The role of women has varied depending on the time period. In the Roman times, women were valuable members of society, owning land and taking care of the finances. The 1950’s brought about the concept of the domestic “housewife.” Each of these ideas is drastically different, but there are still similarities despite the differences of societal norms. Throughout the texts of Beowulf and Hamlet, the roles of their women vary depending on each character, and the time period. The main females in Hamlet and Beowulf are different in their own ways, yet similar in terms of responsibilities and character development throughout the course of each text.
Women have had many different roles in the history of European literature but have generally been restricted to the roles assigned to them in a largely patriarchal society. As a result of this society, these roles have often been powerless ones. This calls into question the constitution of a powerful woman in literature: in Beowulf, being a powerful woman means becoming the bond between families and alliances; in Lanval, power comes from assertion and control-- a powerful woman is a woman in charge. The primary difference between the representation of women in Beowulf and Lanval is that the latter transcends overarching patriarchal boundaries, and the former does not; the reason for their respective representations lies in the literary time periods in which the stories were written. From this, one can see that the introduction of romance as a central theme gave way to new representations and roles of women in predominantly heteropatriarchal English literature and gives new meaning to the analysis of stories like these.
In medieval literature, the role of women often represents many familiar traits and characteristics which present societies still preserve. Beauty, attractiveness, and grace almost completely exemplify the attributes of powerful women in both present and past narratives. European medieval prose often separates the characteristics of women into two distinct roles in society. Women can be portrayed as the greatest gift to mankind, revealing everything that is good, pure, and beautiful in a woman's life. On the other side of the coin, many women are compared to everything that is evil and harmful, creating a witch-like or temptress quality for the character. These two aspects of European culture and literature show that the power of
Beowulf, the hero of Anglo-Saxon epic, had many adventures, and many companions and fellow-warriors are mentioned throughout his story. Some of them seem noble and courageous, truly living up to the standards of their culture; some seem cowardly. But all have gained immortality in the words, many times transcribed and translated, of the famous epic. However, the women of the time are rarely mentioned in Beowulf. Still, even from those few women who are mentioned and from other documents of the era, it is possible to see the position of women in of Anglo-Saxon society. In many cases, they enjoyed more rights than women in later Medieval cultures.
Beowulf is an epic tale written over twelve hundred years ago. In the poem, several different female characters are introduced, and each woman possesses detailed and unique characteristics. The women in Beowulf are portrayed as strong individuals, each of whom has a specific role within the poem. Some women are cast as the cup-bearers and gracious hostesses of the mead halls, such as Wealhtheow and Hygd, while others, Grendel's mother, fulfill the role of a monstrous uninvited guest. The woman's role of the time period, author's attitude, and societal expectations for women are evidenced throughout the poem.
Beowulf and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” are both narratives in which gender acts as an important theme within their individual communities; yet they use different tools to define the roles of men and women within a good community. Or, in other words, both stories paint a vivid picture of the role of women, by suggesting that one gender had more power over the other. However, these two narratives vary in their expression of such views; Beowulf conveys its message through what is missing, while “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” incorporates satire and uses explicit narrative when relaying the experience of a woman that is highly different from that of other women of her time. Furthermore, another difference that is apparent to the reader is that men become the heroes in Beowulf, while “the wife” becomes
During the medieval times, women were not seen as they are today. Although in the world today there are still those who are full of misogyny, it was much more common and intense during this time period. Women during the middle ages had specific roles assigned to them in society. These roles depended on the type of women they were, whether it be a peasant, noble woman, or an evil temptress. These roles that women have served have shown up in numerous stories from the middle ages including: Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Wife’s Lament.
Throughout the epic Beowulf, the importance of male heroism is far exceeding than that of the significance of women. The idea that women are obedient and docile is a likely thought in medieval Britain, although the women of Beowulf are different, being known as noble, powerful, and assertive. Throughout the text there are major women that play integral roles in society: Grendel's Mother, and Hildeburh. “These women entertain, bring peace, and contradict societal expectations of the female gender, either directly or indirectly, … and illustrate the major roles for the women in the society: the Peace-weavers, and the Goaders ” (TheDomesticBeast). Although there is little mention of women throughout this epic, their fundamental roles within the society were clearly immense.
In Beowulf, varying treatment among each gender is common. Therefore, mistresses are not allowed to perform actions that men were permitted and are required to enact based on society’s standards. Females are not retained from doing heroic deeds because of the structure of their body or the estimated weightlifting qualifications. However, the weakest of males are expected to excel through rigorous parts in their life to represent heroic traits they possess within unearthly powers as men of the Gods. Savage animals were not figurative in the passage, but were viewed just as real as a man’s sword. Without these monsters, the men could not have slain enough to be seen as inhumanly or superior compared to the average man. Males were constantly competing against each other in order to have a place among the Gods.
Being a young woman of this generation, I have come to realize the validity of a common bumper sticker quote: Well-behaved women seldom make history. Despite the fact that there is no verified initial speaker to this statement, the older I have gotten, the wider my eyes have become and the more of the world around me, I have seen in its full, vivid colors rather than the simple, crisp black-and-white of childhood. In my elementary days, being anything other than well behaved was downright frightening. The ever-bearing fear of disapproval weighed heavy upon my little shoulders, because frankly, speaking against adults was unforgivable and meant no rewards in the form of sweets or shiny foil stickers with terrible plays on words. But, I digress, the trueness of the statement solidified itself the older I got when the reality became clear; women are to be an object, a fixture, a malleable ball of clay left for shaping at the hands of the man she shadows. However true this may be, this paper, my last soapbox to preach observations upon, aims to reference: The Wife’s Lament, Beowulf, Paradise Lost, The Flea, and The Poetess’s Hasty Resolution to reiterate and further emphasize the use of, shift in, and development of gender roles. My primary focus resting upon the roles of women in literature throughout the time-periods discussed within the span of the semester.
When examining Middle Age texts through their gender roles, one must first consider the descriptive words used to depict the story’s males and females. The Pearl Poet’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight draws upon the era’s traditional concepts of male and female roles. This is exemplified when the fable opens with tales of brave mythological heroes such as world-controlling Romulus and Aeneas, who represent the Middle Age’s idealized male roles of strength and superiority. In contrast, the first female is described through her clothes and delicate external beauty, objectifying and fetishizing her: “Queen Guenevere gaily dressed and placed in the middle, seated on the upper
The women in Beowulf, which was written around 70 CE by an anonymous poet, fill many different roles, ranging from peacekeepers to wives and monsters, all of which are evidenced in the Queen Wealtheow, Queen Hygd, Hidleburh, and Grendel’s mother.
In the Middle Age literature, women are often presented or meant to come off as an unimportant character; which can also reflect on how the author wants the women character represent. Women are usually shunned, have no say or control in what they do; due to what men desire; like Ophelia and Gertrude did in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But these female characters that I will discuss are women with power, control, and a voice. Majority of the female character’s appearances are made to represent wickedness, evil, or a seducer who challenges a man belief; and does not symbolize perfect women.
Within the pages of the well-known epic poem are many extraordinary and warring narratives of the Middle Ages. Beowulf is important because it is one of the most ancient European epics written in the vernacular, or native tongue. The seemingly super natural heroes of this exciting and famous writing have a great impact on the typical roles of their women. As declared through out the many lines of the astonishing poem, the women have many purposes and serve a variety of roles. Wealhtheow, Hygd, Hildeburh, Freawaru, and Grendel’s Mother give examples of the historical roles that are expected of the women of this ancient time. The women in “Beowulf” have the significant roles of hostess, peaceweaver, and mother.