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.
He went in front with a few men,
good judges of the lie of the land,
and suddenly discovered the dismal wood,
mountain trees growing out at an angle
above grey stones: the bloodshot water
surged underneath. It was a sore blow
to all of the Danes, friends of the Shieldings,
a hurt to each and every one
of that noble company when they came upon
Aeschere's head at the foot of the cliff. (1412-1421)
It's good enough for the most chilling horror movie: you're tracking the monster, you see a bloody lake around the corner of the cliff, and then your friend's severed head staring up at you. It certainly gives us the shivers.
So the Shieldings' hero, hard-pressed and enraged,
took a firm hold of the hilt and swung
the blade in an arc, a resolute blow
that bit deep into her neck-bone
and severed it entirely, toppling the doomed
house of her flesh; she fell to the floor.
The sword dripped blood, the swordsman was elated. (1563-1569)
Sometimes Beowulf does seem to take a bloodthirsty pleasure in his acts of violence, as in this scene, where he decapitates Grendel's mother. The parallel structure of the last line of this passage – "The sword dripped blood, the swordsman was elated" – implies a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two, even though the poet doesn't explicitly say that one caused the other.
So the king of the Geats
raised his hand and struck hard
at the enamelled scales, but scarcely cut through:
the blade flashed and slashed yet the blow
was far less powerful than the hard-pressed king
had need of at that moment. The mound-keeper
went into a spasm and spouted deadly flames:
when he felt the stroke, battle-fire
billowed and spewed. (2575-2583)
Even the dragon's death-agonies are depicted in gruesome detail, as it thrashes and spasms in response to Beowulf's attacks. We think that as a film, if it were made exactly the way it's written, Beowulf would definitely get rated R for "intense scenes of fantasy violence."