Study Guide

Beowulf Lines 301-606

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Lines 301-606

  • Leaving their boat behind, the Geats, led by the Danish lookout that met them at the coast, march inland to Heorot Hall. When they arrive, they're dazzled by the golden majesty and obvious wealth of the hall. The lookout leaves them there and returns to his post.
  • The Geats march up to the hall, resplendent in their shining mail-shirts and armor. When they arrive, they stack their shields and collect their spears together, and sink down on the benches, exhausted. Note: they're on benches, but they're not in Heorot Hall yet.
  • Hrothgar's herald interrogates the Geats about where they've come from and what they're doing. He's impressed by their mighty appearance.
  • The leader of the Geats announces his name—Beowulf—and his desire to see King Hrothgar. He's extremely polite and formal.
  • Wulfgar, one of the Danes, agrees to take Beowulf's message to Hrothgar. Observing all the formalities, he goes over to Hrothgar and explains the arrival of the Geats to the king. Wulfgar advises Hrothgar to grant the Geats an audience, since they look respectable.
  • King Hrothgar realizes that he knew Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow, and had met Beowulf when he was a boy. Hrothgar agrees to give Beowulf an audience.
  • Things stay formal: Wulfgar goes back to Beowulf and his men and announces that Hrothgar is willing to see them.
  • Beowulf and a few of his most important companions enter Heorot; everyone else stays outside to keep watch over the weapons.
  • Beowulf explains to Hrothgar why he has come, boasting about his own "awesome strength" (418) in the process.
  • Beowulf formally declares that he's going to fight Grendel in single combat. He asks King Hrothgar for the "privilege" of "purifying" the hall.
  • As if all this weren't enough, Beowulf announces that he's going to fight Grendel without weapons in hand-to-hand combat to the death. He even imagines what would happen if he lost: Grendel would carry his corpse back to his lair and feed on it. Gross.
  • King Hrothgar responds by recalling how he met Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow. Ecgtheow had killed someone from another tribe and had to flee, so he came to Hrothgar's land. Hrothgar settled the feud by paying money to the family of the man who had been killed, and Ecgtheow swore his allegiance to Hrothgar. Basically, what this means is that Beowulf owes Hrothgar because Hrothgar helped his father.
  • Hrothgar also describes how disturbed he is by Grendel's maniacal killing; he's seen many other heroes die after pledging to fight the demon.
  • Now that the formalities are over, the party starts. Hrothgar hosts a feast for the visiting Geat warriors.
  • One of Hrothgar's followers, Unferth, tries to spoil the party because he's jealous of all the attention Beowulf is getting. He asks if this is the same Beowulf who lost a swimming contest on the open sea with a man called Breca. If so, he says Beowulf will never defeat Grendel.
  • Beowulf tells Unferth that he's got the story wrong. Beowulf has a different version: he and Breca were equally matched, swimming shoulder to shoulder, even though they were wearing armor and carrying swords so that they could defend themselves against sea monsters. Beowulf was caught by one monster and dragged down underwater, but managed to slay it with his sword. In fact, before he made it to the coast of Finland, he claims he killed nine different sea monsters.
  • And now Beowulf delivers his parting shot: he asks what fights Unferth has ever been in. After all, if Unferth were any good as a warrior, Grendel wouldn't still be alive and wreaking havoc on Heorot Hall, would he?

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