Female Characters in Beowulf Essay

1249 Words Aug 6th, 2005 5 Pages
Comparison between Female Characters in Beowulf

Beowulf, the Old English epic tells the story of one brave hero and his battles against evil monsters. The poem deals with mostly masculine elements like fight descriptions, depictions of armor and long inspiring speeches. However, the women characters in the epic also have important roles and they are far from being superficial, as it may seem at first. There are several female figures in Beowulf; this paper will focus on three of them- queen Wealhtheow of the Danes, queen Hygd of the Geats and Grendel's mother. These characters have many parallels between them but in a way some are the "alter-ego" of the others. Wealhtheow is the perfect hostess and devoted queen and wife. Her first
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Her only motivation is to avenge her son's death: "But now his mother had sallied forth on a savage journey, grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge" (lines 1276-1278). Grendel's mother described as a terrifying monster but she has human feelings- she attacks only because of a grief for her son, she snatches Grendel's arm from Heorot and finally, Beowulf finds his dead body in her dwelling in the lake. All these deeds are human and motivated by love and strong bond to her son. However, Grendel's mother is condemned because of this- she is depicted in a horrible way and the price she has to pay for acting according to those feelings is death by Beowulf.
There is a certain ambiguity in this because Wealhtheow has the same feelings- she also feels the need to protect her sons and obviously has a keen bond with them. After Hrotgar declares that he will adopt Beowulf as his son the queen has an urge to clarify some important issues: "…Be open-handed, happy and fond. Relish their company, but recollect as well all of the boons that have bestowed on you"- she says to her king and asks him to be generous to the strangers but not forget his sons (lines 1171-1173). Wealhtheow wants to protect her sons' future and acts in a very delicate way to achieve that. She knows that Hrothulf is a threat in case of her husband's unexpected death; he may have ambitions to rule instead of Hretric and Hrothmund

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