The Contemporary Reaction Of Seamus Heaney 's Translation Of, And Indeed All Translations Of Beowulf

1878 Words Dec 15th, 2015 null Page
The contemporary reaction to Seamus Heaney’s translation of, and indeed all translations of, Beowulf reveals a fundamental shift in the understanding of what makes a hero, let alone an epic hero. Gone are the days of extolled honor, glory, and superhuman feats without acknowledged, human, flaws. Now an individual’s ability to accomplish such feats in conjunction with, and in spite of, their human imperfection is idealized as heroic. This modern view is in stark contrast to that of the ancient world. Assertions that in a “Heroic age,” such as that described in Beowulf or in the Homeric epics, there was little room for a hero to show humility as it would betray their human weaknesses would not be unheard of. However, such a view does not take into account Beowulf’s lapses into his human deficiencies. Beowulf, despite surface appearances, is not a demigod without fault. He is not so close in line with ancient views of heroism as a cursory reading may imply. That said, because of this shift in understanding Beowulf is often pictured as a mere, boastful, glory seeker. However, throughout the epic Beowulf’s brand of heroism, as it were, grows ever more apparently aligned to the modern ideal of heroism. To consider Beowulf’s youthful glory seeking wholly self-interested is to deny all other intentions and subsequent benefits. By and large modern readerships seek heroes who act in the stead of others only out of pure altruism, but that in itself is just as inhuman as the…

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