In nearly every society throughout history, women have never held an extremely important place. The role of a woman seems miniscule compared to that of a man. However, there are some women who abide to the unwritten rules of how to behave, and others who challenge those rules. The contradicting roles of the women in the poem Beowulf aim to show the differences between them and how they exist in society. The characters who are mainly introduced into these various roles in the poem consist of Queen Modthryth, Grendel’s Mother, Hrothgar’s wife Wealhtheow, and Queen Hygd; all of whom play roles in the poem that either contradict or relate to each other.
In Beowulf, Queen Wealhtheow serves as the ideal example of an appropriate woman. After Beowulf defeated Grendel, the Queen spoke to all of the occupants of Heorot Hall as the hostess of the banquet. Just one small example of Wealhtheow’s cadence and poise comes from her praise to Beowulf for his defeat of Grendel as she says, “And so, my prince, / I wish you a lifetime’s luck and blessings/ to enjoy this treasure. Treat my sons/ with tender care, be strong and kind. / Here each comrade is true to the other, / loyal to lord, loving in spirit” (lines 1224-1227). This shows the genuine kindness that Hrothgar’s wife exudes. The men react with extreme pleasure to her speaking, giving applause for their Queen, which demonstrates that men in that time period did hold respect for a woman who was tasteful, kind, and most importantly gave praise towards other men. Queen Wealhtheow serves as the picture of grace, poise, kindness, and most importantly as a vast contrast between other women throughout the poem.
The next woman to make an appearance in the poem comes in the form of a monster. Grendel’s mother’s stark contrast to the traditional role of the queen shows that a woman who refuses to follow that traditional role becomes an outcast of society. Grendel’s mother first appears at Heorot Hall as everyone sleeps from the...
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