Then Beowulf spoke—on him the armor shone, the mail-shirt linked by the skills of the smith: Hail to you, Hrothgar! I am Hygelac’s kinsman and devoted thane; already in youth I have done many glorious deeds…
Beowulf has finally reached the presence of Hrothgar, the great king who is threatened by Grendel, the monster. As befits a hero, Beowulf appears in shining armor. He shows his noble birth by following the proper ritual of declaring his name and his loyalties. Then he describes his own heroic actions, showing the confidence of youth.
No, we two in dark of night shall forego the sword, if he dares to seek war without weapon, and then may wise God, the holy Lord, judge which side will succeed, which one will win glory, as to him seems right.
Beowulf is speaking to his band of heroes just before his fight with Grendel. He has noted that Grendel does not fight with weapons, so he foregoes the sword to make it a fair fight. The poet presents Beowulf as a Christian hero who trusts the Lord’s judgment. But he is also a pagan hero who fights to win glory.
That was a true trophy which the battle-brave Beowulf set down before them, under the hall-roof—the hand, arm, and shoulder, with Grendel’s claw, all connected together.
The poet has already given us the gory details of how Beowulf ripped out the monster’s arm. Now Beowulf brings the arm back to Hrothgar’s hall for display. The vivid image evokes Beowulf’s swagger as he celebrates his triumph, not only over the monster but over those in the hall such as Unferth who had doubted him.
Do not grieve, wise warrior! It is better for each man That he avenge his friend than to mourn him much. Each of us must accept the end of life here in this world—so we must work while we can to earn fame before death.
Beowulf is speaking to Hrothgar after Grendel’s monster mother has attacked, killing Hrothgar’s dear friend. The young hero reminds Hrothgar of the warrior’s code of vengeance. He is trying to restore the king’s courage by suggesting that the older hero still has time to earn fame. The scene shows Beowulf’s respect for the older warrior and for ancient values.
The champion for the Danes, in a dreadful fury, despairing of life, seized the hilt of the sword, swung its great blade and angrily struck so that it dug deep in the neck of the monster, breaking the bone-rings, slicing all the way through her body doomed by fate, and she fell dead on the floor. The sword sweat blood, while the warrior rejoiced.
The poet describes the moment Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother. The vivid details celebrate Beowulf’s tremendous physical strength and his pride in his enemy’s doom. The champion has fulfilled his mission. The monster’s death is a moment of triumph and emotional release not only for the hero but also for the audience.
Then battle-brave Beowulf ordered that Hrunting Be brought to Unferth, for him to take back that sword, The beloved blade, and thanked him for that gift. …. That was a high-minded man!
The rivalry between Unferth, a Danish warrior, and Beowulf has formed a subplot of the story since Beowulf’s first appearance at Hrothgar’s hall, when Unferth challenged the hero’s claims. Unferth has a change of heart after Beowulf defeats Grendel and even gives Beowulf his own sword, named Hrunting, to help him defeat Grendel’s mother. When Beowulf returns the sword to Unferth, he demonstrates the courtesy of a true hero.
Yet those grieving people could in no way prevail upon that noble hero, in any of his assemblies, that he would become the lord over Heardred, or choose to hold a position of kingly power.
The poet describes Beowulf’s behavior after the death of Hygelac, his uncle and king. Queen Hygd has invited Beowulf to rule because she fears her young son Heardred does not have enough power. Beowulf refuses her offer and instead uses his power to support the rightful ruler. His loyalty shows he is indeed a noble hero. The audience already knows that Beowulf will become the ruler after Heardred’s death.
The fire-dragon had destroyed with flames the stronghold of the people, the land bordering the sea, the fortress of the nation. For that the war-king, the prince of the Weders, planned terrible vengeance.
Just before this excerpt, Beowulf, now a wise king, has been wondering if the dragon’s evil has come upon him because of some offense against God. Now the poet tells how Beowulf heroically accepts his duty to defend his nation. His last heroic deed will be done not only for his own glory but to protect his people from further harm.
In the time I was given I lived in my own land, ruling my people well, never turning to treachery, or swearing to oaths contrary to right. In this I take comfort and joy when now I am stricken with death-dealing wounds.
Beowulf speaks these words after he has defeated the dragon and accepted that his own death is upon him. He is looking back on his life’s accomplishments. The hero’s record as a wise ruler gives him comfort and joy in his dying moments, more than the glory of his heroic deeds.