Throughout time and across many cultures, women have had the lowest status in society. In a patriarchal world, women have consistently been viewed as weaker and inferior to men. As a result, it is no surprise that men have found themselves in places of power and admiration. However, this does not mean that society completely neglects the impact of women; in Greek lore, women take on passive yet important roles, weaving the destinies and doom of many men and earning themselves a reputation as banes of manipulation and deception. Negative as that portrayal may seem, other societies have defined the roles of their women differently. Anglo-Saxons also flaunted the heroics of their men, as exemplified by their most famous recorded work, Beowulf. In the story, a hero named Beowulf sails the seas and kills monsters, earning him fame among the Germanic tribes. While most of the story focuses on the male warrior and his attempts at earning glory, women repeatedly make their own appearances alongside men. Though women are assigned a few lines, their appearances, in contrast to the Greek depiction, mark the greatness of some man. In fact, as portrayed in Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon women seem to bolster the men they are with, becoming objects that help to emphasize the influence of their male counterparts.
Throughout the epic, women promote the authority of men through their words or actions. There are instances when women verbally intercede on behalf of men in order to improve the male’s image. Following the tense scene where Unferth insults Beowulf, Queen Wealhtheow enters, and diffuses the situation when she, “with measured words…welcomed the Geat / and thanked God for granting her wish / that a del...
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...reason why they were safe from enemies. Women embody the positive aspects of a man that make him worth noticing.
Though Anglo-Saxon society may not have valued women enough to write stories about them, the epic Beowulf still assigns them important roles in defining a man’s worth. At times, women can take action to either preserve the reputation or emphasize the importance of some well-regarded man. In other situations, it is the actions of a man towards a woman that helps preserve or increase the influence that he has. Even symbolically, women have importance in defining the standing of man, as they highlight what made a man of value to the community. Neither the Greek nor Anglo-Saxon depictions of women are too positive; nevertheless, they are accurate depictions of the times these societies lived in and of a time when women were considered to be inferior to men.
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