Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unferth's Challenge

Threatened by Beowulf’s glorious reputation, Unferth, a thane of King Hrothgar’s, ridiculed Beowulf for a lost swimming contest. This ensued a debate about whether or not Beowulf held the ability and willingness to beat Grendel. Assuming Beowulf to be too weak, Unferth said, “…I expect still worse of an outcome (line 525).”Beowulf defended himself. Despite losing the contest, he believed himself to be the stronger of the two competitors. He told of a “sea-monster” that pulled him under the water where, eventually, after a long fight he killed it with his sword. The debate continued. Beowulf explained to Unferth that he, in fact, killed nine creatures during this contest—and it was that fact that slowed him down during the race. “Never have I heard such stories told of your skill in battle, in furious sword-fights,” Beowulf said (lines 581-583).” In Beowulf’s view, Unferth has no reason to be boasting about himself or ridiculing anyone. Beowulf then places blame on Unferth for the toll Grendel has taken on Heorot, the king and his men. Beowulf goes on to tell Unferth that Grendel may have already been subdued if “your spirit were so fierce in battle as you suppose yourself (lines 593-594).”

The questions are on READING GUIDE #2.

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