Anglo-Saxon women are objects who are gifts to generate a fragile peace. Bloody combat between men attempting to earn fame embodies the Anglo-Saxon era. But does history include women? No, in fact, most women in the epic poem Beowulf are unworthy of even a name. Men trap women as objects; those who rebel become infamous monsters in society’s eyes. Because Anglo-Saxon men view women as objects, they are unable to control any aspect of their lives--no matter if she is royalty or the lowest of all mothers.
Women in Beowulf and Arthurian Legend
A common theme in the stories we have read is that glory, happiness, and success come in cycles (this theme is commonly represented as "the wheel of fortune"). This theme is present in the Arthurian tales, as well as in Beowulf. Each story tells a tale (or part of a tale) of a rise to glory, and the proceeding fall to disarray.
Even though Beowulf mainly focuses on the heroic acts of males, female figures contribute largely to the story. They have an essential place in the poem even though the common belief is that the females are believed to be very passive and submissive. This misconception of the female characters is based on the belief that their roles as noble women, monsters, or peace-weavers are not as important as the roles of the men. It is important to realize that the expectations of the time were much different then they are today. While each gender was “equal”, they were deemed suitable for certain roles within their society. Typically men were looked on for their physical prowess while women were the focus of fertility. This does not mean that women
In the article, “The Women of Beowulf: Power and Duty in Anglo-Saxon Society”
Robert Harris states, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals. We should stop defining each other by what we are not, and start defining ourselves by who we are.” Throughout history, men and women have been given certain standards on how they should act and behave on a day to day basis. However, in the epic Beowulf, there are many examples of gender roles exposed through certain jobs, activities and everyday task.
Throughout the history of literature women were never the lead role. Sometimes the women could be playing central character no matter how close they were to the male character. In Beowulf the women are often overlooked because of the male heroism. There are three major women’s roles in Beowulf, the hostess, the peacemaker, and the monster.
With any great society, there is a strong and invincible structure supporting it. This structure is made up of various factors and variables that when added up together equal something much grander than ever imagined. No matter how microscopic the part is presumed to be, anything can drastically alter the course of time and the people involved. One example of this is the Anglo-Saxon society that is ever present in the literary work Beowulf. Throughout the epic the strong sense of community and brotherhood are present; yet, one very important aspect of their world is swept under the rug and undermined. This would be, of course, the favorable effect women have in the society and how their roles, although presumed by many as minute and insignificant,
All through the historical backdrop of writing, female characters are frequently side characters that don't get much acknowledgment from readers. Male roles are what we see most and what we read about. In the epic of “Beowulf”, we see the action between Beowulf and three monsters to save Heorot. We see the heroism and the male comitatus of this warrior and king. However, the women in this epic are highly overlooked. Three noteworthy women assume essential parts all through the epic: Wealhtheow, Hildeurh, and Grendel’s mother. These women fascinate, bring peace, and renounce societal desires of the female sexual role, either straightforwardly, or in a roundabout way. The epic of “Beowulf” represents three notable parts for the ladies in the society: the queen, the peace-weaver, and the monster.
Niles, John D, Beowulf: The Poem and Its Tradition. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1983).
The queens role in the epic Beowulf is to establish dominance among men. Queen Wealhtheow is a powerful charter that uses he position to enforce a social policy. When Beowulf arrives to save the Danes they feast at Heorot the mead hall. The feast was thrown to honor Beowulf’ where the people looked to his words for comfort and bond. During the feast the queen enters and establishes herself as a powerful entity within the country. She takes the mead glass and serves the wine in an order that is not only an obvious nod to the hierarchy in the Hall but also a enforcement of her authority to carry out her country’s customs. “observing the courtesy’s, adorned in her gold, she graciously saluted the men in the hall, then handed the cup to Hrothgar(king),
The struggle for women equality is not a new one, and works of literature from different times in history can be used to show the differences and similarities between women’s rights then and now. In “Beowulf” there are not many female characters, the ones who are mentioned however, give plenty of insight on the kind of lives women led. One of the women