Theme Of Female Autonomy In Beowulf

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Does the poet use the female characters in Beowulf to reinforce the limits of female autonomy?
In regard to female autonomy and Beowulf, it cannot be ignored that many of the women portrayed in the poem were acting as expected of them in the time period, or alternatively acting against it. The two main examples of this within Beowulf are the characters of Wealtheow and Grendel’s mother. Both of these women highlight how this society impacts and limits female autonomy, but both women seemingly went down different life paths and here I will examine how this relates to how female autonomy in this world has impacted them. Wealtheow and Grendel’s mother are arguably the two most important female characters in Beowulf, and out of all the women in …show more content…

In short, Wealtheow is an ideal queen, and this idea is reinforced through the retelling of the story of Queen Modthryth who, like Grendel’s mother, is shown to be Wealtheows opposite. But regardless of these traits, Wealtheow is inferior to every man in this kingdom due to her status as a woman. “The author reinforces that she [Wealtheow] is a member of the weaker gender by directing Wealtheow to her proper position behind the king.” …show more content…

While I only focused on two women in particular, there are many other instances of women within Beowulf being literally sold off, being pushed to the side and remaining quiet and letting the men of the society rule. The characters of Wealtheow and Grendel’s mother are two sides of a coin, with one living as a queen but not really existing or forging her own values, and the other being shunned for rejecting the patriarchal attitudes and finding her own rules to abide by. But yet, both of these characters provided enough information on the society to highlight the gross inequality that women or female figures at this time felt despite having only minor parts in the life of the hero Beowulf, and to him (and all the other men) neither of these women were more than a small blip on his radar. This subconscious disregard of femininity on both Beowulf’s and the entire society’s part only serves to limit the autonomy of the females who existed alongside them and to highlight my points of how it

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