Just before he hears the Shaper describe how he is the descendant of Cain, Grendel stumbles upon the dead body of a Dane who has apparently been murdered by a fellow Scylding. Grendel takes this corpse to represent the essential, inarguable falsehood that lies at the center of the Shaper’s myth: the division between human and beast is not as clear-cut as the Shaper would make it seem. Man is just as capable of cruelty and violence as Grendel; it is a lie to say that one of them is cursed while the other is blessed. The dead body represents the burden of the curse that both man and Grendel must bear. However, though Grendel thinks as much about the corpse, he also feels overcome by the beauty of the Shaper’s elegant, unambiguous moral system. Grendel stumbles into Hart with the corpse in his hands, yelling “Mercy! Peace!” The corpse expands in significance, becoming not only a symbol of man and Grendel’s twinned fate, but also of Grendel’s desire to be accepted by the human community with which he has so many similarities. Later, the symbol of the corpse is echoed in the figure of the Danish guard whose head Grendel bites off, signaling the beginning of his twelve-year war with humankind.
At this point, Proctor faces a new dilemma and wrestles with his conscience over whether to save himself from the gallows with a confession to a sin that he did not commit. The judges and Hale almost convince him to do so, but in the end, he cannot bring himself to sign his confession. Such an action would dishonor his fellow prisoners, who are steadfastly refusing to make false confessions; more important, he realizes that his own soul, his honor, and his honesty are worth more than a cowardly escape from the gallows. He dies and, in doing so, feels that he has finally purged his guilt for his failure to stop the trials when he had the chance. As his wife says, “he have his goodness now.”