This lesson is part of a larger unit on Beowulf. In this lesson students will use reenactments and tableaus to understand the power dynamic in the poem. They will use this strategy to understand the complex ideas in the text.
Students wrote a dramatic interpretation of lines 229-300 when Beowulf and his men arrived on the Danish coast and are confronted by the Coast Guard. I then have the students go outside and I assigned one student to play Beowulf and another the Coast Guard with two or three students on each side playing Beowulf's men and coast guard men. Using their interpretations they will reenact the scene of Beowulf's arrival.
I instruct students with speaking lines to pay close attention to the tone they use when talking and students without speaking lines to pay attention to body language. I want to get kids thinking about the way tone and body language convey power and think about the way power can shift from one side to the next with the right word. I also want them to see how Beowulf exercises his power and manages to arrive at the Danes' homeland peacefully, from this encounter we realize that Beowulf is not your run-of-the-mill mercenary, he is a true leader of men.
I've also had them change the scenario to the old west or to urban gangsters. Students realize that the actual words might change, but the tone and body language does not.
For reading that night I assign lines 607-884 which describes Beowulf's formal boast and his battle with Grendel. And lines 925-1069 which describes Hrothgar's formal praises and gift giving to Beowulf. I also have them answer four reading comprehension questions to make sure they are on-task with the readings.