Reader reviews and comments on Beowulf, plus links to write your own review.

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A New Verse Translation

by Seamus Heaney

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  • First Published:
    Feb 2000, 208 pages
    Feb 2001, 215 pages

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There are currently 7 reader reviews for Beowulf
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Tyler (05/13/12)

Beowulf: A Deeper Look
This is a story that has withstood the test of time and has rightfully established itself as a work of literary art. Everyone can appreciate what Beowulf has gone through, and even if the movie is more exciting, it deserves everyone to give it a chance. Beowulf, in all its errors, is a great read.
jane (04/10/12)

Was a good adventure book. Gave me the chills thinking about the long adventure that they had went through. It was a hard time in it and they had gone through this adventure fighting monsters, Kings, and still live!
Miss America (06/15/04)

I like totally read this book and watched the movie to it. And it was like really awesome and everything, you know. I just thought like wow! people could actually write in the 8th century. Reading Beowulf was like an etreme adventure into wherever Beowulf went, it was like an awesome experience, really! I mean, I just loved the book. In my total honest opinion, you should like really go for it and read it, you know, get yourself out there and open new doors and like totally broaden your horizons!
Thanks, very much everyone!
Will (04/28/03)

This is the greatest work of literature produced onto paper in the 8th century. Why would it not be one of the grandest adventure stories ever?
Sam Miller (12/08/02)

Mythical heroes, demon-like monsters, omnipotent kings, and virulent feuds.

All of these qualities combined would seem to make an action-packed story line for a captivating novel; however, this is not the case in Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney. Despite all of these extraordinary qualities that Beowulf contains, I must confess Beowulf reads more like a history book of chronological events than the amazing thriller it has the potential to be. In fact, it appears Heaney took all measures possible during the translation to make this book as dreary and mundane as humanly feasible.

This novel not only contains mass ennui, however, because a feeling of incompleteness reigns throughout the literary work. Most of the incompleteness can be attributed to random placements of short and confusing summaries that bear little relevance to the events occurring throughout Beowulf, but Heaney also frequently interrupts the story with a Danish, Geat, or Swedish family lineage reference that is seldom connected to the current happenings in the novel. An example of one such family lineage is found in the following quote:
“There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes, and a boy-child was born to Shield called by the name Beow, and Beow was four times a father, one by one they entered the world; Heorogar, Hrothgar, the good Halga, and a daughter who was Onela’s queen.”
Also, Beowulf contains many songs, and the majority of these contain ambiguous verses and hidden meanings. Because of this feeling of incompleteness, the novel Beowulf often requires the reader to re-read a section many times over before one can fully grasp what the author was attempting to convey.

   Although incompleteness reigned predominantly throughout Beowulf, the plethora of names as well as titles used in this novel created a shrouded Beowulf in a fog of confusion. For instance the King Hrothgar is addressed as “The Son of the Halfdane,” “The Danish Prince,” “The Descendant of Ing,” and “The Protector of the Shieldings” several times throughout the novel. Since each character has two or three titles similar to the ones above, the reader is forced to constantly refer to the family tree of each nation to discern what character Heaney is discussing. Because of all the page-flipping, the reader eventually loses the general meaning of the passage; forcing them to re-read the entire section.

   Like I mentioned before, another prominent problem that affects the way Beowulf reads is the boredom it contains. In fact, Beowulf reads more like my world history book than an exciting and intense novel. Heaney seems to purposely downplay and summarize the most captivating parts, while great amounts of detail are spent describing insignificant and irrelevant objects, such as the chain-mail armor of some long-deceased king, and this does nothing but add to the mundaneness of this book.
   All in all, the confusion, incompleteness, and boredom that Beowulf possesses makes this novel an undesirable and utterly atrocious choice to read. However, I believe that the story of Beowulf should not be held responsible for this hideous piece of literature; in fact, I believe that the writing style Heaney used as he translated this book destroyed a masterpiece and created a blatant failure. I have no doubt whatsoever that the novel Beowulf by Seamus Heaney should be immediately removed from the reading list.

   If you wish to know more about the events or characters in the novel Beowulf, I would recommend reading Grendel by John Gardner. Not only do you get to read it from a unique perspective, but you also are able to enjoy a wonderful piece of sensational writing.

Note: Although I refer to Beowulf as a novel throughout my essay, it is actually an extremely long English poem written in before the 10th century C.E.
Emily Jordan (11/17/02)

I think that this was the best poem ever. please launch it on your website so i can read it over and over again.
matthew tucker (04/07/02)

this book challenged my most upmost reading skills.
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