Beowulf is a highly complicated piece of Old English literature that might be difficult to interpret and comprehend right away. The content below helps anyone who has trouble understanding the plot of Beowulf or simply just seeks a fast summary in the interests of saving time. Are you ready to return 1500 years to an occasion full of magic and bravery, dragons, hostile trolls and treasure? Jump right in!

General Information

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem depicting the life and feats of Beowulf. He's a brave legendary warrior who conquers beasts and helps people in need throughout the story. Beowulf is known as to be one of the most significant items of Old English literature. It has 3, 182 alliterative lines that not use rhymes, rather alliteration as a main literary device to produce a sense of unity and rhythm.

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The poem was most likely created between the years 975 and 1025 and was untitled. The events that occur in the poem happened in the sixth century when Anglo-Saxon tribes started moving to England. Later in history, scholars suggested to call the poem Beowulf, following the main character. The poem combines historical events, fiction and aspects of different Anglo-Saxon legends. You will find no other works of literature that mention Beowulf or can confirm his existence; for that reason the character is recognized as to be mostly fictional. Even though there was some archeological evidence that the places and events in Beowulf were real, such as the mead-hall, the different kings, and certain battles and tribes, there's absolutely no mention of Beowulf himself. Also worth noting is that parts of the poem have events and themes just like various Danish and Scandinavian stories and legends.

Summary of Beowulf

Over the duration of the poem Beowulf encounters three major beasts and battles them. We will look at all of them as another milestone of his life, and performance as a good commander and warrior.

First Battle

Hrothgar and his warriors are terrorized by Grendel, a huge monster, possibly an ogre or a troll. Grendel can not stand joy and happiness, he loathes celebrations. He's been visiting Heorot, a castle that Hrothgar constructed for himself and his warriors, for the past 12 years. Grendel punishes people for having a good time and celebrating. He eats and kills Hrothgar’s men every single day, bringing horror and destruction to Heorot.

Grendel

Years back Heorot saved a man from the horrible death. This man turned out to be Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow. As soon as Beowulf hears about Heorot’s trouble, he sets out along side 14 of his men to leave Geatland and help Hrothgar fight Grendel. Beowulf promises glory to Hygelac, the king of Geats, and intends to return victorious.

When Beowulf and his men arrive to Heorot, they're welcomed by Hrothgar’s men, they eat and drink a lot, enjoying their feast. During the celebration, one thane, a warrior of Hrothgar named Unferth, tries to ridicule Beowulf for his loss in a swimming contest that occurred years before. Unferth says that Beowulf will not stand a chance contrary to the notorious beast Grendel. Beowulf denies his misconception and explains he simply got lost in the bottomless sea and went the contrary way of his opponent. On his in the past to land he were able to kill nine sea monsters.

When everyone falls asleep following the celebration, Grendel comes to Heorot. He first attacks the mead-hall, killing one of the Geats, Beowulf’s men. Then, Grendel tries to kill and eat Beowulf but doesn't succeed. As an alternative, Beowulf grips Grendel’s arm with the potency of 30 men and rips it off his human anatomy all the way from his shoulder. Gravely injured, Grendel flees the mead-hall. Beowulf receives praise for his victory from most of the men. In his glory, he hangs Grendel’s claw off the ceiling.

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Second Battle

After defeating the monster, everybody else celebrates Beowulf and his brave men. They play music, have pleasure in delicious food, and drink a lot. Hrothgar and his wife Wealhteow are very grateful to Beowulf for his feat, so they really gift him a gold collar. Everybody else falls asleep after a great feast convinced that they are no further in danger with Grendel underneath the assumption that he’s been killed.

Their calm and sleep are interrupted by Grendel’s mother, the water witch. She comes furiously to avenge her son and kill Beowulf. She snatches Grendel’s arm off the ceiling and kidnaps one of Hrothgar's men named Aeschere, while everyone, including Beowulf, are sound asleep.

The next morning, they leave Heorot to look for Grendel’s mother. While searching for her tracks, they notice Aeschere’s head on a tall mountain. They follow the lead, and Beowulf enters a deep dark cave where he finds Grendel’s mother. She drags him to the bottom of the lake, where their battle starts. Beowulf is invulnerable to her attacks because he's protected by the power of his sword—made by the legendary smith Weland.

Even though, it is too weak to hurt Grendel’s mother. Beowulf sees yet another sword laying in the cave, grabs it and pierces it through her, cutting through her spine and neck. Her blood melts the sword and shines a bright ray of light that illuminates the cave. Beowulf discovers an excellent treasure hidden inside, but leaves it behind.

Third Battle

After yet another victory, Beowulf and his men return to Geatland. Hygelac, the king of Geats, and his son were killed in battle and now Beowulf is crowned to function as new king, who reigns for a peaceful amount of 50 years.

Beowulf and his men

1 day, this peace gets interrupted by still another beast. Now a huge fire-breathing dragon. The dragon is angry must be careless thief stole a goblet out from the treasure it absolutely was guarding forever. The dragon starts spreading horror throughout Geatland, burning houses and killing its innocent inhabitants. Beowulf gathers a group of his 11 bravest warriors combined with thief who knows where the dragon lives, and prepares to fight the beast. The dragon looks terrifying and each of Beowulf’s men run away from the battlefield. The only one who stays with Beowulf is his most loyal warrior Wiglaf. That he remains true to his beliefs and defends his king in this uneven battle. Together, Beowulf and Wiglaf defeat the dragon. Unfortunately, Beowulf does not survive the battle due to an accident and his countless wounds. His dying wish is always to leave his kingdom to Wiglaf — the reward he deserves for staying with his king no matter the circumstances and horrors.

Epilogue

Wiglaf, now the newest king, and the people of Geatland commemorate Beowulf and his achievements by holding a huge ceremonial procession specialized in his funeral. They develop a large barrow for holding his ashes, as his other dying wish was to be cremated. The barrow also holds plentiful treasures to point Beowulf’s significance. Another dying wish of Beowulf’s was for the spot of his burial to be seen from the sea for all to see who passes by. The barrow is created by the seashore to ensure that every seaman and ship have a way to look over Beowulf’s cliff and pay respect to him.

Still Have Question About the Plot?

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