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Ideal Women Vs Real Women In Beowulf And The Wife Of Bath

1875 words - 8 pages

In the Middle Age literature, women are often presented or meant to come off as an unimportant character; which can also reflect on how the author wants the women character represent. Women are usually shunned, have no say or control in what they do; due to what men desire; like Ophelia and Gertrude did in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But these female characters that I will discuss are women with power, control, and a voice. Majority of the female character’s appearances are made to represent wickedness, evil, or a seducer who challenges a man belief; and does not symbolize perfect women.
In the epic poem Beowulf majority of the characters are males; with the exception of a few females in the poem. When going back to the information of the women in Beowulf; there are some concepts that define women. One is being that women have assertive and firm role. The mother of Grendel is a female character that becomes a threat to the Danes, as well as Beowulf.
Then it became clear,
Obvious to everyone once the fight was over,
That an avenger lurked and was still alive,
Grimly biding time. Grendel’s mother, (1255-58)

It can be interpreted as women being an intimidation to men and must be tamed, or being that both are equally powerful. Also, also does not have no name, she is known as Grendel’s mother. Whether it was the author/story teller’s purpose to not give her a name, it could mean that her son Grendel was the enemy, and Grendel’s mother was just playing the “motherly” role, and not matter how powerful a mother’s love and nurture for their son is; it can be ended by a man. Lastly, Grendel’s mother is describes as “Monstrous hell-bride” (1259) and whose son is just as monstrous and deadly as her:
Grendel was the name of this grim demon
Haunting the marches, marauding round the heath
And the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time
In misery among the banished monsters, (102-105)

There is also no sign of affection or respect for Grendel’s mother and her son, even after being killed, and her motherly reaction to avenge her son’s death.
We can also question if the author/storyteller’s intentions were to actually give the females in Beowulf a real sense of what it is to be a woman or is the author referring to them as something of nature, or goddess like, nurturing and a non believer of religion. Also, one can believe that Beowulf represents Christianity and Grendel’s mother represents nature ¬¬, describing where she lives:
And suddenly discovered the dismal wood,
Mountain trees growing out at an angle
Above gray stones: the bloodshot water
Surged underneath. (1414-1417)

Another female character in the poem is Wealhtheow, and without a doubt we notice that she is a female who is respected and admired, being the wife of King Hrothgar, Queen of the Danes: “Applause filled the hall./Then Wealhtheow pronounce in the presence of the company” (1214-1215). There is a great contrast between Grendel’s mother and...

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