Property of the King: Life of Medieval Women in Beowulf and Lanval
History has been recorded throughout time in stories, books, poems and other literary works. These writings give historians and readers of the present day valuable insights into the lifestyles, beliefs, society, economics, politics and pagan religion of the time period they originate. Authors are greatly influenced by the beliefs and attitudes of their own society and time. The works they write provide a window to the past that allows us to peak through and see what life was like for the people of that particular history. Middle Age literary works show the reader of the present who the people were, what was important to them, and how they lived. In a culture
with limited literacy and few surviving texts, works such as Beowulf and Lanval are extremely important factors in establishing these important historical aspects. The one thing that is apparent
is the dominance of the purely patriarchal society. The heroic code, courage in battle, bravery,loyalty to tribes and kings, place in social order, religion and chivalrous courtly love were what
this society was primarily based on. The practices and beliefs that were the stronghold of Medieval society included men and excluded women. In this predominantly male world, one is
compelled to ask the question; Where do women fit into this patriarchal Middle Age world? What are their roles? What are they valued for as women? Beowulf and Lanval paint a clear
picture of women in the Middle Ages. Both of these stories tell of a male world where women are valued as the property of their husbands. The women of Beowulf and Lanval are trapped in a life of duty. There role is that of child bearer, wife, hostess, and ornamental beauty. They are bound to their husbands, valued as 'peace weavers';, admired for their physical beauty, and have no power except the small influence they may have on their powerful husbands. Both Lanval and
Beowulf show the bleak reality of the life of the subservient powerless women with few differences.
Beowulf is written in a male perspective. The mention of women is few and far between. The mere fact that they play such a minor role in this story is a good indication that women are
not very important to this society. Some of the women that are mentioned in the story are not even given names. Beowulf's...
... middle of paper ...
... are spoken of in
length are women who are married or related to kings. It is assumed that the women who are not queens have no power. The only power for women in this lai seems to be found in the world of
the supernatural, a land that would appear to be inhabited only by women. The queen represents the 'real'; reality of women. The beautiful supernatural women represents the way Marie de
France wishes society was like. The queen is left with no power or value. The magic women has power over Lanval, the court of knights ,and the king. This lai is written from a female point of
view. It is both a good indicator of the reality of the
time and also the way the female author imagines that it should be. Lanval is both a hopeful and depressing story. The reality is that women have no power and are virtually possessions of their
husband. The dream is that of a world where women are given a place in the world. A place that
includes power and value
'Beowulf.';The Longman Anthology: British Literature Ed. David Damrosch. New York:
Longman, 1999. 27-94.
de France, Marie. 'Lanval.'; The Longman Anthology: British Literature Ed. David Damrosh.
New York: Longman, 1999. 171-185.
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