Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Option 2: Hrothgar's Skeptic Wisdom

Hrothgar speaks to Beowulf:  Conveying pieces of wisdom after his return with Grendel’s bloody head.  Practically adopting and venerating Beowulf, the King emphasizes warnings and points of values, danger, and the fragility life.  I believe these warnings are clear signs that Hrothgar, although deeply thankful, is still skeptic of Beowulf’s true intentions if the thrown was left empty.

            Trying to sway Beowulf onto a more desirable and righteous path of values, Hrothgar speaks to Beowulf of a king named Heremod.  Wanting to denote the aspects of Heremod’s rule that made him a terrible King, Hrothgar went through some unfortunate tribulations that explained the Kings negligence towards his kinsman.  For example,  “He vented his rage on men he caroused with, killed his own comrades… He suffered in the end for having plagued his people for so long: his life lost happiness.”  Obviously a lesson to be learned, Hrothgar continued by pointing out, “ So learn from this and understand true values.  I who tell you have wintered into wisdom.”  A fair warning for Beowulf to never oblige in such acts and to indeed winter into wisdom over time and protect ones own.

            Moreover, the appearances of non-subtle hints of wisdom towards Beowulf continued to be heard.  Hrothgar spoke of how; “It is a great wonder how Almighty God in His magnificence favours our race with rank and scope and the gift of wisdom.” (119) When mentioning rank, Hrothgar means to say that do not abuse ones power in even the most fruitful and strengthened of times. Beowulf hears of, “… a man of distinguished birth… fulfillment and felicity on earth and forts to command in his own country.” (119) And takes the lower road to “…indulge in his desires…”(119).  This little snippet aids to the warning of King Hrothgar to Beowulf of the dangers of power and what is in store if one does not “ Choose… Eternal rewards.” (121) This was another, be it conscious or not, example of how Hrothgar is unsure of the future for Beowulf with his Kingdom and its safety.

            Later on, a message that no soul is ever completely out of danger comes into play.  From personal examples and experience, King Hrothgar tells of his own ignorance to think blindly that he was safe from any longer being attacked by foes: “I came to believe that my enemies had faded from the face of the earth.” (121) Being shrewdly mistaken in his bliss and comfort – Grendel appeared – bringing havoc to Hrothgar’s people and Mead hall.  It seems that never wanting Beowulf to fall to his own flaws and misfortunes, Hrothgar instead of being a doubter, proceeded to give warning to Beowulf of the danger that is always lurking.

            In summation, I believe that these warnings and wisdom will come into a great role later on and truly develop throughout the entire poem.  Meaning, that we will witness Beowulf’s development from a young valiant warrior to a mature and wise King.  The above values set forth by King Hrothgar for the young and fearless Beowulf have a right to sound skeptic for good reasons.  Implying, that the young fearless Beowulf has nothing to lose, but rather everything to gain in honor.  While on the other hand, King Hrothgar has everything to lose is his old age: Be it his life, his people – His Mead hall.


  1. I thought that this work was well done on that it used a lot of examples from the text. A point that I did have with this piece is that you begin the paper with hrothgar is skeptical of Beowulf and then give examples throughout the paper of hrothgar giving wisdom to Beowulf as to build him up, not to be critical of Beowulf and in summation it is advised that Beowulf will become a great king. So are we then to admire Beowulf? And then it finishes with hrothgar having everything to lose which is not what was asked or even alluded to in the paper. But overall I think that the bulk of the work is done but that it just needs a little organization.

  2. To build on Brandi's point - you have a lot of good material, and it's understandable that you want to suspend your answer in favor of the second half of the play, perhaps - but you are still at least partially dodging the question of how we're to think about Beowulf (and even of Hrothgar - is Hrothgar manipulating Beowulf here? Presumably! Are we to admire him or look down on him for that? Or is it more complicated).

    Like Brandi, I thought your use of the text was good. However, it was a little short on detailed analysis considering what you could have done. It was fairly good, mind you - I just thought that there is a lot more here as far as meaning goes. Your analysis of how Hrothgar is handling Beowulf is good - but where you're pretty much silent is on the very interesting question of what his strategies reveal about Hrothgar himself.

    I could see a version of this which would focus entirely on how you understand Beowulf developing in relationship with Hrothgar's wisdom, and which wouldn't really reflect on Hrothgar's psychology at all. That strategy might be more appropriate now that you've finished the end of the poem, and can focus on Beowulf's life as a whole - not just his time in Heorot.