What are the four most famous lines in the modern English version of Beowulf?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have taught Beowulf for years, and I've never run across what I would call the four most famous lines of the epic. However, there are several key points in the story that might have passages worthy of being considered the most important parts of the story. Let's look at the first of these.

The initial focus of the story is Beowulf's quest to kill Grendel. No one has been able to kill this monster. Beowulf brags that he is powerful enough to do it alone and with his bare hands. Not all of the Danes believe he can. Here is what the poet says after Beowulf and Grendel tangle in Herot:

No Dane doubted

The victory, for the proof, hanging high

From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster's

Arm, claw and shoulder and all.

This is perhaps the most famous image from the poem; it may be the most famous image in English literature. Beowulf has proved himself to be the warrior he said he was. Now, when he goes on to kill Grendel's mother and eventually, as an old king, the dragon, we are not surprised.