Essay about Role of Women in the Epic of Beowulf

1585 Words7 Pages
Role of Women in Beowulf

As an epic tale of heroes and monsters, Beowulf gives its readers much excitement and adventure, but Beowulf's importance is more than just literary. It offers many insights into the beliefs and customs of seventh-century Anglo-Saxon culture. Among these insights is the Anglo-Saxon view of women and their role in society. Good Anglo-Saxon women are peaceful and unassertive, greeting guests and serving drinks to the warriors and other men in the meadhall. Wealhtheow, the queen of the Danes, represents a typical subservient Anglo-Saxon woman. As a foil to Wealhtheow, Grendel's mother is a strong and combative monster whom Beowulf must kill. By analyzing these two characters in Beowulf, we can understand the
…show more content…
621-2). When Wealhtheow first approaches Beowulf and the Geats, she "bore him a cup / with gold-gleaming hands held it before him / graciously greeted the Geats' warleader" (ll. 623-5). The author then reinforces that she is a member of the weaker gender by directing Wealhtheow to her proper position behind the king. When the queen is not serving drinks or greeting the hall guests, she may usually be found obediently following Hrothgar throughout the meadhall and "waiting for hope-news" (l. 923).

However, as queen, Wealhtheow shows her intelligence and ability to control men, to some degree, despite her limited powers; accordingly, the author expands her role from that of a traditional Anglo-Saxon woman to include gift-giver and guardian of the throne. Following Beowulf's fearless victory over Grendel, Wealhtheow offers a toast to the Geats and gives Beowulf rewards for his heroism. She tells Beowulf, "Have luck with this neck-ring beloved Beowulf / accept these gifts gold-gleaming treasures / and use them well&emdash;may you win always / make known your strength and save for these boys / wise counsel-words&emdash;I'll reward you for that" (ll.1216-20). Wealhtheow cleverly uses this opportunity to safeguard her two children from Hrothulf, their mischievous older cousin. Should the king meet an untimely death, Wealhtheow needs to guarantee that Hrothulf
Open Document