Beowulf is lauded as the greatest piece of Old English poetry, and not without reason. However, the English language has changed so much over the course of the last millennium that the original version is all but illegible to the speaker of Modern English. The answer to this problem is translation, but it can be argued that even now, in the 21st century, we still do not have a widely accepted “best” translation of Beowulf into Modern English. The goal of this paper is to examine three translations of Beowulf; Gummere’s, Tolkien’s and Heaney’s on the basis of their choice of vocabulary, the morphology of the kennings used, the translation of proper nouns, repetition, formulaic language, alliteration, the voice and the tone of the poem as realised by the aforementioned factors and other facets of the translations. These will be compared to each other and to the original poem to determine how consistently
the translations portray the heroic culture of the early Germanic peoples but also, more importantly, how well they reflect the intricacies of the construction of the Old English lliterative verse. Through the analysis of these features of Beowulf and its translations, problems in translating Old English poetry will surface, and these will be discussed in an attempt to conclude how best to approach the translation of Beowulf into Modern English.