Women In Beowulf Essay, Research Paper
Women in Beowulf
In the poem Beowulf the women play the role of peace-keepers at any cost. Among these women I will look closely at Wealhtheow, Grendel’s mother and Hygd. Through all the women in Beowulf one can see a female perspective of honor, loyalty and social welfare.
Wealhtheow is the picturesque queen. One sees this when she meets the nobles after Beowulf has defeated Grendel. The narrator explains how she is, “. . . mindful of customs, gold-adorned . . . the noble woman offered the cup . . .” (Norton 35). This imagery perfectly describes a queen. Wealhtheow is a role model of courtly behaviors and duties. She makes offerings to Beowulf and tells him to, “. . . Wear this ring . . . with good luck, and make use of this mail shirt from the people’s treasure, . . .” (Norton 43) The queen is giving him gifts as tokens of appreciation and loyalty for what he has done for the Danes. She is a strong and positive figure in all the confusion and battle.
Wealhtheow does have a private conversation with her husband. She is inquiring about what he has said and replies, “. . . you would have the warrior for your son. . . . leave to your kinsmen folk and kingdom when you go forth to look on the Ruler’s decree. . . .” (Norton 42). Wealhtheow is implying that she does not want Beowulf to have the thrown. This is not her being negative. She is being loyal to the family because the thrown should rightly be given to one of her sons. The queen thought she was doing what was good for her sons, but if she would have let Beowulf take the thrown the Danes would have been safe from the ploys of Hrothulf. Then Freawaru would not have ended up like Hildeburh. Freawaru’s father Hrothgar implies, “. . . Such is no queenly custom for a woman to practice, though she is peerless,–that one who weaves peace. . .” (Norton 52). He is forcing her to marry to end a feud that ends in bloodshed and that is exactly what happened to Hildeburh.
When one looks at Grendel’s mother we see, as the narrator puts it, “. . . mother, women, monster-wife . . .” (Norton 43) who seeks to, “. . . avenge her sons death. . . . ” (Norton 43). This shows her loyalty to her son. Her motherly instincts are telling her someone must pay for the death of her son, as any true mother would. She seeks peace for her and her son and avenges him without hesitation.
Grendel’s mother could not see what fate held in store for her due to her avenging of her son. While on her rampage she killed Aeschere who is referred to as a, “. . .chief thane. . .” (Norton 44) to Hrothgar. Hrothgar asks Beowulf to help him and he replies, “. . . It is better for a man to avenge his friend than much mourn. . . .” (Norton 45). Grendel’s mother then pays for avenging her son with her life.
Hygd is a lot like Wealhtheow. She is referred to as, “. . . most youthful, wise and well taught, . . .” (Norton 51). She is not so quick to try and win people over with gifts. She seems to care about her people a lot more than Wealhtheow does. Hygd represents the characteristics of a true queen.
When the war breaks out between the Geats and the Swedes Hygelac is killed and someone needs to take the thrown. When Beowulf gets back to his home the narrator says how, “. . . Hygd offered him the hoard and kingdom, rings and a prince’s thrown. . . .” (Norton 57). She does not trust her son and wants Beowulf to have the honor because of his great loyalty. Hygd wants what is best for her people and she also wants to avoid any more destruction if she can.
These three women use many tactics to honor, protect and uphold their society just as much as any warrior. Wealhtheow, Grendel’s mother and Hygd are all different in many ways, but they all try to keep peace to the best of their ability. They do this by honoring their family, themselves or their people at all costs.