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Ideal Women vs Real Women in Beowulf and The Wife of Bath

In the Middle Age literature, women are often presented or meant to come off as an unimportant character; which can also reflect on how the author wants the women character represent. Women are usually shunned, have no say or control in what they do; due to what men desire; like Ophelia and Gertrude did in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But these female characters that I will discuss are women with power, control, and a voice. Majority of the female character’s appearances are made to represent wickedness, evil, or a seducer who challenges a man belief; and does not symbolize perfect women.

In the epic poem Beowulf majority of the characters are males; with the exception of a few females in the poem. When going back to the information of the women in Beowulf; there are some concepts that define women. One is being that women have assertive and firm role. The mother of Grendel is a female character that becomes a threat to the Danes, as well as Beowulf.

Then it became clear,

Obvious to everyone once the fight was over,

That an avenger lurked and was still alive,

Grimly biding time. Grendel’s mother, (1255-58)

It can be interpreted as women being an intimidation to men and must be tamed, or being that both are equally powerful. Also, also does not have no name, she is known as Grendel’s mother. Whether it was the author/story teller’s purpose to not give her a name, it could mean that her son Grendel was the enemy, and Grendel’s mother was just playing the “motherly” role, and not matter how powerful a mother’s love and nurture for their son is; it can be ended by a man. Lastly, Grendel’s mother is describes as “Monstrous hell-bride” (1259) and whose son is just as monstrous and deadly as her:

Grendel w...

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... threat to mankind, and having power. However we can also compare that to the role of the Queen that is respected and admired by her people. Whereas Alisoun, she speaks freely about her five husbands and sexual experiences and having power over men; also the old women in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, who gets what all women desire, power and mastery over their husband. Some roles of women are meant to be good or evil, however some women will not be what the perfect women is, and may outshine a man.

Work Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen, and M. H. Abrams. "Beowulf." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. Vol. A. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 41-108. Print.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Wife Of Bath's Prologue and Tale." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. By Stephen Greenblatt and M. H. Abrams. 9th ed. Vol. A. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 282-310. Print.
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