Beowulf Essay Topics & Examples

This epic poem is the oldest known written artifact in Old English. It reveals the life, traditions, and culture of the people who lived a millennium ago. At the same time, Beowulf presents such archetypes as loyalty, courage, generosity, hospitality, honor, and heroism. We can relate to these moral categories and analyze them from our perspective.

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Based on Beowulf, these essay questions with prompts and samples prepared by experts will help you get ready for the most complicated exam featuring this poem.

Some of Beowulf essay topics open a discussion that is deep enough for a research paper. You can use the prompt as the thesis in such a case.

🏆 Beowulf Essay Questions

  1. Is Beowulf a hero?
  2. What is the symbolism of Heorot?
  3. What role does Anglo-Saxon culture play in Beowulf?
  4. Is Beowulf an epic?
  5. What does Hrunting symbolize in Beowulf?
  6. Who is Hrothgar and what role does he play?
  7. How are kennings used in Beowulf?
  8. What are the most essential Biblical allusions in Beowulf?
  9. In what way are Christian elements combined in with paganism in Beowulf?
  10. What are the main Beowulf themes?

💡 Beowulf Essay Topics with Prompts

Below you can find a selection of top-16 Beowulf essay topics, as well as prompts to prepare for an in-class discussion or coursework.

  1. Beowulf as an epic hero. The essay shall contain a summary of his accomplishments. Explain the hero’s motivation in risking his life. This point of view will give you a clue to the heroic code of conduct, which is the basis for the entire poem.  
  2. Is Beowulf a eulogy? This essay shall explore the difference between epic poetry and elegy. A eulogy is a piece of writing that pays tribute to a great person who has passed away. Some scholars consider Beowulf to be an elegy. Do you agree with them?  
  3. Based on Beowulf, write a character analysis essay. Select a controversial protagonist, like Unferth or Grendel. In the introduction, clearly state your opinion about the character and substantiate it in the main body. Write a paragraph about an opposing point of view, showing why you disagree with it. 
  4. Make the character comparison of Grendel and Beowulf. The essay shall find their similarities. For instance, both have killed living creatures for no good reason. Then compare and contrast these figures as a hero and a monster. Conclude with your opinion on whether similar or different features prevail. 
  5. Explore the Anglo-Saxon values in Beowulf. This essay is about the heroic code in Beowulf. You can also analyze such traditions as wergild (payment for injury or death). Identify Beowulf’s qualities and think about what they reveal about the Anglo-Saxon culture, as the protagonist was a role model for medieval people.  
  6. Analyze Beowulf as the conflict of good vs. evil. The essay shall describe the key figures that represent good and evil. Consider that the narrator predicts a dark future for the Geats after Beowulf’s death. Does it mean that evil will finally win? 
  7. What do you think about Beowulf’s loyalty? The essay shall give your opinion about the hero’s motivation. He helps Hrothgar because the king had helped his father once in the past. Do you think it is a sufficient reason to risk one’s life?  
  8. Based on the poem’s plot and a film version of Beowulf, write a compare and contrast essay. Which events were left out and which were added in the film? Does the film uncover the hidden meaning of the ancient text, or is it the scriptwriter’s fantasy? 
  9. Why were funerals so important in Anglo-Saxon culture? Beowulf contains multiple descriptions of the ritual. Shield Sheafson was put in a boat with treasures and set sail to the sea. Beowulf had a funeral pyre and a mound erected in his honor. What do these traditions symbolize? 
  10. Having read Beowulf, write a descriptive essay about Heorot. King Hrothgar built the largest mead-hall ever known to celebrate and socialize with his warriors. What kind of food and drinks does the narrator describe? What do the Danes use the mead-hall for? 
  11. Based on Beowulf, write an analysis essay of heroism theme development. How did Beowulf start his path as a warrior? What motivates him to risk his life? The heroic code dictates Beowulf to be loyal to Hrothgar, but is it the only reason he comes? 
  12. Which role do kennings play in Beowulf? A kenning is a short metaphor that names a familiar person or object using a two-word combination. For example, Heorot is called a “gold-sharing hall.” How does this device influence the reader’s perception? 
  13. Analyze Wiglaf’s role in the poem. In many heroic stories, the protagonist has a best friend or helper who assists them in all the deeds. Why was Wiglaf the only warrior who was not scared by the dragon and remained loyal to his king? 
  14. How did Beowulf represent the image of a good king? Compare his characterization to the kings described in the introduction to the poem. Which similar traits do all the governors in the text have? What is the difference between Beowulf, Hygelac, and Hrothgar? 
  15. How does the patriarchal culture manifest itself in Beowulf? The ancestry is traced by the line of fathers. How is it reflected in the text? What was a woman’s position in the Anglo-Saxon culture? Which strong female characters can you name? 
  16. Outline the role of gifts and treasures in Beowulf. When the hero defeats Grendel and his mother, Hrothgar and Wealhtheow present him with valuable objects. After the battle with the dragon, Beowulf “wins” the treasure of an ancient tribe. What is the underlying symbolism of gold and money in the poem? 

📝 Beowulf Essay Examples

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