Beowulf Identity 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.
"So every elder and experienced councilman
among my people supported my resolve
to come here to you, King Hrothgar,
because all knew of my awesome strength.
They had seen me boltered in the blood of the enemies
when I battled and bound five beasts,
raided a troll-next and in the night-sea
slaughtered sea-brutes. I have suffered extremes
and avenged the Geats (their enemies brought it
upon themselves, I devastated them).
Now I mean to be a match for Grendel,
settle the outcome in single combat." (415-426)
Beowulf describes who he is by recounting his various deeds. He has no choice – he doesn't have a resume to give Hrothgar. Seriously, though, Beowulf's speech really does work like a resume, giving Hrothgar his background and examples of his skills. It's a snapshot of who he is, just a like a resume would be for you – and with a resume's limitations.
"I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea.
As I sat in the boat with my band of men,
I meant to perform to the uttermost
what your people wanted or perish in the attempt,
in the fiend's clutches. And I shall fulfil that purpose,
prove myself with a proud deed
or meet my death here in the mead-hall." (632-638)
Having explained who he is by explaining what he's done in the past, Beowulf stakes his identity on what he's going to do in the future.
Hygelac's kinsman kept thinking about
his name and fame: he never lost heart. (1529-1530)
People always want to know what inspires heroes, athletes, and great leaders – what sustains them, emotionally and mentally, in tough times? In Beowulf's case, it's a bit egotistical – it's the thought of his reputation. We can only hope that our other heroes are a little less selfish.