Beowulf Strength Quotes: Examples & Analysis Video

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  • 0:03 How It Began
  • 1:00 Beowulf Shows Strength
  • 3:36 Beowulf's Final…
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

'Beowulf' is a medieval tale in poetic form that demonstrates elements of the heroic code, loyalty to the king, and above all, the strength of the main character, Beowulf. We will look at how his strength helped him prevail in word and battle.

How It Began

In many ways, Beowulf is the first superhero. He fights monsters with his bare hands and even takes out a dragon. He is someone to be admired and envied. Everyone longs to be like Beowulf.

Beowulf is a Geatish hero who feels an obligation to the Danish King Hrothgar because the king helped Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow, out of a very difficult situation many years before. This created a bond between the families, and when Hrothgar needed help, Beowulf was there. The king had built the hall, Heorot, as a place for his men to sleep, but a monster called Grendel had made that impossible. The first night the men were in the hall, Grendel came through and killed thirty of the men, and because the attacks continued Heorot was left empty. Beowulf arrived with fourteen men determined to rid Hrothgar and his mead hall of the monster that had plagued them for the past twelve years.

Beowulf Shows Strength

Beowulf says he will rid Heorot of Grendel using only his bare hands. He tells the men at the table, '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.' Beowulf wants to slay the monster but, more importantly, he wants to gain glory for himself and for King Hrothgar. By fighting the monster without weapons, this will create a legend that will spread throughout the land, and everyone will know that he is invincible - and by extension, so is the king. Beowulf triumphs over evil.

Beowulf is fearless and strong. Unferth, a Danish warrior who has been unable to fight Grendel, is jealous of Beowulf for showing such strength. Unferth suggests that in a swimming contest between Beowulf and Breca, it was Breca who arrived at the shore first, beating Beowulf. Beowulf doesn't miss a beat. He lets Unferth and all who are sitting around in the hall know exactly what happened. '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.' He puts Unferth in his place and lets everyone know who he is. He's a multi-talented man whose strength knows no limits; he is the Superman of the eighth century.

In his battle with Grendel, Beowulf shows considerable - even superhuman - strength. 'The captain of evil discovered himself in a hand grip 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.' During this epic battle, the mead hall was destroyed. Furniture was thrown about, and everyone was stunned by the strength it must have taken to cause such damage. '(A)s the pair struggled, mead-benches were smashed and sprung off the floor, gold fittings and all.' Grendel had met his match: he was faced with his impending doom, and he knew it. All the other men he had faced were different; they did not represent a challenge, but this one, Beowulf, was far more than he expected.

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