What does this quote mean from Beowulf? (pg 43) "I claim myself no poorer in war-strength, war works, then Grendel claims himself. Therefore I will not put him to sleep with a sword, so take away...

What does this quote mean from Beowulf? (pg 43)

"I claim myself no poorer in war-strength, war works, then Grendel claims himself. Therefore I will not put him to sleep with a sword, so take away his life, though surely I might. He knows no good tools with which he might strike against me, cut my shield in pieces, though he is strong in fight. But we shall forgo the sword in the night—if he dare seek war without weapon—and then may wise God, Holy Lord, assign glory on whichever hand seems good to Him." 

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This occurs just after Beowulf is responding to Unferth who has challenged his boasts and reputation. Beowulf answers Unferth's challenges and this makes Hrothgar believe Beowulf is up to the challenge of facing Grendel. Some would say Beowulf is boastful, proud, and self-indulgent. He is all of these things, but he is also expressing his confidence in himself. He does this to inspire hope in Hrothgar, to justify himself to Unferth, but also to inspire his men. 

In the next section which is quoted above, he tells his men that he is a warrior as great as Grendel. He says he is "no poorer in war-strength, war works than Grendel claims himself." Beowulf is so confident that he chooses not to use weapons or armor. He essentially claims he will fight naked. If Grendel won't use these things, neither will Beowulf. Boastful or not, Beowulf wants this to be a fair fight. He wants to prove his worth and his honor. Beowulf concludes by saying that he and Grendel will not use weapons: "we shall forgo the sword." He adds that if Grendel agrees ("if he dare seek war without weapon") then God or fate will choose the victor. 

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