Compare a Verbal with a Physical Fight in Beowulf

Write an essay about 2 pages. Due in two hours.Choose one option to write.

1. Compare a Verbal with a Physical Fight in Beowulf. In the pages 891-913 from Beowulf , Beowulf faces two major battles:  his physical “hand to hand” combat with the monster Grendel, and his verbal sparring (“flytting”) with Unferth, who is Hrothgar’s spokesperson (or “thyle”). Choose one passage from each battle (two passages total) on which to focus your response, as you compare and contrast the physical fight with the verbal fight.  You may, of course, select a few additional phrases in fleshing out your comparison of the fights, but you’ll need one grounding passage each from a physical and a verbal fight to anchor your essay.  As you compare and contrast the passages, also compare and contrast the different kinds of fighting—what are the stakes of the contest?  What are the motivations of the opponents? Why does Beowulf win both? Do you agree that he does win both?

2.  Explore Differences between Beowulf’s Narrator and Characters. As described in the Norton introduction to Beowulf and briefly in class, there are important differences between the “narrator” or storyteller in the epic poem and the characters of that poem.  First, the “narrator” likely wrote down the older oral stories around the year 1000; but the action of the poem is set in around 520;  second, the “narrator” of the poem is himself English; while the characters are from what is now Denmark and Sweden; third, the “narrator” is clearly Christian, while the characters are “pagans,” not having been exposed to Christianity.  Write an essay in which you focus on at least two passages that explore at least one set of these differences.  For instance, you might write an essay that explores the ways in which sometimes Christian prayers are attributed to the “heathen” characters.  Why might the narrator make this choice at some times, but not others?  Or, you might write an essay that explores how the characters’ storytelling mimics or contrasts with that of the narrator himself.

3.  Explore Grendel and Heorot. Write an essay in which you think about how Grendel and Heorot are represented in the poem so far.  That is, what makes Grendel monstrous?  What makes him somewhat human?  Why is it so important to defend Heorot from Grendel in the first place (i.e., why is Heorot important in the Danes’ culture)?  Why does Grendel attack Heorot?  Work closely with at least two passages of your choosing, being sure to directly cite some of the poem’s language and link this language to your accounts of Grendel and Heorot.