were killed, the offending party could pay a certain amount
to have the matter settled. This stops the feud between the two overlords.
Comitatus = code of honor between a king and his warriors (among the Scandinavians in the 5th and
6th centuries). Warriors pledge to loyally defend the kind in exchange for treasure, land and
Virtues of the king and warriors = courage, loyalty and reputation (achieving fame for heroic deeds)
Names, objects and places: Know who/what these are for the test.
The Geats
The Danes
Grendel’s mother
Dragon (treasure hoarding dragon)
Magical Giant Sword – found in the underwater cave, Beowulf uses it to kill Grendel’s
mother. He then decapitates Grendel’s in an act of revenge. The sword magically melts
down to the hilt.
Herot – Hrothgar’s mead-hall; a symbol of enlightenment, godliness. Grendel terrorizes it
for 12 years
Beowulf discussion questions
1. Discuss the significance of the heroic code of comitatus in Beowulf, considering specifically the
actions of Beowulf as a young warrior, Wiglaf as a young warrior, and the cowardly retainers at
the dragon fight.
2. It has already been noted that elements of Christianity and paganism are to be found in Beowulf.
In an essay, compare the evidence of these two elements in Beowulf and explaining, if possible,
why one or the other of these elements seems to be dominant.
3. An epic reflects the values of the culture that produced it. Identify three specific features in
Beowulf that reflect the values of the Anglo-Saxon culture. Draw a conclusion about AngloSaxon tastes and values.