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Quotes in Beowulf

Below are several of the most famous quotes from Beowulf. Each has an accompanying annotation with analysis.

Quotes Examples in Beowulf:


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""Not to any one else have I ever entrusted,           But thee and thee only, the hall of the Danemen,           Since high I could heave my hand and my buckler...."   (X)

Since Beowulf has declared his intention to help and impressed the hall with his stories, he has earned the respect of the hall. On the one hand, Hrothgar's choice to give the command of Heorot to Beowulf, a Geat, demonstrates the extraordinary amount of trust he has in Beowulf. On the other, Hrothgar’s willingness to trust an outsider emphasizes the extreme danger that Grendel poses for Hrothgar’s people.

"Practice thou now patient endurance           Of each of thy sorrows..."   (XXII)

Beowulf's speech to Hrothgar in this passage represents an important shift in his character. Whereas previously Hrothgar gave guidance and consolation, he has switched roles with Beowulf, emphasizing Beowulf's growing influence as a leader in his own right.

""Grieve not, O wise one! for each it is better,           His friend to avenge than with vehemence wail him;..."   (XXII)

Beowulf reaffirms his own values and the values of the culture at the time. Vengeance of a friend or loved one is the appropriate response, not mourning. He is not only reminding Hrothgar of this, but he is also consoling Hrothgar and vowing to kill Grendel's mother. Beowulf's values underscore a major theme in the play: the importance of being honorable through glory and valor.

"I shall gain me glory, or grim-death shall take me...."   (XXIII)

This famous quote has varied from translation to translation. Notably, in Seamus Heaney’s translation, this quote by Beowulf simply reads “I shall gain glory or die.”

"Beware of arrogance, world-famous champion!..."   (XXVI)

Hrothgar uses his praise for Beowulf to give him this warning about fame and pride. Through Hrothgar's speech, honor becomes more complicated: it has as much to do with humility as it does with valor and glory. He achieves this definition by reminding Beowulf that death takes everyone in the end, meaning personal pride and ambition are not as important as the legacy of honor that one leaves behind. Power and fame become a byproduct of a life lived honorably rather than the goal of one's actions.

"They placed in the barrow rings and jewels,           All such ornaments as erst in the treasure           War-mooded men had won in possession:..."   (XLIII)

Beowulf embarks on this dangerous journey to gain treasure for his people and vanquish the dragon that threatens them. This marks the pinnacle of Beowulf's story as this is the highest form of earthly valor that he can enact. The cursed treasure that is buried with him is symbolic of the vanity inherent in human desires. The dragon spends his life guarding treasure which has no use to him and Beowulf dies trying to obtain a treasure that has no use to his people. Much like fame, pride, and earthly glory which end in death, the desire for the treasure is a dead end. However, Beowulf's final act is not in vain. Because he used his quest for glory as a way to exemplify the valor of a warrior, his quest and death become symbols of honor for the Danes. Thus, Beowulf's people remember him as a virtuous and noble leader who fulfilled his duty to them.

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