Beowulf Good vs. Evil Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used Seamus Heaney's Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, published in 2000 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
his talon was raised to attack Beowulf
where he lay on the bed; he was bearing in
with open claw when the alert hero's
comeback and armlock forestalled him utterly.
The captain of evil discovered himself
in a handgrip harder than anything
he had ever encountered in any man
on the face of the earth. (744-752)
Even though Beowulf is the epitome of a good hero and Grendel is a monstrous demon, they're actually a well-matched pair – both are excellent wrestlers and unforgiving warriors. Maybe good and evil don't always look that different in this particular epic.
Like a man outlawed
for wickedness, he must await
the mighty judgement of God in majesty. (976-8)
Grendel may be a demon from hell, but he's insignificant compared to the mighty power and goodness of God. Beowulf may be a battle between good and evil, but the two sides are nowhere near equal. This isn't a dualistic fight between God and the Devil; it's God triumphing over all the little, petty demons on earth.
there was nothing but friendship. The Shielding nation
was not yet familiar with feud and betrayal. (1016-8)
Most of the time, the "evil" in Beowulf consists of inherently depraved fantastic creatures – demons like Grendel, sea monsters, and dragons. Occasionally, however, we get hints that another kind of evil could come from inter-tribal feuding. Perhaps human beings can create their own evil without needing monsters to represent it for them.