What drives Grendel to attack so many men at Heorot, the mead hall?

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Grendel is jealous of the people celebrating in Heorot. The warriors sing and make merry in the mead hall until one night Grendel decides to attack. Under the cover of darkness, while the warriors are asleep in a drunken stupor, Grendel attacks, and the monster takes away thirty men. The...

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Grendel is jealous of the people celebrating in Heorot. The warriors sing and make merry in the mead hall until one night Grendel decides to attack. Under the cover of darkness, while the warriors are asleep in a drunken stupor, Grendel attacks, and the monster takes away thirty men. The monster’s aim is to feed on the bodies. 

He attacks again on the next night and every subsequent night until the mead hall is abandoned. Grendel is driven by evil, and he seeks to disrupt the Danes' way of life and cause them lasting torment. Grendel ensures that the feud lasts for a long time, and all attempts by the Danes to fight or appease him are met with increasing hostility. The monster is only interested in bringing death to the people.

How the monster relished his savage war / On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud / Alive, seeking no peace, offering / No truce, accepting no settlement, no price / In gold or land, and paying the living / For one crime only with another.

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Grendel is frequently described as one of the descendants of Cain, and thus he is forced to wander the world in isolation, cut off from civilization and community. It's suggested that the light-filled joy of Heorot, with its many feasts and gatherings of large groups of people, anger Grendel, and so he attacks the mead hall in order to put an end to the merriment. This aspect of Beowulf is one of the most interesting parts of the poem. Grendel, for all his demonic cunning, is not necessarily pure evil; rather, he's an outcast, an isolated loner who seems to long for some kind of community and is unable to deal with the fact that others experience joy while he does not. Thus, even though he is one of the villains of the story, Grendel becomes almost sympathetic, as he attacks Heorot in order to put a stop to the joyful celebrations that remind him that he is alone. 

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This is actually an interesting question.  From a characterization point of view, we don't really get a lot of insight into Grendel.  On the other hand, from a plot point of view Grendel is the villain.  There has to be someone for our hero to fight, and we'd probably think Beowulf was cruel if he attacked a fluffy defenseless creature as opposed to a man-eating monster!

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I tend to agree with post 4. I always thought Grendal mainly attacked because of the sound the people made. He is described as child-like. I took that description to mean he reacted on basic instincts. Young children will lash out when they are frustrated or don't like what is going on. If a noise is too loud, they might just cry, but they might hit the person making the noise. Of course, children don't react this way out of violence or evil, but rather out of a lack of self-control. Grendal is both child-like and evil. He is unable and unwilling to control himself. His reaction to the joyful noises he hears in the hall begins as a lack of self-control and continues as an evil act of anger and vengeance against the people.
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The text also specifically says that he can't stand the noise of the "revelry" in the Hrothgar's mead hall.  Grendel is perhaps attacking because the joyful camaraderie reminds him each day of his own isolation -- owing to his connection to the Biblical Cain.

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There is a sense in which we can relate Grendel to a simple dichotomy of good/bad. Grendel at various points in the text is likened to a child of the devil and is described as being wicked and evil. By contrast, humans and in particular Beowulf are described as agents of good. Therefore, this creates an opposition. Grendel, having been shunned by the world and being an agent of the devil therefore will attack those who support the powers of good.

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Basically, Grendel attacks humans for one reason. He, a descendant of Cain, has been exiled into darkness. Therefore, as a foe of God, Grendel is angered at the fact he cannot exist in light. Given that he cannot enact his revenge upon God himself, Grendel enacts his revenge upon God's people.

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