What is the role of revenge in the poem, Beowulf, and how is it important to finding meaning in the poem?

British Literature I: Essay 1 with Research

Length:                1200 words minimum; no maximum — you have reached the maximum when you’ve proven your thesis and topic sentences with sufficient evidence and analysis.
Due Date:           Sunday, October 9, 2016 no later than 11:59 p.m.  You must upload the essay to the Turnitin assignment link I provide in Blackboard under the Essay 1 with Research button. You must also upload all of the articles you cited in  your essay and your Smartthinking feedback if you chose to use the tutoring service for extra credit points.


Required:            You must use information from one scholarly journal article that you find in a library database. YOU MUST UPLOAD YOUR ARTICLE TO THE ASSIGNMENT LINK I PROVIDE. Your citations must indicate the library databases and not google or any other source.


Plagiarism:         Do not google information from SparkNotes, Shmoop, CliffsNotes, or any other online “notes” about literature and then copy and paste words, sentences, and paragraphs from these sites into your essay as though this information were your own writing and analysis. Likewise, do not borrow ideas from these kinds of websites. These actions are known as plagiarism, and even one sentence or a few distinctive words copied from a website will earn you a zero on the essay.

Format & Thesis:
MLA-formatted; 12-font, Times New Roman or Calibri, 1-inch margins, proper citations; plagiarism, intentional or unintentional earns an automatic zero, so please review MLA format and what information needs to be cited at the Purdue Online Writing Lab at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/  Even if you remember nothing from your Composition I class about proper citation in MLA format, the Purdue Online Writing Lab has all of the information there as long as you take the time to read. You must have both in-text citations and a Works Cited page, and if you are missing either one of these or both, you will earn an automatic zero.
Please also keep in mind that this must be an essay with an introduction, a clear thesis statement at the end of the introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Please note that essays should almost always have MORE THAN ONE body paragraph. Please do not submit an essay to me that is in the form of a single body paragraph that spans the length of several pages.
The thesis statement should provide your own clear insight about the literary work that does not simply repeat the ideas of the article you found. You should instead agree or disagree with the arguments in the article and then add your own ideas to the discussion. Your goal is to add your own thoughts to the interpretation of the literary work (in both the thesis statement and the body paragraphs) as you answer the question you choose. In your thesis statement, please do your best NOT to state the obvious.
Where to Submit/How to Submit:
To the link under the button “Submit Assignments Here.” The link will be titled “Essay 1 with
Research” Please also submit the article you used in your essay to the link titled “Article cited in Essay 1.” If you choose to use more than one article, you can upload all of them to that same link.


I also strongly encourage you to submit your essay to the Smartthinking tutoring service available at San Jacinto College. I have placed a button on Blackboard that links to Smartthinking. The tutoring service gives you feedback to help you improve your writing. If you submit the essay 5-7 days before the due date, you will have time to improve your essay based on any feedback from the tutor. It is in your best interest to submit the essay to the tutoring service because I assign extra credit to the essays that were submitted to the tutoring service.



Choose one of the questions listed below, and develop your answer into an essay of at least 1200 words. Alternatively, you may explore your own idea or question about any of the three works listed below, or you may use one of the previous discussion questions from class. Please remember that you must use evidence from the reading to prove your ideas, and you must analyze that evidence to explain how it proves your ideas. If you do not provide evidence and analyze it, you will earn a low grade.

Also, please consider some of the broader questions as springboards into your own ideas. You will need to choose a thesis statement that narrows the topic of the question so that you can discuss it reasonably in a 1200 word essay.


  • What is the role of revenge in the poem, Beowulf, and how is it important to finding meaning in the poem?
  • What is the role of wyrd (fate) in the poem? How is it important, and how does it affect our understanding of the poem and its characters?
  • Decide which is stronger in Beowulf: pagan or Christian elements. What is important about that?
  • Trace the giving of gifts throughout How is it important in shaping the poem’s events? What kinds of bonds does the gift-giving culture create in the poem, and how are they important?
  • Discuss the role of women in the poem, including Grendel’s mother. How do women shape the events of the poem? How do they reinforce the warrior code?
  • Discuss the role of monsters in the poem. How do the monsters help to create and reinforce the heroic warrior’s code? How do the monsters allow the poem to explore issues of good and evil, victory and defeat, and honor and ostracism?
  • Trace the development of Beowulf as a hero through the three fights he undertakes. What do the similarities and differences among the three fights show us about who he is as a character?
  • Is Beowulf an over-confident and cocky hero, or is his attitude toward himself and others appropriate given the time period and the events in the poem?
  • How does the poet depict the role of pride in Anglo Saxon society? Is it a positive or negative attribute of heroes?

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:

  • Is Gawain nobler at the end of the poem than at the beginning? Why or why not? Has he failed or succeeded? What kind of hero is he? When you answer this set of questions about Gawain’s character, please address Gawain’s anti-feminist speech as well. Does it have an impact on how we should judge him as a hero? Why or why not?
  • Discuss the characterization of women in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. What is significant about the role of women in this poem? Please be sure to address the ending of the poem, which is woman-blaming. Is that ending meant to be taken at face value? Why or why not?
  • Explore the symbolism of the pentangle and the green girdle. What does each represent? How do these two symbols form a parallel in the poem? How might Gawain’s taking of the green girdle from Lady Bertilak represent a climax in the poem? What is the Green Knight’s attitude toward Gawain’s wearing the green girdle? What is important about all of Arthur’s court wearing the green girdle at the end of the poem?
  • Please read and examine the hunting scenes and the bedroom scenes. Choose one of the three hunts (deer, boar, fox) and its corresponding bedroom scene. In your answer, explain why you believe the animal hunting scene you have chosen was paired with its particular bedroom scene. What is important/significant about the two scenes being placed next to one another? Consider the following aspects of the hunt in your answer: — how both the animal and Gawain act when they are hunted; how the hunters (Lord Bertilak and his men/Lady Bertilak) act as they pursue their prey; the winnings from the hunts.
  • In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Pearl poet criticizes King Arthur’s court. What would you argue is the purpose of this criticism and mocking of the court?
  • Critics differ on how best to interpret the character of the Green Knight. Scholars have argued that he is a demon or evil or a positive figure or god figure. Some have said that he is primarily a pagan figure, and some that he is primarily a Christian figure. What is your opinion about the Green Knight and what he represents?


The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

  • In the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s narrator sets out to describe the “condicioun” and “degree” of each of the pilgrims. Yet Chaucer’s pilgrims do not always conform to their traditional roles, and many of them seem dissatisfied with their degree in society.

    In what way are the pilgrims as described in the General Prologue divided between those who conform to their estate and degree and those who do not? Please explain. In addition, how does Chaucer’s narrator (as opposed to Chaucer the author or Chaucer the character) view those whose lives do not match their traditional roles? Does the narrator seem critical of those who behave differently than their estate requires? Or does the narrator seem as though he condones or accepts that behavior, while Chaucer the author is critical of it? What do you think? Is the point to criticize the characters who do not conform to the social order or the social order itself?

The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue”

  1. Is the Wife an example of the antifeminist tradition, or is she a counter to it? Or, to put the same question another way, does the Wife of Bath’s Prologue belong in Jankyn’s book of wicked wives, or does it effectively tear the antifeminist tradition apart?
  2. How does the Wife manipulate argument and textual authority? Is she justified in manipulating texts and argument in the way she does?
  3. Does the Wife expose power relations that are inevitable in marriage?
  4. Is the Wife capable of imagining any alternative to the exercise of absolute power by either husband or wife in marriage?
  5. Is the Wife of Bath anti-religious and lacking in morals? Why or why not?
  6. How insightful is the Wife about why so few stories of good wives exist?
  7. Is the Prologue simply about one woman’s history, or is it also about how literary tradition is determined by structures of power?
  8. Is the Wife of Bath anti-religious and lacking in morals? Why or why not?
  9. Would you argue that the Wife of Bath is a realistic character or more of a medieval stereotype? Why?
  10. How does the Wife of Bath reveal her true character through her descriptions of her marriages?


Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”

  1. Does the Lady give up her “maistrye” at the end or retain it?
  2. What does the knight learn? Given the nature of the knight’s crime – rape – why is it important that he learn the particular lesson that he did? Does he earn or deserve his happy fate?
  3. In this story, what kind of crime is rape?
  4. What does the old woman teach the knight about gentillesse (nobility), and how does it fit in with the idea or theme of “maistrye” (mastery)?
  5. Why is the second half of the poem set in bed? Compare it to the bedroom scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
  6. To what extent is the Old Lady in the Tale similar to the Wife, Alice/Alisoun?
  7. Chaucer’s aim in the Canterbury Tales was to fit the tale to the teller. Analyze the Wife of Bath’s personality as indicated in her Prologue to her tale. Next, analyze her tale. Explain how her tale fits or does not fit her personality.
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