The Historical Elements in Beowulf
|What purpose do the historical references and stories serve in the
larger epic of Beowulf? Are they integrated in some way with the rest of
the story, or are they simply "added" materials? Look over the following
and decide what purpose each serves:
- lines 1-85: The Danish heritage of Hrothgar -- Shield Sheafson, Beow,
- lines 456-472: The former feud between Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow,
and Hrothgar's people, which Hrothgar settled by paying wergild.
- lines 873-914: Sigemund's rule and slaying of the dragon versus
Heremod's weak rule.
- lines 1015-1018, 1179-1214: The future upsurption of the throne from
Hrothgar's sons, Hrethric and Hrothmund, by Hrothulf. Also Hygelac's (Beowulf's lord's)
future fall before the Frisians.
- lines 1070-1158: The Finnsburg Episode, esp. Hengest's vengeance
taken on Finn.
- lines 1687-1722: The heritage of the sword versus. the bloodthrist of
- lines 1925-1963: Queen Hygd versus. Queen Modthryth and Offa's
marriage to and reform on Modthryth.
- lines 2200-2210: The history of the Geats leading to Beowulf's rule.
- lines 2354-2368: Hygelac's death.
- lines 2435-2471: Herebeald's accidental slaying by his brother
Haethcyn, and their father Hrethel's resulting death in bed
- lines 2479-2489: The resulting battles that break out when Hrethel
dies. Haethcyn falls in battle before Ongentheow's men.
- lines 2913-3007: The Battle at Ravenswood: Ongentheow slays Haethcyn.
Eofor and Wulf slay Ongentheow. They are rewarded by Hygelac.