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Essay on Comparison between Female Characters in Beowulf

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Comparison between Female Characters in Beowulf

Beowulf, the Old English epic tells the story of one brave hero and his battles against evil monsters. The poem deals with mostly masculine elements like fight descriptions, depictions of armor and long inspiring speeches. However, the women characters in the epic also have important roles and they are far from being superficial, as it may seem at first. There are several female figures in Beowulf; this paper will focus on three of them- queen Wealhtheow of the Danes, queen Hygd of the Geats and Grendel?s mother. These characters have many parallels between them but in a way some are the ?alter-ego? of the others.

Wealhtheow is the perfect hostess and devoted queen and wife.
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One can claim that Hrotgar?s generosity and prosperity are defined through Wealhtheow?s actions: when Beowulf first arrives at Heorot he receives his cup of mead from the queen only after many other men in the hall, however, when he defeats Grendel Beowulf receives his mead right after the king. This act emphasizes the fact that Beowulf has become an important and highly respected person in king Hrotgar?s eyes. Then again, when Beowulf arrives home, to king Hygelac?s hall his queen Hygd:? ?Moved about with the mead-jag in her hand, filling the cups that the warriors held out? (lines 1981-1983). There are no details of the order of mead pouring and that is because Beowulf is home; the king does not need to present his power or his respect towards him, these are common knowledge. We find that Hygd?s actions are not specified here because the king?s intentions are not specified- they are clear to the present company.
This motive of a woman who cannot separate her identity from the male figure in her life can be seen also in Grendel?s mother. This character does not even have a name; she is only the mother of the monstrous being that attacked the Danes. Her only motivation is to avenge her son?s death: ?But now his mother had sallied forth on a savage journey, grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge? (lines 1276-1278). Grendel?s mother described as a
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