How we cite our quotes:
and the forthright Unferth,
admired by all for his mind and courage
although under a cloud for killing his brothers,
reclined near the king. (1164-1167)
The poet seems to feel somewhat conflicted about Unferth as a character. On the one hand, Unferth has committed fratricide (killed his brother) – the ultimate sin in a world where a man's allegiance to his clan and tribe are everything. Still, Unferth is courageous and clever, which counts for something in spite of his past crimes.
Yet the prince of the rings was too proud
to line up with a large army
against the sky-plague. He had scant regard
for the dragon as a threat, no dread at all
of its courage or strength, for he had kept going
often in the past, through perils and ordeals
of every sort, after he had purged
Hrothgar's hall, triumphed in Heorot
and beaten Grendel. (2345-2353)
Beowulf is completely unafraid of the dragon – so unafraid that he's being a little bit dumb about how to fight it. Other kings might take an entire army to fight a dragon, but Beowulf is simply going to take it on one-on-one, the way he fought Grendel and Grendel's mother when he was a young man. Perhaps, the poet hints to us, Beowulf is a little too courageous for a king, who needs to think about protecting his people.
And now the youth
was to enter the line of battle with his lord,
his first time to be tested as a fighter.
His spirit did not break and the ancestral blade
would keep its edge, as the dragon discovered
as soon as they came together in the combat. (2625-2630)
The battle with the dragon is Beowulf's last courageous act, but for Wiglaf, it is only the first test of his courage. Unlike the other Geat warriors, who fled in fear when Beowulf needed them most, Wiglaf will pass this test.