Rachel Trbovic
Mr. Thelen
Honors EII, Period 7/8
Depiction of Women Through Beowulf
The women of Beowulf are believed to only fill their roles as second-class citizens. But through time, the original story was altered into the story we know today. For example, in the unaltered epic Wealtheow is described as “noble lady” (615), “ Lady of the Helming” (620) and “ Gold-adorned” (640), however, more recent texts, suggests she only gives the men their drinks and stands besides Hrothgar (Heaney, 2009). The differences between unaltered and modern texts lead to the wrong assumptions that women only have a single role in Beowulf.
In early Anglo-Saxon literature, there is a strict depiction of powerful woman in Beowulf. The numerous female roles in the poem hold importance, but none of them is more vital than Wealhtheow's role. She is noted as “The woman of the Helming” (620),”clan host” (924) and the “great gold-adorned lady of the hall”(614). In Wealhtheow's first scene, her handing the cup to Hrothgar and Beowulf asserts her position of power by showing who holds the most in power. To think that Wealtheow is only the assistant of Hrothgar, one must forget the power of her actions and authority she has over Beowulf and all the Geats.
Thryth and Grendel's mother are contradictions to Wealtheow’s role as queen. Thryth is presented as a princess who killed the men that came into her hall and is commented as unacceptable. The significant difference between these two is their lineage. Thryth is the daughter of a king; she has social status, and can change through the influence of society through her marriage: “famous for good things, used well her life while she had it, held high love with that chief of heroes” (1952-4). Grendel's mother, however, is more problematic because the question of her origin and lack of loyalty is terrifying; seeking to ruin the ability for any society to thrive.
Grendel’s mother’s contrast to the kingdom is not the only thing that...