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Quotes

Quote #1

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns. (1-3)

The first few lines of Beowulf immediately invoke "courage" as the ultimate form of "greatness." The Spear-Danes are going to be celebrated because of their bravery and heroism before anything else.

Quote #2

"Often, for undaunted courage,
fate spares the man it has not already marked." (572-573)

Beowulf makes an interesting claim early in the poem during his description of his swimming contest with Breca. At other points, the narrator reminds us that God determines everyone's fate. But in this passage, Beowulf claims that, if your fate hasn't been decided yet, you can succeed through sheer nerve and courageous behavior. It will be interesting to see if this attitude works out for him at the end of the poem.

Quote #3

"The fact is, Unferth, if you were truly
as keen and courageous as you claim to be
Grendel would never have got away with
such unchecked atrocity, attacks on your king,
havoc in Heorot and horrors everywhere." (590-594)

Beowulf scores one off of Unferth: Unferth can talk smack about Beowulf's past deeds, but the truth is that Unferth himself doesn't have any great deeds to boast about. Beowulf suggests that Unferth shouldn't go around insulting other warriors' courage until he's done something courageous himself. After all, Unferth never got the better of Grendel, so why should he sneer at Beowulf for trying?

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