The Women of Beowulf College

A quick read-through of the Old English epic poem Beowulf reveals that the text centers heavily around male characters and typically masculine themes. The main character, Beowulf, a powerful and renowned hero, sets on an epic journey to save the kingdom of Danes from the relentless cruelty of Grendel, a vicious monster, and during his initial journey and throughout the rest of the poem, there are several instances of violence, male dominance, and mischief, which might lead the reader to wonder if the female characters present in the text matter at all. As a matter of fact, just because these characters are not front and center in the plot line, does not mean that they are insignificant to the narrative of the poem. Far from invisible, the women in Beowulf use their roles within the kingdom to actively promote peace and prosperity by acting as hostesses, creating familial bonds between kingdoms and seeking influence as political actors. They assert a silent but firm power within a patriarchal society, and their traits and behaviors illustrate their complexity and ask the reader to examine them as distinct characters rather than mere shadows of the men in their society.

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