Section Three: The Battle between Grendel and Beowulf

At the conclusion of the feast, Beowulf pledges to Queen Wealhtheow that he will either defeat Grendel that night or die in his efforts to do so. The feast ends, and the Danes retire to safety. Knowing that Grendel comes to Heorot to find victims, Beowulf and his warriors stay at Heorot. They are awaiting the arrival of the monster.

The poem then shifts perspective to detail Grendel’s arrival. His dark home in the swamp is a clear contrast to the light and festive atmosphere of the mead hall. Moreover, the very atmosphere seems to grow darker as Grendel approaches. This increases the tension in the poem, making it clear that Grendel poses a very real danger to humans, even a human as accomplished as Beowulf. It also provides the opportunity to contrast Grendel with the humans. He is clearly humanoid in his appearance, with the basic shape of a man, though his arms are either replaced by giant claws or end in giant claws, depending on the translation. However, while he resembles a man, he is clearly not human. First, he is far larger than a human. Second, he has claws. Moreover, his resemblance to the men he will encounter does not lessen his monstrosity, but actually heightens it; their similarities help highlight the differences in a way that would not have occurred had he been completely inhuman. Moreover, the poem makes it clear that Grendel is coming to Heorot to find a human to eat that night, and shows him approaching this with happy anticipation. The passage in which Grendel comes out of the swamp and approaches the hall is full of menace, and it contrasts the light and the dark.

Grendel bursts through the door of Heorot and finds the Geats sleeping in the hallway. Grendel laughs at the men, and selects one of them to eat, gutting the sleeping man and then eating him. At this point, the poem gets interesting. Beowulf is not asleep. Instead, he has stayed awake, waiting for Grendel to approach Heorot. However, he does not intervene when the monster attacks and eats one of his warriors. He has decided to observe how the monster will attack, so that...

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