Beowulf Study Guide

Beowulf is the most ancient text in Old English that has been preserved till nowadays. Scientists still wrestle over many questions related to the manuscript. Did a single author write it? Why was the next unnamed? What is its literary value?

This Beowulf Study Guide prepared by experts answers some of these questions and gives clues to a better understanding of the story of Beowulf.

Beowulf Key Facts

Full Name Beowulf
Author Unknown
Genre Heroic epic
Date of Publishing First printed edition – 1815 The manuscript was written in the early 11th century
Setting (Time) 500 AD
Setting (Place) Scandinavia

Beowulf Study Guide: Articles

The poem’s summary

If you need to quickly figure out the intricacies of the poem’s plot, this page will be helpful. It contains Beowulf plot overview, a timeline, and chapter summaries.

Character analysis 

This article on Beowulf characters analyses Beowulf, Grendel, Hrothgar, Grendel’s mother, Unferth, and minor characters of the famous epic poem.

Themes of Beowulf 

Want to learn more about themes in Beowulf? Chech this article then. Christianity, hospitality, loyalty, bravery – all the poem’s themes are described here.

Symbolism & literary analysis 

Is Beowulf an epic? Where does it take place? Find all the answers in this article. It focuses on the poem’s symbols, metaphors, setting, genre, etc.

Essay topics and examples 

If you need to write a Beowulf essay, check the collection we’ve prepared. It contains Beowulf essay samples as well as a list of the topics and prompts.

Beowulf Q&A 

Looking for questions and answers about the epic poem? On this page, you’ll find the answers to the most pressing questions about Beowulf. Enjoy!

Beowulf Historical Context

The plot is set between the 5th and the 8th century. That is why it was also a historical text for its creator, who lived several centuries later. The historical background of the poem (for instance, the construction of Heorot) helped scientists define the time frame and the location when and where the events took place.

In 2013, archaeologists found the ruins of Heorot. The excavations were carried out in Lejre, Denmark, some 20 miles from Copenhagen.

The poem is swinging from the pagan to Christian traditions and back. It is another confirmation of the timing assumptions of scholars. Beowulf could be composed long before the manuscript we know. It could be an orally transmitted legend that was later written down to be preserved as a legacy. The manuscript writer lived when the Christian religion grew stronger. Pagan rites and views of life faded away.

For this reason, we should read Beowulf in the context of hundreds of years that contributed to its creation. For example, the wrath of Grendel is a multilayered symbol. In the 5th century, it meant unknown and illogical evil that threatened everyone who went too far from their settlement. In the 11th century, it was already the symbol of the Biblical devil.

The handwriting analysis shows that two English monks composed the text at the beginning of the 11th century.

The manuscript is in the British Museum. It is among the most translated texts in human history because its themes and issues are eternal. Medieval people enjoyed the heroism, honor, and loyalty of the main hero. Modern readers also find the characters relatable, and the theme of good and evil is topical now as never before.

This article was developed by the editorial team of, a professional writing service with 3-hour delivery.