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Women's Role In Medieval Literature

Decent Essays
The role of women in literature undergoes a change between Old English literature in the Anglo-Saxon period into literature in the romantic genre from the Anglo-Norman period. Marie de France’s work “Lanval” and the Old English epic “Beowulf” are pieces of literature that demonstrate this alteration in the literary representation of women in medieval literature. “Beowulf” portrays women in as minor characters throughout the story, generally adhering to the constricted roles of wives, mothers, and most importantly peace weavers, such as the character of Hrothgar’s wife Wealhtheow. On the other hand, Marie de France portrays women in a different role, as in the romance genre, women are often portrayed as prominent characters in a relationship…show more content…
During this time period, women are confined to serving the role of peace weaver, simply married off for political advantage in order to bring about peace between people, as well as the subordinate wife that serves her lord and the other warriors of the hall. This role is demonstrated through Wealhtheow’s actions on the arrival of Beowulf at Heorot, as she is portrayed “observing the courtesies” by going “on her rounds […] offering the goblet to all ranks, treating the household and the assembled troop” (“Beowulf” 54). Therefore, Wealhtheow is portrayed as a minor character that serves both her lord, King Hrothgar, as well as the warriors of Heorot; this indicates that the role of female characters in Anglo-Saxon literature subordinates to the male characters, adhere to their duties with perfect…show more content…
On the other, the fairy queen in Marie de France’s “Lanval” takes a more assertive role as a powerful female figure, fulfilling the position of Lanval’s “lord” by offering him gifts in return for his obedience to her commands. Such a shift in the roles of these female characters during the transition in the romance genre indicates an important change in the representation of females in
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