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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.

Quote #7

The monster wrenched and wrestled with him
but Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength,
the wondrous gifts God had showered on him:
He relied for help on the Lord of All,
on His care and favour. So he overcame the foe,
brought down the hell-brute. (1269-1274)

It's not always clear whether Beowulf is victorious because of his own strength and prowess, because of God's favor, or because he's fated to be on the side of good. Let's just say he's a very lucky guy. Grendel doesn't have a chance.

Quote #8

"I have wrested the hilt
from the enemies' hand, avenged the evil
done to the Danes; it is what was due." (1668-1670)

The battle between good and evil is a necessary part of Beowulf's life; it consists of fighting for justice, for "what was due" to a people who have suffered wrongs. Notice that, in this passage, good is not just the opposite of evil – good is actually the process of avenging evil that has been done in the past. That's a dangerous belief, because it leads to unending feuds and wars among the different Scandinavian and Germanic tribes.

Quote #9

Thus Beowulf bore himself with valour;
he was formidable in battle yet behaved with honour
and took no advantage. (2177-2179)

Late in the epic, we learn that Beowulf is not just good at fighting – he's also morally good. He doesn't take undue advantage of his enemies or his friends. But that's almost an afterthought; it's much less important to the storyteller than his prowess in battle.

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