Beowulf

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Hrothgar Character Analysis

The King of the Danes, the son of Healfdene, the brother of Heorogar and Halga, and the brother-in-law of Onela the Swede. He is also the father of young sons Hrethric, Hrothmund, and Freawaru. Hrothgar is an excellent and successful king. He builds Heorot, a magnificent hall, and builds love and loyalty through his generosity and wisdom. However, though once a great warrior, he can no longer defend his people from Grendel, and his sons also are too young to take up leadership of the Danes. Though a good king, Hrothgar's position – too old to protect his people, but without heirs ready to take his place – represents a potential threat to the Danes and all other Scandinavian tribes: the lack of a king. Hrothgar and the Dane's situation therefore foreshadows the actual threat that will face the Geats after Beowulf battles the dragon at the end of the narrative.

Hrothgar Quotes in Beowulf

The Beowulf quotes below are all either spoken by Hrothgar or refer to Hrothgar. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family and Tribe Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of Beowulf published in 2008.
Grendel Attacks (Lines 86–193) Quotes
The monster relished his savage war
On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud
Alive, seeking no peace, offering
No truce, accepting no settlement, no price
In gold or land, and paying the living
For one crime only with another. No one
Waited for reparation from his plundering claws:
That shadow of death hunted in the darkness,
Stalked Hrothgar's warriors.
Related Characters: Hrothgar, Grendel
Related Symbols: Gold, Treasure, and Gifts
Page Number: 152-160
Explanation and Analysis:
Grendel repeatedly enters Heorot and kills many warriors under the cover of night--and without following the essential Anglo-Saxon principles of martial combat. Unlike humans, Grendel is unaffected by the potential of peace negotiations; he is not civilized by language, and follows "no truce, accepting no settlement, no price / In gold or land." Indeed, Grendel wages a war ("his savage war") on his own, instead of engaging in an exchange with others. It is this isolation which makes Grendel such a horrific figure. Warriors can be forgiven -- and, indeed, lauded -- for killing their enemies in battle, but a monster is unforgivable because he does so without participating in a greater context. 
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New Celebration (Lines 1640–1912) Quotes
All-knowing God
Must have sent you such words; nothing so wise
From a warrior so young has ever reached
These ancient ears...If your lord,
Hrethel's son, is slain by a spear,
Or falls sick and dies...I say that the Geats
Could do no better, find no man better
Suited to be king, keeper of warriors
and their treasure, than you..., beloved Beowulf.
Related Characters: Hrothgar (speaker), Beowulf, Hrethel
Page Number: 1841-1854
Explanation and Analysis:

Hrothgar praises Beowulf after the hero defeats Grendel and Grendel's mother and before he becomes king of his own land. Here Hrothgar references Beowulf's wisdom -- a kingly trait, which suggests that Beowulf might function well as a mediator between a people and God. Hrothgar then more directly advocates for Beowulf to become king of his own land, that of the Geats. With this praise, Hrothgar begins to foster diplomatic relations between his kingdom and Beowulf's. Hrothgar has many roles in his relationship to Beowulf; he adopts fatherly roles, he generously rewards Beowulf as one of his own warriors, and here he suggests that Beowulf is somewhat of an equal to himself. 

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Hrothgar Character Timeline in Beowulf

The timeline below shows where the character Hrothgar appears in Beowulf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue (Lines 1–63)
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...dies, his son Healfdane became king. Healfdane, in turn, is followed on the throne by Hrothgar, the second of Healfdane's four children. (full context)
Hrothgar’s Early Reign (Lines 64–85)
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Hrothgar is successful in battle, and gains followers and treasure. He constructs Heorot, the most magnificent... (full context)
Grendel Attacks (Lines 86–193)
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The Danes celebrate the completion of Heorot with a feast, at which Hrothgar's bard sings about the creation of the Earth. (full context)
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...or to pay compensation for those he kills and thus make peace with their families. Hrothgar can neither make peace with Grendel, nor destroy him. (full context)
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In despair, Hrothgar and the Danes prayed to their heathen gods. The narrator pities them, since they did... (full context)
Beowulf Arrives (Lines 194–490)
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...Hygelac. Without giving his name, Beowulf identifies himself as the son of Ecgtheow, a man Hrothgar the son of Healfdene knows. Beowulf says the Geats, having heard of Grendel's attacks, offer... (full context)
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At Heorot, Hrothgar's herald, Wulfgar, asks the Geats who they are. Beowulf identifies himself by name as well... (full context)
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Hrothgar corroborates that he knew Ecgtheow, and adds that he knew Beowulf as a boy. Hrothgar... (full context)
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Wulfgar invites the Geats to speak to Hrothgar. Beowulf greets Hrothgar, and says he has heard that because of Grendel, Heorot stands empty... (full context)
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Hrothgar responds, saying that Ecgtheow, Beowulf's father, sought sanctuary with Hrothgar after Ecgtheow killed Heatholaf of... (full context)
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Hrothgar accepts Beowulf's offer, though he adds that he has often heard his men boast while... (full context)
A Feast at Heorot (Lines 491–701)
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Hrothgar and the Danes are cheered by Beowulf's resolve and daring. Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, offers Beowulf... (full context)
Celebration (Lines 837–1250)
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Hrothgar's scop sings. He compares Beowulf to Sigemund, a famous warrior who killed a dragon and... (full context)
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Hrothgar thanks both God and Beowulf for the defeat of Grendel. He proclaims that Beowulf is... (full context)
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...is repaired, and a great feast held. Heorot is filled with friends and family, including Hrothgar and his nephew Hrothulf. But the narrator comments that "the Scyldings [Danes] had not yet... (full context)
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At the feast, Hrothgar gives Beowulf gifts ranging from gold to horses to weapons. He also gives gifts to... (full context)
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After the song, Wealhtheow, Hrothgar's queen, offers the gold mead cup to Hrothgar and tells him to be generous to... (full context)
Grendel’s Mother (Lines 1251–1407)
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Beowulf, who had slept in a private chamber that night, is brought to Heorot. Hrothgar tells him that Grendel grabbed Aeschere, Hrothgar's adviser and companion in battle. Hrothgar adds that... (full context)
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Beowulf tells Hrothgar: "It is better for a man to avenge his friend than to mourn too much."... (full context)
A Second Fight (Lines 1408–1639)
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Beowulf asks Hrothgar to protect his Geat companions and send the treasure he's won to Hygelac, should he... (full context)
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Hrothgar and the other Danes, who have been waiting on the shore, see blood bubble to... (full context)
New Celebration (Lines 1640–1912)
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At Heorot, Beowulf presents the head and sword hilt to Hrothgar. He describes his fight with Grendel's mother, saying that "the fight would have been over... (full context)
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Hrothgar examines the hilt of the sword Beowulf used to kill Grendel's mother. In intricate workmanship,... (full context)
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Hrothgar tells Beowulf that he will reward him for his courage as he promised, and compares... (full context)
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Hrothgar says that ruled for fifty years, protected his people and had no adversaries. But that... (full context)
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Then Beowulf bids farewell to Hrothgar. He promises to support the Danes in times of trouble, and promises that Hrothgar's son... (full context)
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Hrothgar gives Beowulf twelve more gifts, and begins to weep with the knowledge that he will... (full context)
Beowulf at Home (Lines 1913–2199)
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...speak to Hygelac. Hygd offers them mead, and Beowulf describes the generosity and courtesy of Hrothgar and Wealhtheow. (full context)
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...with Grendel, detailing both the ferocity of the monster and the treasure he received from Hrothgar, and then describes the fight with Grendel's mother. (full context)