Plot in Beowulf

Plot Examples in Beowulf:

IV 1

"Plainly to tell me what place ye are come from..."   (IV)

The presence of an unannounced ship full of heavily armed and armored men threatens Hrothgar's coast-guard. However, he does notice the regal bearing of their leader, our hero, and asks the group to declare their peaceful intentions before he allows them safe passage. This caution is not only appropriate with historical accounts, but it also illustrates how wary Hrothgar’s people have become since Grendel began his attacks.

"And bade him bide with his battle-equipments...."   (XI)

Beowulf fulfills his promise to battle Grendel without the aid of his “battle-equipments” (another kenning for weapons and armor). Beowulf justifies his choice by declaring that since Grendel doesn't use such equipment, he must fight Grendel on the same conditions. Considering what we later learn of Grendel, Beowulf's decision is viewed as extremely cunning.

"But on earliest occasion he quickly laid hold of           A soldier asleep..."   (XII)

Grendel slays one of the Geats when he first enters the hall—apparently in silence since only Beowulf is aware of the assault. The reason why Beowulf allows Grendel to kill one of his comrades can likely be attributed Beowulf's distance from the act or that Beowulf wishes to maintain the element of surprise.

"nor any of war-bills           Was willing to injure..."   (XIII)

Due to evil magic, Grendel cannot be harmed by weapons. Beowulf's earlier decision to match Grendel's strength with his own arms proves crucial to achieving victory. The poet never revealed this fact earlier in the story, likely because there were no survivors to confirm this claim.

"Whether God all gracious would grant him a respite           After the woe he had suffered..."   (XX)

Grendel's mother's attack on Heorot essentially reverses Beowulf's defeat of Grendel. The Danes' sorrows are renewed, and they wonder if God will ever grant Heorot peace. Note how the poet uses the Christian God in the Danes’ pleas for salvation, but he often uses Fate or cruel destiny, as he did earlier, to foreshadow unpleasant occurrences—such as the death of Aeschere.

"The hand that was famous           She grasped in its gore..."   (XX)

Despite her desire to avenge her son's death, Grendel's mother doesn't try to kill as many of the warriors as she can; rather, her main purpose appears to be recovering Grendel's arm. However, in her rage and haste to leave, she does exact small revenge on one of Hrothgar's dearest friends, whom we later find out is named Aeschere.

"seek if thou darest!..."   (XXI)

Even though Hrothgar doesn't directly command Beowulf to find and destroy Grendel's mother, his challenge is impossible for Beowulf to ignore. Beowulf's honor and reputation are at stake. Since he has inadvertently started this blood-feud, he must resolve it, and the only resolution is either the death of Beowulf or that of Grendel's mother.

"Who mourneth in spirit the treasure-bestower,           Her heavy heart-sorrow..."   (XXI)

Hrothgar's speech illustrates two fundamental issues that result from the killing of Aeschere. First, because of Beowulf’s killing Grendel, a blood-feud now exists between Hrothgar's people and Grendel's mother, and the only appropriate end for this blood-feud is her death. Second, even though Aeschere's men genuinely lament their leader's death, they have also lost a principal source of their wealth with the death of their “treasure-bestower.”

"Beowulf donned then his battle-equipments,..."   (XXII)

When Beowulf chose to fight Grendel without weapons, he did so to further his reputation as a warrior. However, that battle was in Heorot, a human area where Beowulf had the advantage. His decision to wield a sword and wear armor demonstrates appropriate caution since the fight takes place in an unknown location which favors Grendel's mother.