Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Beowulf, in thirteen rhyming couplets

Over at tor.com, this: Beowulf on the Big Screen: Good, Bad, and Even Worse

I don’t want to make you jealous or anything, but at least once a year I get to teach Beowulf, says Michael Livingston, and then goes on:

…[T]here are some great works of literature that are actively helped by having terrific film adaptations: the immediacy of visual presentation, along with its unpacking of action and character development, can at times serve as a bridge for people to access the text. I’m thinking at the moment of Ang Lee’s 1996 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) or Oliver Parker’s 1995 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello (starring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh)—movies that are equal to the task of representing the magnificent words from which they were fashioned.

For Beowulf, no such film exists.

This caught my eye because in fact I only started reading Jane Austen because I saw that version of Sense and Sensibility. So I definitely can’t argue with Livingston here.

Also, we do have Beowulf presented in a baker’s dozen rhyming couplets. It starts thus:

Monster Grendel’s tastes are plainish.
Breakfast? Just a couple Danish.

…. which pretty much gives you the flavor, eh?

Livingston then goes on to kind of eviscerate the moves. I can’t say that I would rush right out to see a Beowulf film even if Livingston wholeheartedly approved of it, but I do enjoy his blistering comments. Also this tidbit:

Unfortunately, this [the 2007 version] seems to be the go-to movie for students who inexplicably don’t want to read the poem—probably because it has, as noted, a gilded naked Angelina Jolie. It’s only classroom usefulness, though, is as a good answer to students who question whether the sword can really be a phallic symbol.

(Also, you can be sure that I write test questions to deliberately trip-up students who watched this poem-in-a-blender.)

That so reminds me of Your Homework Done for Free. Which you should totally read, if you aren’t already familiar with it.

Oh, also this Free Term Paper, which I had never seen before but found when googling Your Homework Done for Free.

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1 Comment Beowulf, in thirteen rhyming couplets

  1. mona

    I remember watching a Beowulf movie in middle school, but who knows which one. It didn’t leave much of an impression.

    On the other hand, in the same class, we watched Much Ado About Nothing. That was the equivalent for me of the Sense and Sensibility adaptation for you.

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