| Beowulf begins with a history of the
Danish kings. Hrothgar is the present king of the Danes. He builds a hall, called Heorot,
to house his army. The Danish soldiers gather under its roof to celebrate and have
fellowship with each other. Grendel, who lives at the bottom of a nearby swamp, is
awakened and disgusted by the singing of Hrothgar's men. He comes to the hall late one
night and kills thirty of the warriors in their sleep. For the next twelve years Grendel
stalks the mead hall known as Heorot.
Beowulf, a Geat, hears about Hrothgar's troubles, gathers fourteen of the bravest Geat warriors, and sets sail. The Geats are greeted by the members of Hrothgar's court, and Beowulf tells the king of his previous successes as a warrior. During the banquet Unferth, a Danish soldier, doubts Beowulf's past accomplishments, and Beowulf, accuses Unferth of being a brother-slayer. At this banquet Hrothgar promises Beowulf many riches and treasures if he can slay Grendel.
Grendel appears the night when Beowulf arrives at Heorot. Beowulf wrestles the monster barehanded. He tears off the monster's arm but Grendel escapes. He dies soon afterward at the bottom of his mere, or swamp. Hrothgar rewards Beowulf with a great store of treasures. Another banquet is held for the warriors of both the Geats and the Danes.
Grendel's mother arrives at the hall when all the warriors are sleeping and kills Aeshere, Hrothgar's chief adviser and good friend. Beowulf, offers to dive to the bottom of the lake, find the monster's dwelling place, and avenge Aeshere's death. He and his men follow the monster's tracks and they see Aeshere's bloody head floating on the surface of the lake.
During the battle Grendel's mother carries Beowulf to her underwater home. Beowulf kills the monster with a magical sword that he finds on the wall of her home. He also finds Grendel's dead body, cuts off the head, and returns to land. The Danish king delivers a sermon to Beowulf on the dangers of pride and on the fleeting nature of fame and power. The Danes and Geats prepare a feast in celebration of the death of the monsters. Hrothgar presents Beowulf with treasures. The Geats sail home.