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Beowulf and the Role of Women in the Heroic Culture - Research Paper Example

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Beowulf is a literary poem written in old English by unknown Anglo-Saxon authors believed to be Christian monks. The setting and characters in the poem dates back to the period in Scandinavia before the immigration of the Anglo-Saxon settlement in the islands of Britain…
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Beowulf and the Role of Women in the Heroic Culture
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Download file to see previous pages Beowulf has foundation on the identity concept of two major components in the society: individual reputation and cultural heritage. The poem opens with introduction of several cultural themes of the society with the focus being on the concept that all males in the community are their father’s sons. All the male characters identify themselves with the family lineage. Accordingly, the poem highlights its foundation theme of kinship bonds, where little or no mention of women is evidence. Most of the poem highlights the Germanic hero code, which emphasizes on strength, loyalty, and courage in warriors; political skills, generosity, and hospitality in kings; submissiveness in women, and the generally good reputation in all the people. The epic poem displays women as hysterical and subservient. In the introductory part, the reader is introduces to a demeaned queen not worthy of talking about, except for calling her a balm in the bed of the battle-scarred Swede. Considering she is the highest representative of the women in the poem, we may deduce from such comments how the Beowulf society viewed its women.
To gain insight of what the roles of the women in Beowulf society was one has to analyze the role of the six major female characters in the play: Hygd, Hildeburh, Thryth, Wealhtheow, Freawaru, and Grendel’s mother. Both Hygd and Wealhtheow are queens in the poem, and are as hostesses serving wine for the guests of all ranks. The same applies to Hrothgar’s queen, Herorot. Even with such a low role in society, their kings still view their influence in the dinning hall as a show of masculinity. Freawaru and Hildeburh portray failed peace-weavers in the Beowulf culture. The term peace-weaver has its use in modern scholarship to mean women who are married to other societal groups in order to maintain peace between the two groups. The women in such positions should have influence on both the societies due to their role. Thryth and Grendel’s mother are the archetypical monstrous women tamed through marriage and death. This last category of the women roles in the Beowulf culture is a counter-example between the peace-weavers and the hosts. The two women, Thryth and Grendel’s mother, fall in this categorical role. Below is a detailed discussion of the three roles of women in Beowulf culture. Hygd and Wealhtheow have similarities due to their position in the society as queens. Analyzing the author’s description of them and their actions in the poem, the two women portray prudence. According to the author’s description, Hygd is well taught and wise, while Wealhtheow has an excellent heart and mind customs. The cultural function of the women, not just women but queens, is to serve guests and warriors with mead and wine in the king’s hall. The function may not have much significance in the first instance, but the performance of the reveals its importance. Wealhtheow’s first scene occurs during a party at the hall. She takes the cup to Hrothgar first, then to all his retainers before getting to Beowulf. There, she greets him and Beowulf reconfirms his promise of getting rid of Danes of Grendel. After the encounter with Beowulf, the queen returns to her sit, satisfied. The second scene is similar, with the cup-carrying ritual function. Wealhtheow approaches Hrothgar who is coincidentally sitting to his ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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