Beowulf Structure

by Richard Kroll, adapted by Alfred J. Drake




A society is founded: Hrothgar in hall

Grendel damages hall

Beowulf destroys Grendel

Hrothgar in hall

Mother of Grendel damages hall

Beowulf destroys mother of Grendel

Beowulf in hall

Dragon destroys hall

Beowulf and the dragon destroy each other







1. Early Danish history.
2. Hrothgar builds Heorot.
3. Grendel attacks.
4. Beowulf.
5. The coastguard greets Beowulf.
6. Wulfgar greets Beowulf.
7. Hrothgar greets Beowulf.
8. Unferth challenges Beowulf; Beowulf replies.
9. Wealhtheow greets Beowulf.
10. Beowulf and Grendel fight.
11. Celebrations at Heorot; Beowulf rewarded. The story of Sigemund and the Finn episode.
12. More celebrations.
13. Grendel's mother attacks.
14. Beowulf comes to Hrothgar's aid.
15. Beowulf sinks into the mere, fights Grendel's mother, and cuts off Grendel's head.
16. Celebrations -- thanks given.
17. Hrothgar prophecies and warns Beowulf.
18. Gifts and parting.
19. Home to Hygelac and Queen Hygd. Contrast -- Queen Modthryth.
20. Beowulf recounts his exploits.
21. (Beowulf has changed since he was young.)
22. Gifts, land, etc.
23. Fifty years later, Beowulf is still ruling. The dragon's treasure is stolen.
24. The thief took the dragon's cup out of need.
25. Dragon attacks -- Beowulf's hall burns. Elegy: ubi sunt; Beowulf's deeds at battle in which Hygelac died.
26. Beowulf salutes his companions.
27. Beowulf boasts that he will kill the dragon in single combat.
28. His companions run away.
29. Wiglaf helps Beowulf kill the dragon.
30. Wiglaf with Beowulf on his deathbed.
31. Wiglaf berates the traitors.
32. Wiglaf predicts chaos. (Older conflict between Swedes and Geats recounted.)
33. Useless treasure (paragraph 152).
34. Funeral pyre -- heaven swallows the smoke.
35. Useless treasure (paragraph 158).

From Michael Alexander, translator of Beowulf (Penguin, 1973): a. Epics involve "inclusiveness of scope, objectivity of treatment, unity of ethos and an ‘action' of significance." b. "The action of an epic, like the action of a myth, should have its own logic and an intrinsic significance."