Beowulf Strength and Skill 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.
"I have heard moreover that the monster scorns
in his reckless way to use weapons;
therefore, to heighten Hygelac's fame
and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce
sword and the shelter of the broad shield,
the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand
is how it will be, a life-and-death
fight with the fiend." (433-440)
Beowulf, Ecgtheow's son, replied:
"Well, friend Unferth, you have had your say
about Breca and me. But it was mostly beer
that was doing the talking. The truth is this:
when the going was heavy in those high waves,
I was the strongest swimmer of all." (529-534)
It's important for Beowulf to show strength even when there isn't an important heroic task to be accomplished. When there aren't demons or dragons to fight, he gets into these, er, "swimming contests" with other warriors.
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. Every bone in his body
quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape.
He was desperate to flee to his den and hide
with the devil's litter, for in all his days
he had never been clamped or cornered like this. (749-756)
Beowulf's first great exploit during the epic (we're not counting his swimming contest with Breca, which we only see in flashback) is a combination of strength and skill: incredible strength, with which he clamps down on Grendel's arm, and skill in wrestling, with which he finds a joint-lock in which to hold the demon.