Themes of the Passage

Theme 1: Higher in Rank

"He had long been despised, so that the sons of the Geats did not reckon him brave, nor would the lord of the Weather-Geats do him much gift honor on the mead bench. They strongly suspected that he was slack, a young man unbold."(Norton, 55)
Although we all may have thought that Beowulf is a hero throughout his life, this is not true according to the above line. It is the only part in the epic that talks about his earlier life. At the time of the poem, it is very hard for men to become heroes in their own tribe. Therefore, after Beowulf defeats Grendel in Denmark, he is "finally" considered a hero by his people.

Then the protector of earls bade fetch in the heirloom of Hrethel, king famed in battle, adorned with gold. There were not then among the Geats a better treasure in sword's kind. He laid that in Beowulf's lap, and gave him seven thousand [hides of land], a hall and a throne."(Norton, 55)
These lines tell how Hygelac rewards Beowulf for helping Hrothgar in killing Grendel. He gives him a sword that gives him a higher rank than before. It is certainly worth the efforts that he puts in all the battles because that changes people's view toward him.

Theme 2: Status of Women

"Yet most often after the fall of a prince in any nation the deadly spear rests but a little while, even though the bride is good."(Norton, 53)
Here Beowulf is giving a speech to Hygelac, which shows that he is disagreeing with Hrothgar, while he is trying to use the marriage between Freawaru and "the fair son of Froda" to bring peace to the two tribes. However, as Beowulf foresees, the war is not going to end between the two tribes no matter how good the bride is. Beowulf thinks peace might be brought by using some other method. Men will not stop fighting each other because of a woman. Beowulf has sympathy towards the girl and thinks that she is sacrificed for nothing. It shows that the status of women at that time was low. Even the king's own daughter is only an object to exhange for peace. As a matter of fact, marriage between tribes was a common fact during this period. It seems that no one cares about the women's feelings. Women don't know how to fight, but they also have the responsibility to protect the tribe by sacrificing the rest of their life to deal with someone who may not even love them to achieve peace.

An Excerpt from the Passage

History of the Epic: Beowulf

Summary of the Passage