Beowulf Violence 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.
Then his rage boiled over, he ripped open
the mouth of the building, maddening for blood,
pacing the length of the patterned floor
with his loathsome tread, while a baleful light,
flame more than light, flared from his eyes.
He saw many men in the mansion, sleeping,
a ranked company of kinsmen and warriors
quartered together. And his glee was demonic,
picturing the mayhem: before morning
he would rip life from limb and devour them,
feed on their flesh. (723-733)
Grendel actually takes pleasure in the details of his murderous assaults on the Danes, suggesting that he values battle for its own sake, rather than for the glory or the gold that he can get as a result of taking part in it. By contrast, heroes like Beowulf fight for honor and for rewards, not for the thrill of killing.
Nor did the creature keep him waiting
but struck suddenly and started in;
he grabbed and mauled a man on his bench,
bit into his bone-lappings, bolted down his blood
and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body
utterly lifeless, eaten up
hand and foot. (738-744)
Grendel is, literally, a cannibal. (That is, if we assume that he's a human-like creature, not just a supernatural fantasy creature.) His murders are connected with consuming his victims, turning their flesh into his own – a disturbing thought for pagan warriors who would prefer being buried at sea or burned on funeral pyres.
Then Hildeburh ordered her own
son's body be burnt with Hnaef's,
the flesh on his bones to sputter and blaze
beside his uncle's. The woman wailed
and sang keens, the warrior went up.
Carcass flame swirled and fumed,
they stood round the burial mound and howled
as heads melted, crusted gashes
spattered and ran bloody matter.
The glutton element flamed and consumed
the dead of both sides. (1115-1125)
Violence is connected with more aspects of life in medieval Scandinavia than battle alone. Even funerals are gory and gruesome, as a man's loved ones watch his body burning and decomposing before their eyes.