The Status of Women in Beowulf and in
Women roles in Beowulf, a poem done between the 8th and 11th centuries have been represented differently by many writers over the years. Some state that the roles were misrepresented during the interpretations of the poem. According to Sarmiento (1), the women in the Anglo-Saxon regime had almost equal rights as their men counterparts. He states that the women had rights to own property and even choose whom to marry. This shows that women had a say in the society too. The women focused on in the poem are Wealhtheow and Hygd who were queens had their roles described by Sarmiento (2) was to welcome the people who came to visit the kings as well as serve them with drinks. They also passed on the mead cup between the king and the warriors in the hall, which was an important task as it depicted hierarchy.
This is however contrasted by Hudson (xvii) who states that women in Beowulf were rarely perceived as important and if any woman was given the chance to be important which was just customary; her duty was that of a host or bringing drinks to men instead of being an equal participant like the men. Women were only given the domestic and passive roles, contrary to the public and influential ones accorded to men. The character of women in the poem was portrayed as weak, evil and under the supremacy of the men. The society as expressed in Beowulf was patriarchal and hence the women had to bend to this men dominance. He is of the opinion that women had no place in the masculine dominated world of Beowulf. Conclusively, role of women in the poem is marginalized.
Discuss the status of women as presented in Beowulf, and as presented in one or more later works. What changes or differences, if any, can we infer in the social status of women? What are the problems inherent in making such inferences based on the evidence of literary representations?
Hudson, Marc. Beowulf. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2007. Print.
Sarmiento, Catori. “Reevaluating the Role of Women in Beowulf”. International Student Journal. 4. 9.( 2013) . 1-2