Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Hero Outline [sentence outline]

Written by an unknown scribe around A.D. 700, Beowulf is the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language. Its sole manuscript, British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A.XV., is
written in Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons, and dates from c. 1000. The story, set in A.D. 500 Denmark and Geatland (present day Sweden), follows the life of Beowulf from brave prince to wise king. Throughout his adventures, Beowulf demonstrates the characteristics of an Anglo-Saxon epic hero because he is noble, loyal, and brave.

I. A basic character trait of any epic hero is nobility, and Beowulf is indeed noble.

A. Noble birth
Wulfgar acknowledges Beowulf’s “ noble birth.” (150)
Beowulf introduces himself as a cousin of Higlac, the Geat’s king.

B. Noble character – The first Dane that he meets says that he recognizes in his demeanor and beauty that he is of noble blood and no commoner. (143-6)

C. Identity and reputation are important in Anglo-Saxon society because reputation establishes trust.

II. Beowulf is also loyal, a trait essential to preserving Anglo-Saxon society.

A. Beowulf helps Hrothgar

1. Beowulf and fellow Geats come to help King Hrothgar, who had once helped Beowulf’s father (172)
2. Even when Beowulf is praise by the people and poets for defeating Grendel, everyone knows that “none of Beowulf’s praise was meant to belittle Hrothgar, their kind and gracious king” (515).

B. He is faithful to his king, Higlac

1. He does not try to usurp his throne; instead, he shows honor to the king.
2. He is known as“Higlac’s follower” (1-2).

C. At the end of his life, Beowulf remains loyal to his people as their faithful king.

1. He is known as the “shield and protector of his people” (566), who is loyal to his people and dedicated to protecting them.
2. When his kingdom is ravaged by a fire-breathing dragon, he goes to fight it even though he knows that he will be killed. While his warriors cower and watch, he takes on the dragon with only the help of Wiglac, his loyal kinsman.
3. He does slay the dragon, but he is poisoned in the process. Dying, he requires Wiglac to give the dragon’s treasure to the Geats and to erect there a tower to guide sailors.

D. Loyalty was important to the Anglo-Saxons, as it was the Danes and Geats. United they could survive their harsh environment, fight off invaders, and enjoy fellowship.

III. Strong and brave


Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Epic Hero Outline [parallel outline]

A. Background of manuscript
B. Setting of story
C. Thesis: Throughout his adventures, Beowulf demonstrates the characteristics of an
Anglo-Saxon epic hero because he is noble, loyal, and brave.

I. Nobility

A. Noble birth
1. Acknowledged by others (150)
2. Declares himself cousin of Higlac, the Geat’s king.

B. Noble character
1. Demeanor
2. Beauty (143-6)
C. Importance of nobility in Anglo-Saxon society

II. Loyalty

A. Helps Hrothgar
1. King Hrothgar, who had once helped Beowulf’s father (172)
2. “[N]one of Beowulf’s praise was meant to belittle Hrothgar, their kind and gracious king” (515).

B. Faithful to his king, Higlac
1. Does not usurp his throne but shows honor to the king.
2. Known as“Higlac’s follower” (1-2).

C. Loyal to his people as king
1. Known as the “shield and protector of his people” (566)
2. Defeats the fire-breathing dragon
3. Gives the dragon’s treasure to the Geats
4. Directs that a tower be built to guide sailors

D. Importance of loyalty

III. Strong and brave
A. Summarize
B. Importance of the traits in Anglo-Saxon society
C. Relevance or importance today