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Beowulf | Quotes

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1.

He was spawned in that slime/of Cain, murderous creatures banished/by God.


Narrator, Lines 64–193 (Terror at King Hrothgar's Hall)

These lines establish Grendel as an evil character descended from Cain, who because of jealousy, killed his brother Abel.

2.

I drove/five great giants into chains. ... I swam/in the blackness of night, hunting monsters.


Beowulf, Lines 194–661 (Beowulf in Heorot)

In this monologue, Beowulf establishes himself as a fearless warrior to be respected and honored—worthy of taking on the symbol of evil (Grendel).

3.

If death does take me, send ... my armor to Hygelac. ... Fate will unwind as it must!


Beowulf, Lines 194–661 (Beowulf in Heorot)

Before fighting Grendel, Beowulf acknowledges fate's master plan in the battle between good and evil. He also honors generosity over greed by ordering his wealth sent back to his uncle.

4.

[Grendel] discovered himself/In a handgrip harder than anything/He had encountered in any man. ... He could not escape./He was desperate to flee to his den and hide.


Narrator, Lines 662–851 (The Battle)

This establishes Beowulf's strength; as noted several times in the poem, he is as strong as 30 men. This part of the encounter between Beowulf and Grendel is also the tipping point in the struggle between good and evil. It is the first time that Grendel (evil) realizes he may not prevail over Beowulf (good). Grendel is fearful now for the first, and only, time in his life.

5.

The cup was carried to him ... /... and a wealth of [gold]/graciously bestowed.


Narrator, Lines 852–1250 (The Celebration)

These lines reflect on both Beowulf and King Hrothgar. Through the gifts of gold, Hrothgar not only honors Beowulf and rewards his bravery, but he also demonstrates his own generosity—as dictated by the heroic code.

6.

It is always better/to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.


Beowulf, Lines 1251–1904 (Danger Returns)

This statement, spoken after Grendel's mother kills Aeschere, again speaks to Beowulf's understanding of the heroic code—that it is always crucial to act in a courageous manner. In this case, that means exacting vengeance.

7.

After many trials/he was destined to face the end of his days/... as was the dragon.


Narrator, Lines 2510–2891 (Beowulf's Final Battle)

Here the poet foreshadows the outcome of Beowulf's final battle. After the many conflicts Beowulf easily won in his youth, now in old age he feels vulnerable. Although he intends to slay the dragon without assistance, he realizes he may not survive the encounter. He puts his life on the line to save his people from the dragon; the dragon fights to defend his treasure. When the combatants mortally wound each other, each dies protecting what he values most.

8.

Defend your life now/with the whole of your strength. I shall stand by you.


Wiglaf, Lines 2510–2891 (Beowulf's Final Battle)

Here Wiglaf refers to the heroic code, calling upon Beowulf to be courageous and honorable to the last. He declares that he also will act in accordance with the code in standing by Beowulf and assisting in the fight against the dragon.

9.

I give thanks to God/for all this gold and treasure that I see before me/and for the opportunity to give it/to my countrymen on this, my last day./I have traded my life for this treasure/so be sure to use it for the good of our country.


Beowulf, Lines 2892–3182 (Beowulf's Funeral)

Beowulf has just given his life to take the dragon's treasure. Through his action he has valiantly defeated evil and greed. By giving the treasure to his people, he is also fulfilling the heroic code's demands for a generous ruler. However, in this moment, he questions whether wealth was worth the loss of his life.

10.

They said that of all the kings upon the earth/he was the man most gracious and fair-minded,/kindest to his people and keenest to win fame.


Narrator, Lines 2892–3182 (Beowulf's Funeral)

In this tribute after Beowulf's death, the Geats honor Beowulf as a great king, listing the characteristics of a great leader, such as courage, strength, generosity, and the capability to govern wisely. These characteristics, again, reflect those promoted in the heroic code.

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