Beowulf Characterization Essay

Beowulf Characterization Essay

Evil monsters, greedy dragons, and heroes as strong as a bear can all be found in the literary masterpiece, Beowulf. This book is a classic fantasy that can be enjoyed by all ages. The book is about the main character Beowulf, a strong king who goes through many challenges during his lengthy rule of the Geats.

He was a good king who always held his ground and fought for what was right. Beowulf’s character shines the brightest during combat, which can be seen in the fights with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon.
The battle with Grendel was the first one in the book and introduced us to Beowulf’s character qualities. Grendel was a monster who descended from “Cain’s Clan.”

He terrorized the Danes for 12 years before he was slayed. He was described as being, “warped in the shape of a man, moves beyond the pale bigger than any man, an unnatural birth called Grendel.” (Heaney, 1351-54) Grendel was a monster that no one could seem to defeat. He was huge and powerful, unable to be hurt by any weapons. Grendel was feared by all except for Beowulf. Beowulf had heard of the monster and sought to defeat it. He went to the land of the Danes and talked to the king there about killing Grendel. The king, at first did not believe him until Beowulf boast about himself.

This gave the king hope, and he agreed to let Beowulf try to kill the “Dark Death-Shadow” During the night a violent battle ensues in which Beowulf ultimately comes out on top. The hero killed the beast with his bare hands by ripping off an arm from the fiend. This scene showed Beowulf’s amazing strength. The victory however, is short lived as the mother of Grendel came to seek her revenge.
Grendel’s mother is a foul beast looking for revenge. Beowulf knew something had to be done and quickly got ready for battle. Beowulf, with the king of the Danes and his company, marched to the marsh.

There at the edge of the water Beowulf gave a confident speech. His final words were, “with Hrunting (his sword) I shall gain glory or die.”(Heaney, 491) Immediately after these bold words Beowulf, without hesitation, dove straight into the lake. This part of the book really captures the bravery of Beowulf. He blindly goes after the evil beast, swimming through the depths of its’ territory without knowing where the fiend is, or what will happen. Beowulf gets briefly captured by Grendel’s mother but soon escapes her grasp, narrowly missing death because of his fine chain-mail armor. In Beowulf’s quick thinking, he finds and grabs an ancient relic from the lake bottom and kills Grendel’s mother with a slice to her neck. Meanwhile, the battle had taken so long that the king of the Danes had lost hope and left. Only a few of the villagers remained long enough to see his return. Beowulf’s confidence and bravery led him on to rule a peaceful kingdom for 50 years before another threat came about.

Beowulf had one final battle against a mighty dragon. The dragon was the guardian of treasures within a mountain. Someone had enraged the dragon by stealing some of its treasure. This caused the dragon to seek revenge by wreaking havoc upon the Geats. Even in his old age, Beowulf knew he had to do something about the terrible monster. So off he went up the mountain with a shield of iron and his trusty sword. Beowulf faced off with the dragon but this time his luck had failed him, and his sword shattered into pieces on the monsters’ skull. Beowulf, not giving up, decided to try to kill the beast with his bare hands.

This did not go well for him, and he started to lose the fight. Beowulf’s armed guard being so afraid of the dragon, fled from the scene. Only one man remained to help Beowulf and his name was Wiglaf. Wiglaf was a young warrior and this was his first time seeing combat. Despite this he bravely jumped in and stabbed the dragon in the belly.

It was too late however, and Beowulf had been bit on the neck by the winged demon. Despite having blood rush down his body and poison running through his veins, Beowulf was still able to catch the dragon in the neck with a dagger. The dragon met his end, but sadly so did Beowulf. Beowulf fought for what was right. He stayed brave and confident in himself despite his old age. After a long fight and even longer life, the great hero spoke his final words Wiglaf. “You are the last of us, the only one left of the waegmundings. Fate swept us away, sent my whole brave high-born clan to their final doom. Now I must follow them.” (Heaney 2813-16)

Beowulf’s Character traits of bravery, confidence, and pride, can be seen in every battle the hero had. He killed the “Dark Death-Shadow” Grendel. He dove into the deep waters to slay the revenge crazed mother of Grendel. In his old age he fought and defeated the dragon that had destroyed his throne and terrorized his country. Beowulf’s bravery and confidence can be seen in every battle. He could things without hesitation and with excellence. Though in the end he died protecting what he loved and worked so hard for, Beowulf’s story captures our imagination and teaches us to be brave and bold in all aspects of life. 

Old English Poem

Beowulf, an Old English poem, is a great fantasy story which was translated by Seamus Heaney. Although scholars may differ regarding the original audience and purpose of this poem, it is likely that Beowulf appealed to a wide variety of audience and garnered different responses. The poem follows the life of Beowulf, a man whose courage and persistence in defending his people stay with him to his old age.

Beowulf saves people in his neighborhood from a monster named Grendel as a youth, and eventually becomes their king. In old age, he dies defending his people from a dragon. Beowulf is thus a deeply philosophical and adventurous story.

Only one manuscript contains the poem Beowulf. Some scholars believe that the British Library Cotton Vitellius A. 15 manuscript, the only one that includes Beowulf, is an original copy by the poet. However, many believe that this manuscript is the last in a succession of copies produced from the original one. The Vitellius A. 15 manuscript is dated 1000 A.D, and the poet may have written Beowulf between this date and 675 A.D. Even so, it was not until the 16th century that the poem surfaced, in the hands of Laurence Nowell. No one knows where the manuscript had been before it surfaced. The poem is rich in literary devices such as imagery, allusions and plot. However, these literary devices are also used to castigate themes of vengeance and feuds.

The poem literally draws meaning from the imagery the poet incorporates therein. The author allows their reader to envision the events in the story through intelligent language use that is reader-sensitive. According to Kiernan, Kevin and Andrew (36), the first lines of the poem (130-134) describes the main character as approaching while beating at sand as the ship wherein he sits is foaming within the sea like a bird. Such a description tosses the reader into a world of admiration towards the enormousness and tough stunt of the main characters ship. The majesty of the ship also becomes an allusion of just how strong and mighty Beowulf is which deepens the audiences admiration for him. Imagery is also evident in the poets description of the waters in which the ship was assail as a water body splashing towards the sky which is also dark and black as the rain.

In so doing, the author seeks to allude to the horrid nature of Grendel and his mothers home. As the story comes to a close, Beowulfs readiness is ascribed as in the way he strides with his shield at his side (Kiernan, Kevin and Andrew 38). Such description makes the reader respect the main character and understand just how ready he is for the battle of his life. The young Beowulf saves the Danes from two monsters. Beowulf also derived his courage from the human condition.

He was courageous in every way, but also knew when and where to attack. He understood the limitations of the human body and strived to achieve excellence by reducing the exposure of human weaknesses to the enemies In lines 1700 to 1782 in the poem, Hrothgar gives a sermon that focuses on this aspect of the human life. Beowulf goes on to live a long and noble life, and dies defending his people from a dragon. . Characters describe and define one another, which makes the reader develop an understanding of them. For instance, in lines 237-257 of the poem, the coast guard defines Beowulf. Wulfgar also describes Beowulf and his men in lines 336a-70.

The poem is also rich in allusions from both the Biblical and mythological worlds. Throughout the plot of the story, God receives respectful references such as almighty Judge Eternal Lord Creator Head of Heavens and God. Further, the story of Cain and Abel stands out in the story (99-114 and 1260-1268). The Biblical account of the brothers is entwined with Grendels history; according to the poem, Grendel and his mother are Cains descendants. As such, they are painted as part of a religious syndicate of murder and evil doing. Biblical affiliation is also evident with the character known as Wiglaf who was the only individual who stayed back after fighting Beowulf. The battle between the two characters alludes to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas who was the only disciple who did not hide and face the Christ. Mythological allusions are evidenced by the existence of the character Sigemund the dragon slayer.

Such a character is also present in the Norse mythology of the Volsung Saga in which the character Sigemund sired the famous dragon slayer known as Sigurd. The Saga of Finn is also alluded to in the lines 1062 to 1158 (Kiernan, Kevin and Andrew 40). Some individuals consider the monsters in Beowulf to represent the evil nature of human beings. Beowulfs triumph over these monsters is an indication that people can fight and defeat evil in society.

The evil of human suffering may emanate from natural disasters, greed, poor relations, and focus on wealth creation as opposed to mutually beneficial coexistence (Kiernan, Kevin and Andrew 65). The fact that Grendel and his mother are human and monstrous at the same time seems to suggest that some human beings are too evil and predatory. That the sounds of human joy arouse Grendels envy suggests that some human beings are not happy when their friends, neighbors, and other people succeed or find happiness. Hrothgar also locate evil within a human being in his sermon.

The plot of the poem is complete with all the ingredients including the situation at the start, conflicts, emerging issues, climax, suspense, denouement and conclusion. The initial situation is that the King Hrothgar and the Danes in general must constantly look over their shoulders due to the constant threat of attack at Heorot Hall by demon Grendel. Conflict arises when Beowulf, a Geatish warrior, puts off his fighting regalia to face Grendel in a duel to the death.

The emergence of Grendels mother in a bid to avenge her sons death further complicates the situation. The story climaxes as those back at home expect Beowulf to defend them from a dragon. As Beowulf battles the dragon, he recalls his early glories, unsure of whether he would die in the hands of the fifty-foot-long dragon; the audience is left in suspense on the issue. In spite of sustaining a grievous wound, Beowulf succeeds in his conquest against the dragon. In the end, the Beowulf receives a respectful funeral and burial as they prepare for an attack by their neighbors.

Beowulf also depicts loyalty as one of the greatest human virtues. In the poem, loyalty serves as the glue that holds together the Anglo-Saxon society of the past. Unfortunately, this desirable virtue also occasioned vengeance and feud as societies and other supernatural beings battle to avenge a previous wrongs and perhaps set things right in their evil ridden society. A loyal man or woman is likely to avenge the death of his or her beloved. The loyal man or woman is also likely to feud the enemies of his or her beloved. In the modern society, people consider taking the law into your own hands as a lesser evil than injustice and victimization. However, things in the Anglo-Saxon society were different.

People had a duty to punish murderers, and those who brought suffering to families, friends, lords, and servants.
Doubtlessly, the story ofBeowulf is globally regarded as one of the most famous poems today. The ancient poem follows the life of a heroic man, his fights with monsters, and eventual demise in an old, ripe age. The poem has many themes, including fortitude and wisdom, loyalty, fate, providence, vengeance, feud, and evil which are all propelled through various literary devices such as imagery, allusions and plot. However, the poem is filled with narrations of evil and many feuds which a people must engage in to safeguard their existence.

Most happenings in the story involve a war against evil as castigated by supernatural beings and human beings themselves. Through the account, we learn that humans can be evil, but their dependence on God leads to a well-constructed path of providence and fate. The poem also uses a unique style, which is evident in its narration, presentation of characters, alliterative verse, and episodes and digressions.   

Beowulf the Hero

 Every story has a character who is a hero and fights the monster they are presented with. Beowulf is named after the hero Beowulf who was the main character, Beowulf was declared a hero after he fought three battles to become a hero; he fought Grendel, Grendels mom, and finally a dragon.

The first battle he fought to become to become a hero was Grendel. Grendel was terrorizing Hrothgars kingdom for twelve winters. Beowulf heard of the problem Hrothgar was having and wanted to help him. He went killing Grendel, and at first Grendel got the first Geat he saw and started eating him. Grendel then went to Beowulf and Beowulf grabbed Grendels arm with his bare hands. Grendel wanted to run away, but Beowulf ripped off his arm. Grendel then left wounded as he fled to his den. Beowulf puts Grendels arm up so everyone can see that Grendel was finally defeated. He became a hero after defeating Grendel because he showed everyone he could kill the monster with his bare hands.

The second battle Beowulf fought was Grendels mom. After Beowulf defeated Grendel, Grendels mom found out and she was mad they killed her only son. Grendels mom went to Hrothgars kingdom and got Hrothgars closest friend to get revenge for killing her only son, and she takes her sons arm. Beowulf went to the lake where Grendels mom lived. He went to go kill her, but Beowulfs weapons did not work because his swords would not cut Grendels mom skin.

Grendels mom took out a huge knife and tried to stab Beowulf in the shoulder, but his mail shirt did not let it go through Beowulf saw this old sword that was made from the giants and cut Grendels mom in the neck which finally killed her. Beowulf finds Grendel head and cuts Grendels head off to take it to his king to show the king the monster is dead. He also takes the sword but it melts when he was going to shore. Beowulf is the towns hero due to the fact that he took on two monsters no one wanted to face with one being harder than the first one. Finally, they are defeated thanks to Beowulfs bravery.

Finally, the last battle Beowulf fought was a dragon. The dragon had many treasures in a cave, and while the dragon was asleep a slave stole a cup full of gold from the dragon, because he had ran away from his owner. The man did not want to die, so he gave his owner the gold cup so he would not kill him. The dragon was mad the slave stole treasure from him and he wanted to get it back. Beowulf said he was going to fight the dragon alone like all his other battles because he won all his other battles alone therefore he believes he can win this one too. Beowulf takes fourteen warriors with him.

Beowulfs shield melted with the dragons flame. Then Beowulf stabbed the dragon and the dragon bit Beowulf in the neck. Wiglaf realizes Beowulf is getting beaten, so he goes and helps Beowulf by stabbing the dragon in the belly, and Beowulf cuts the dragon in half. In this battel, Beowulf proved his loyalty in being king and having a title of a hero.

Beowulf is a hero in this book because he showed his strengths when he fought Grendel first, then Grendels mom, finally when he fought the dragon. He always showed he would not back down from a battle whether it was easy or hard. Everyone said he was a hero because he helped everyone with their problems. While he was king, his warriors never had to fight in a single battle because Beowulf would never let anything bad happened to his own town and neighbors. In this whole story it shows how Beowulf becomes a hero more in each battle he fought he showed his bravery, loyalty, honor, his physical strength, and that he is willing to risk his life for other people. He showed more in each battle he is the hero of the book.  

Epic Story Beowulf

This essay is about the epic story Beowulf written by an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet. The story is unclear when it exactly it takes place but is guessed to be have been set in Scandinavia in the 5th or possibly even 6th century. The story and its theme are basically about good versus evil and even also shown to be about about bravery and courage.

Beowulf is from Geats in Scandinavia, he is known for his strength and his bravery. He is first known for saving Hrothgar who is the king of Danes due to being attacked by a monster who goes by the name, Grendel. He is able to find Grendel and Hrothgar and saves Hrothgar in a bloody and epic battle between Grendel. Beowulf manages to overpower Grendel and even kills him with his bare hands. This just mini portion of the story shows examples of good versus evil and bravery. However, there is one main theme that stand out the most, and that is good versus evil. The theme good versus evil is symbolized and even foreshadowed all throughout this epic and heroic tale.

The theme is a very important element to many plot points in this story. Good versus evil has been a theme thats been in literature for centuries and as far as people have ever known. After Beowulf fights and seemingly kills Grendel by ripping his arm off and barely escapes back to his swamp, they still see this as a victory due to the fact that he saved Hrothgar and everything and everyone else there. However another evil threat lurks close by as Grendels mother who is a hag that lives in and around a desolate lake not too far away, comes for the Danes, Hrothgar, and even Bewoulf to take revenge on the people who killed her son. She manages to murder Aeschere who was one of Hrothgars most trusted adviser in all of Danes.

After only killing him, she goes back to her desolate lake, leaving the Danes once again in fear as the story again, gives another example of the literary theme good versus evil. Not only that but a simple line early on in the story symbolizes the literary element good versus evil. In the end each clan on the outlying coasts beyond the whale-road had to yield to him and began to pay tribute. That was one good king. (9-11) This line at the beginning perfectly symbolizes the main theme of good versus evil.

Bewoulf knows he cannot let The Danes live in such fear again, so he goes to the desolate lake where Grendels mother lives and sinks underwater to her lair and as an act of revenge and good versus evil, he murders her with a sword forged for a giant. After murdering her he actually accidentally finds Grendels corpse and severs it off and brings the head as a victory prize to Hrothgar and The Danes.

However, in the time after this there are some fellow Danes killed in the war and one is even taken by a deadly dragon. This event proves to be fatal for Bewoulf as he successfully saves the fellow Dane and rips a limb off the dragon but is also killed in the process. The Danes are devastated over the loss of such a great hero but will forever remember him due to his bravery and courageous acts against good versus evil.   

Beowulf And Everyman

 Everyman and Beowulf have many differences and few similarities. The epic poem Beowulf shows bravery and honor when confronted by death. He is ready for he knows that death will happen eventually.

Whereas Everyman, Everyman is very hesitant to accept death. Everyman feels like he needs more time and does not want to confront death. This essay will prove by examining the characteristics of both literature pieces one will come to understand that death does not wait to be called upon. This paper will center on three of the following scenes slay of Grendel, the approach of death in Everyman, and the acceptance of death within both stories.

In the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf travels to Herot to help Hrothgar get rid of Grendel. God, in His mercy, has sent him to save us, so springs my hope from Grendels assaults. For his great courage, Ill load him with gifts! Make haste now, marshall the men into the hall, and give them welcome to Danish grounds (lines 369-373). Hrothgar is delighted to encounter Beowulf once again. Hrothgar mentions that he knew Beowulfs father Ecgtheow. Hrothgar believes that after he helped Ecgtheow all that time ago his son found his way back to a faithful friend. Beowulf wants to help Hrothgar because he himself have heard the many stories of the monster Grendel and the great evil he has casted.

I slew the nicors that swam the sea, Avenged the woe they have caused the Weders, and ended their evil- they needed a lesson! And now with Grendel, the fearful fiend, single handed Ill settle the strife!( lines 407-411). Beowulf boasts about the many people he has killed that have reigned havoc on others and will do the same here in Herot to Grendel. Beowulf understands that his bravery can lead to his death but he must take on the challenge to convey this type of heroism and show others that he is Beowulf the great. If death shall call me, hell carry awayTherell be little need for my body Fate goes as fate must! (lines 430-438). Beowulf is successful when slaying Grendel for death has not come for it is not his time.

In Everyman, Everyman is confronted by Death without any warning. Everyman says Full unready I am such reckoning to give. I know thee not (lines 113-114). When looking back into Beowulf, Beowulfs readiness of death is completely different from Everymans. Beowulf understands that death will happen and Everyman does not understand why it is happening so quickly. Death in Everyman responds I am death that no man dreadeth, for every man I rest, and no mam spareth; for it is Gods commandment (lines 115-117). Both stories exemplify the strength of the characters. Beowulf confronts evil as he comes in contact with it. Whereas Everyman is forced to confront death. Everyman is not brave as Beowulf he does not take on a heroic stand. Instead he is placed in a position where he has no choice.

The many characters in Everymans story help guide him to the next. As Everyone encounters each character he wants them to come on this journey with him. My Kinsmen promised me faithfully for to abide with steadfastly; And know fast away do they flee. (lines 380-383). Everyman speaks saying that his friends that promised their loyalty has left him to continue his own. This shows that Everyman is his own villain in a way. Everyman must go alone and face his will. No one made Death appear but Everyone himself so it becomes harder to face the fact of his own wrong doing.

Beowulf likewise Everyone is his own villain. He so prided in fighting the evil that he himself is in danger each time he does. After Beowulf is crowned king he hears that a thief has taken treasure from the dragon. The dragon is now breathing fire at the people, it is now up to Beowulf to once again confront death. The ruler of the Geats had no reason to boast his unsheathed iron, his excellent sword, had weakened (lines 238-240). Beowulf was losing the fight against the dragon. All the warriors that was fighting with him left him but one stayed and his name is Wiglaf. As they defeated the fire breathing dragon they killed the dragon. The wounds of battle grievous and grim full well he weened that his life was ended, and all the joy of his years on earth; That his days were done, and Death was most near (lines 2576-2579).

Beowulf was wounded in the process and knew at this moment he was going to die. Beowulf fought for what was right and his death symbolized the traits that Anglo- Saxon warrior culture held in the highest regard. In Everyman, Everymans soon becomes keened that the qualities he most valued attend to him in his death. Into thy hands, Lord my soul commend; Receive it Lord, that it be not lost. As thou me boughtest, so me defend, and save me from the fiends boasts, that I may appear with that blessed host That shall be saved at the day of doom (lines 880-885).

Everyman eventually realizes through his pilgrimage that he is essentially alone, despite all the personified characters and friends to him. Everyman learns that when you are brought to death and placed before God, all you have left is your own good deeds.
Death is no different in Beowulf than Everyman. Death teaches in both no matter how fulfilling your life may still feel like you need time. Each time Beowulf stepped out to fight a battle against those who brought evil he knew that death was an option. Beowulf takes on the role of a modern hero while defending the Danish Geats.

Unlike Beowulf, Everymans purpose refers to his mediocre life on earth. These unique roles from Beowulf and Everyman allow both characters to portray a certain demeanor. Death is inevitable and while both has its run ins with Death they both put strain on the importance of acceptance of it.  

Shield Was Regarded As A Good King

1. Shield was regarded as a good king. Still thriving as a King when he came to pass. Shield fathered a famous son, Beow. Beow took throne following the death of Shield and is called as the gift of God. Hrothgar was a talented war leader, fortune was on his side and with that followed more recruits to enable a larger more powerful army. It was under his control that the mead hall, named Heorot, was created, meant to be a wonder of the world forever.

Hrothgar also seems to be a gift from God. Grendel the demon is obviously portrayed as evil, evidently the name demon shows that, but in addition, his name is not revealed immediately like the characters before him, so the author is trying to build a sense of suspense letting his other adjectives to describe him before saying his name. The creation and use of Heorot is what seemed to have driven Grendel to madness or anger. There is foreshadowing used following the creation of Heorot, it is said that it is awaiting a barbarous burning. Everything that Grendel does, the author writes with a negative connotation, using words like creating havoc, merciless, gruesome and never showing remorse. Beowulf is shown as this epic mercenary and seen as a class higher than everyone else, due to the weaponry, bravery and courage that Beowulf had. Unferth seemed to be the only person who doubted Beowulf, bringing up a story from the past about a swimming match in which Beowulf lost.

He is the skeptical person that did not believe Beowulf could last a night with Grendel, as no one else was able in the past. Which is odd because it is stated that Beowulf swam with both a sword and chain mail armor on, killing nine creatures, making it that much more difficult and, he swam for five nights. Wealhtheow is the Queen and she is shown to be generous, giving the homeland guardian a cup to drink because he was dear to her. Naturally she was adored in her gold and continued to offer drinks to various people of various ranks.

2. The text does not necessarily define good versus bad however it does give off certain connotations to each character that leads the reader to thinking whether or not they are in fact good or bad. Grendel and Beowulf both begin their entrance to the story without actually having their name mentioned until the reader understands their position, be it gruesome or heroic. Some of the features of a good king is that they were sent by God, all of the good kings reigned for a longer period of time and were a gift to their people. As far as the warriors hallmarks, Beowulf is evidently a strong warrior and is portrayed as that, without doubt, from his chain armor to his shining sword and bravery. With that information, and with the information that Beowulf gathered other warriors, it can be gathered that they as well are strong, otherwise why would Beowulf pick them to take on this journey of fighting a monster that several other men could not even fend off for a single night.

3. The Christian assertions are evident throughout the text, from one person saying may God be with them to Kings being literal gifts from God. This is a very explicit showing of the faith in God from man, by everyone. In addition, it is said that before Beowulf came, the Danish people hoped for anything to help them rid of Grendel, including the Devil, stating that they vowed offerings to idols and swore oaths that the killer of souls, or the Devil, come and save them. When Beowulf goes to fight with Grendel, he says that no matter the outcome of the fight, him or Grendel being victorious, the Lord will grant the glory to the winner, whoever the Lord sees fit.

4. From the first telling of Grendel, his name is withheld from the reader and is only told of the fearsome, prowling demon that come to them and gruesomely murder them come the night time when Grendel does in fact have power because when sunrise comes, his powers are plain. Grendel is never referred to as a good creature, though divine perhaps in the sense that he himself has God given powers that no one other than Beowulf possesses.

It is said that Grendel is a descendent of Cain, though not specifically his father however, the curse and banishment from God could still be flowing through the family line as the curse could be more severe due to it being the first murder, Cain killing his brother Abel. Grendels Mother not being named is an interesting note and could be perceived as a flair from the author because Grendel was slain and his Mother wanted revenge; however, had she been named, there is potential that she would purely be viewed as another monster, similar to Grendel rather than a Mother going to great lengths to attack Heorot out of spite for the murder of Grendel. She only needs to be known as the Mother and without identity because the reader only needs to think that the Mother has justification for attacking Heorot.  

Portraying Male Gender within Medieval Literature


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Judith Butler’s Theory of Performativity
  • 3 The Performance of Beowulf: Conquering the Beast


The history of masculinity seems to have piqued the interests of gender theorists in recent years. These theorists begin by analyzing the marginalized outlook of what it means to be a man. The construction of male power in society seems to have had quite the influence during the creation of atypical heroes found within literary texts.

Although men have always been associated with a trait of dominance, no instance highlights this perception greater than when examining characteristics commonly present through hyper masculine behavior. Hyper masculinity is an exaggeration of stereotypical masculine behavior; certain concepts and theories of bravery, heroism, and brute strength may particularly stand out among a male so-called sister traits. Through a majority of medieval literature, it would seem as though contemporary audiences have generally been content with the idea that the male journey is classified as the text-worthy literary experience. This in part may be due to the construction of the masculine hero. A traditional hero is noted as normally being of superior social station, quite simply a leader in his own right. This man would normally be depicted as preeminent, or nearly so, in athletic and combat skills. The hero is sometimes outstanding in intelligence, yet there seems to be more to the heroic character than is conveyed by such simple prescriptions. To display his abilities the traditional hero needs some form of a crisis or war or quest, and typically arises victorious by displaying courage of heart. When examining literary texts, this outline as to what defines a hero has been concretely accepted by modern audiences; however, when did expectations of masculine heroism begin to change? Was it due to gender undergoing a paradigm shift becoming a social construct? Or perhaps were these common associations of male identity an illusion from the start?

If gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. If the ground of gender identity is the stylized repetition of acts through time, and not a seemingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or subversive repetition of that style (Butler Gender Trouble 62).

Heroes are typically described as being these pure masculine beings incomparable among common men. Beowulf depicts this criterion fairly simply, as many commoners countlessly deliver praise to the many successes the hero proudly announces. The tale consists of the traditional hero encountering numerous representations of beasts, and overcoming said challenges to test the strength a man must achieve. However, while performing these achievements, the titular hero fails by the succession of achieving greater glory through attempting to conquer ‘a true beast.’ Despite failure, the performance is deemed admirable, and yet in the following years, a transition occurs in which individuals of the common folk begin to display characteristics of individual nobility. Men found within this period may be defined as stoic, committed, brave, or cooperative; all of these traits equating to what may be found within the position of a knight. Chaucer depicts this sense of duty extravagantly within both the General Prologue and The Knight’s Tale of The Canterbury Tales as he allows these noble men to flourish in their own right. The inclusion of the Knight signifies a sense of self-importance, as the merits and title come with responsibilities unlike any other. Following Chaucer’s male representation, readers then transition to Malory’s concepts that follow the initial idea of stoic behavior, but applying concepts of chivalry; all of which may be seen when examining the Morte de Arthur. Three beloved pieces of medieval literature, all of which emphasize the idea of masculine performance presented through their primary characteristics drastically changing. The struggling sense of identity that all of these men undergo further supports a level of performative action occurring. When analyzing these texts, ideas that the masculine image is purely conceived out of performance-based strategies is further supported through the female binary opposition intertwined within each piece of literature mentioned.

As mentioned, it would seem as though the medieval period assisted in the creation of the common referral of the heroic trope; however, it seems as though this period was also successfully able to reinvent social constructs expected from gender performance. In considering medieval English manhood, readers must examine daunting issues of identity, psychological manifestations, and more to uncover the meaning to what truly makes a man. Acting like a specified gender may be defined as a theory of performativity. This theory of performativity focuses in on the elements that pertain to acting similarly to what is expected of one’s gender; and while gender would not be as open to thought as modern society would believe it to be, the medieval era had very particular tasks assigned to those who were born into their path. This radiant path is reserved for those who clearly possess the capabilities previously mentioned, yet the evolution of what it means to be a hero shows there will always be that unachievable goal that presents itself within the masculine psyche.

The role of the male within the medieval era focused primarily on physical endurance in replacement of exposing emotional vulnerability or thought. Men were commonly seen as the most important figure within a family unit; these men were to follow “a system of patronage and deference, pederasty entailed the materialization and embodiment of patterns of dominance and submission and – conversely- favor and superordination” (King 25). The ongoing repetition of regulations established for men lead many males to focus more on issue of the world surrounding them rather than their inner turmoil. Male figures are to be seen “exhibiting patience amounts to a repression of emotions such as anger and frustration rather than a (perhaps cathartic) expression of them” (Waugh 46). An opposition is presented within the roles of women during this era; where men were expected to be the voice and brawn, females endeavored to please the male while being subservient to their individual needs. In comparison to their male counterparts, females of this era are typically depicted with emotional turmoil’s rather than greater scale issues in need of conquering. Though medieval writers were willing to criticize classical authorities on specific points, many of the basic physiological concepts were included to mirror the cultural influences present within this time.

One of the basic assumptions to develop during this time centered on the idea that the male was not only different from the female, but superior to her in numerous ways. From intelligence to moral strength, men were deemed as the dominate gender presented during this period. To provide evidence to this claim, many pointed to “nature, where it had been said the male of each species were objectively more advanced than the female”- larger, stronger, and more agile (Strohm 32). Yet, when this opposition is presented in a fashion not familiar to the men, they become fearful to the unknown. The greatest enemy develops through the construction of women developing traits similar to that found within the worthiest of male specimen; however, this did not mean that women were equal to men. A perspective is then presented, where “grasping the performative basis of early modern desire, propelling movement toward the place of power […] the higher the place, the greater the desire invested in the body that occupies it” (King 25). Collaborating in tandem, gender performativity shapes both extremities within the spectrum of social construction.

Judith Butler’s Theory of Performativity

The theory of gender performativity defines gender as socially constructed through commonplace speech and nonverbal communication; all of which serves to define and maintain identities. Gender theorist and philosopher Judith Butler is often credited towards this conceptual theory. Butler’s writings on gender, performativity, and subversion is generally accepted across the humanities and social sciences. Gender becomes naturalized, so strictly established within the social climate that it seems like a necessary part of our created framework. The dictation of gender roles have been preestablished for generations and there is no avoiding common perception that one must behave in a certain manner. In Gender Trouble, Butler rejects naturalistic notions of inherent gendered essence, arguing that distinctions between males and females create sheer illusions in the construction of gender normativity.

Given their construed nature, gender norms can change in any number of ways at any period of time. Therefore, according to Butler, “there’s not really any grounds, for saying that somebody’s doing their gender wrong” (Butler Gender Trouble 23). Through contemporary audiences, readers can see the multitude of different ways to perform said gender based on characteristics commonly associated with said gender; men are expected to be chivalric, courageous, so on and so forth. She continues on by stating how gender “is a performative accomplishment, compelled by social sanction and taboo […] Gender is an identity instituted through a repetition of acts” (Butler Gender Trouble 31). These actions are repeated so heavily in societal climates that one begins to unknowingly follow these sanctions in hopes of performing their gender ‘correctly’. Establishing these expectations of desire is where the performative element becomes more apparent. She claims that “the misapprehension about gender performativity is this: that gender is a choice, or that gender is a role, or that gender is a construction that one puts on […] there is a ‘one’ who is prior to this gender […] and decides with deliberation which gender it will be today” (Butler Bodies That Matter 220). In short, Butler’s theory of performativity sees gender as a phenomenon that’s being built and destroyed at all times.

The term performative for Butler relates to an act that primarily creates a sense of identity. We are not born a self, we become, or create a self through social pressure to conform, and through “reiterating and repeating the norms through which one is constituted,” we develop into our conceived perception of self (Butler Bodies That Matter 137). Throughout the theory of performativity, it becomes clear that “no author or text can offer such a reflection of the world, and those who claim to offer such pictures become suspect by virtue of that very claim” (Butler Bodies That Matter 45). Within the medieval texts chosen, many authors convey a performative sense of masculinity through an inherent progression of popularized male expectation. While authors cannot perfectly adapt the theory of performativity within their literary texts, they can provide insight as to what normative expectations were present for primary genders of their time.

The Performance of Beowulf: Conquering the Beast

The predominance of men was best characterized through their stature, speed, and strength. What instance would allow man to showcase these abilities more other than to face off in a fictional duel against a beast; a monstrous rival which grants the titular hero another success. The story of Beowulf introduces a warrior who is true of heart finding himself battling numerous beastly figures in order to protect the common people. Throughout the tale’s entirety there is nothing but praise for its main character and the many heroic deeds he performs; culminating in a lavish and mournful funeral that celebrates him as a cherished and now lost kingly figure. The readers can see through his actions what traits a man should display all while identifying the opposing traits through the beast he must overcome. Indeed, the natural progression of the tale showcases the needed attributes one must attain in order to overcome these challenges; however, it would seem as though the heroic construct within this narrative mirror that found within the natural acquisitions of the beasts presented through the oppositional forces our hero is meant to surmount.

One crucial attribute would be bravery which is established within the heroic deeds one must perform. Despite having allies that accompany the brave Beowulf on his quests, he demands them to fall behind; believing that no one can accomplish this challenge other than him, leading to him receiving praise.

This fight is not yours,

nor is it up to any man except me

to measure his strength against the monster

or prove his worth. I shall win the gold

by my courage, or else mortal combat,

doom of battle, will bear your lord away (Beowulf 7.55-61)

This bravery leads to a construct of superiority, even in comparison to those of similar genders. Within the beginning moments of the poem, it is said that “eager companions aid him requitingly/When war him serve him as liegemen/By praise-worthy actions must honor” (Beowulf 1.23-25). Though these individuals accompany the beloved hero, their abilities are undermined as their sacrifices of bravery are outweighed by the clearly superior specimen. This trait leads to a predominant Alpha being established within the poem; one of which is incomparable to the other men mentioned briefly within the text. So rather than accept the fate deemed by said Alpha, the other men scavenge for any redeeming qualities they can utilize by accompanying the pack leader on numerous quests. Yet when time comes to show the predominant traits established in nature, the hero takes the reigns. The natural inclination to do things as nature intended with those standing for valor, honor, and inclination to fight posing as dominate bring forth a different perspective that one must behave accordingly to that of which we were created to serve.

While it would seem as though men are performing as blind followers, the role of the common woman in the tale is simply fulfilled through infatuate remarks. This sharp contrast is purposeful as it solely places Beowulf in a position of power through the eyes of many. Furthermore, it starkly established Grendel’s mother as a superior being on the opposite spectrum of our hero. The largest role a female plays within the tale is pitting themselves as not only a monstrous being, but as the one Beowulf must conquer. Many gender theorists have claimed the importance in this rivalry, as it introduces readers to how hyper masculine behavior sees feministic rise as its largest challenge; however, this match up proceeds in challenging Beowulf’s determinacy and physical strength. A position of Alpha if you will. Both parties are using their rage and anguish to battle, and this confrontation convinces readers to believe this is Beowulf’s most difficult challenge to date. This can be seen being addressed within the lines “be mindful of honor, exhibiting prowess/watch ‘gainst the foeman! Thou shalt want no enjoyments/survive thou safely adventure so glorious!” (Beowulf 10.100-103). In the closing moments of the duel, it takes the miracle of a blade to bring the battle in the hero’s favor, though the hero was previously able to defeat Grendel through hand to hand combat. The story of Beowulf presents the ideals of manhood very clearly. He should be brave, self-sufficient and powerful; and while biology assists those immediate traits, they may be challenged by an opposition of extremities. The feminine perspective within this tale showcases how masculine figures would have to adopt newly acquired behavior due to their strengths being matched within the females of this era.

Recent Beowulf criticism has become reliant on how this binary approach is used to create a greater scheme of masculism. A formal insight that provides much needed perspectives comes from theories of gender: more specifically noting the categories of manhood or masculinity are to be deconstructed in ways similar to femininity. Both these gender categories seem timeless within their creation in literary history, yet both continue to be redefined and reinterpreted through textual evidence. Having these roles be interpreted in numerous ways further supports theories and ideas pertaining to performativity. While one perspective might indicate the more masculine traits that Beowulf seems to be portraying, the rivaling perspective comes from the over anticipated feats that a woman is more than capable of accomplishing. Although, this accomplishment is committed through portraying the opposition as beast-like.

Of all the characters in Beowulf, Grendel’s mother is by far one of the most interesting and ambiguous- and therefore one of the most difficult to properly define. Her characterization stems from a combination of seemingly contradicting aspects: she is not only a mother and a monster; she is undoubtedly female and portrays common traits exemplified within masculinity. However, since she behaves accordingly to what performativity would deem a monster to act as, she has been somewhat overlooked historically by critics. It may be said that “while physical aberration is the primary attribute of monstrosity, deviant behavior can serve to emphasize or exaggerate monstrosity. Monstrous behaviors help to mark the monster as a cultural as well as a physical Other” (Oswald 6).

This conception that rivals the masculine figure is found between the line of what is considered to be monstrous and what is considered to be female. Grendel’s mother is therefore too monstrous to be female, and too female to be truly monstrous. One author, Dana Oswald comments on this paradox by stating “once monstrosity is no longer a strictly physical quality […] then anybody, at any time, might be monstrous. Transformation seems a humane way of ridding medieval texts and towns of the problem of monsters, but that transformation also means that no body, even a human one, is ever truly stable” (Oswald 195). It is this disparity between aspects of character that makes Grendel’s mother so fascinating.

Yes, she is a female character- but she repeatedly takes on various male roles throughout the duration of her presence within the story. Upon recognizing the fall of her son, she firmly takes matters into her own hands and battles among what is seemingly deemed the worthiest warrior. In nature, this battle holds more stake than what is initial presented; readers see two Alphas in their own respects clashing for superiority due to actions committed through rivaling sides. More importantly, she exists as a monster in the physical sense of the word, but not in the modern sense. She is not especially monstrous or evil in her nature, and so, does not perform the role of ‘villain’ as modern audiences might expect. It can be said through “what normal human boundaries are presented; these details act as traces of the monstrous body, visible to Beowulf and, on occasion, to the audience within the text, but never to the reading audience. The reading audience witnesses not the monstrous body itself, but rather the destruction and chaos caused by and originating in the bodies of Grendel, and ultimately, his mother” (Oswald 67). Sheer descriptions cement the construct that this character is indeed a monster, but the ambiguity behind their characteristics is left untapped. This ambiguity is what acts as the hero’s greatest fear, as these characteristics cannot be identified properly. The limited descriptions of physicality are “which makes his [her] body more understandable, but also more uncanny” (Oswald 71). The unknown truly acts as the vulnerable point within masculine figures; readers begin to see that the greatest rival to present itself to a stoic figure is that of the strongest possible opposition to what is known.

Epic Hero

Is fame or glory the only significance in life? During the Anglo-Saxon period, it is common to seek fame because it is alleged to be the utmost accomplishment possible for someone. Fame means that immortality could be attained and that is extremely important. In the poem Beowulf, the character Beowulf illustrates an ideal example of the desire to achieve fame. Beowulf is a young adventurer eager for fame and is also classified as an epic hero. An epic hero is someone who is on a quest, risks his or her life for glory or fame, and embodies the ideals or values of his or her culture. Clearly Beowulf possesses all of these essentials of an epic hero throughout the poem. One of the essentials that Beowulf possesses is the unquenchable desire for a quest. Beowulf is measured as an immense quest seeker by rapidly taking the initiative to accept the first mission to kill Grendel just by “[hearing] how Grendel filled the nights with horror” (112). Grendel is a horrifying bayou creature of massive size that goes around slaying people from Herot. In spite of hearing Grendel’s appearance and actions, it does not intimidate Beowulf because the challenge is graciously accepted Immediately, after hearing about the events that occurred, Beowulf swiftly reacts to the situation by accepting an additional quest. These are just some of the signs that verify Beowulf as a true epic hero. Another sign that verifies Beowulf as a true epic hero is the role of a risk taker. By acquiring various quests, involves an enormous amount of risk or danger. Beowulf certainly experiences a great deal of risk throughout the battles. For example, Beowulf arrives at the lake preparing to fight Grendel’s mother without a clue of any sudden events that may occur: “Beowulf, anxious to take part in battle, leaps into the lake without waiting for anyone’s assistance. While Beowulf is in the lake for hours, the water exceeds its normal height until at last Beowulf arrives at the muddy bottom” (466-470). Beowulf has no idea of what might be in the lake waiting. It could have been a trap just to get Beowulf down there to be killed. But Beowulf took a vast risk and moves down to slaughter Grendel’s mother and comes out victorious. Also, proof that classifies Beowulf as a risk taker is when the last battle is accepted. Beowulf receives honors and rules Geatland for fifty years peacefully, until a dragon menaces the kingdom. Although Beowulf is an older man, determination increases the drive to accept the battle and slay the beast. the epic poem, “Beowulf”, describes the most heroic man of the Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, is a seemingly nvincible person with all the extraordinary traits required of a hero. He is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encounters hideous monsters and the most ferocious of beasts, but he never fears the threat of death. His leadership skills are superb and he is even able to boast about all his achievements. Beowulf is the ultimate epic hero who risks his life countless times for immortal glory and for the good of others. Beowulf is a hero in the eyes of his fellow men through his amazing physical strength. He fought in numerous battles and returned victorious from all but his last. In his argument with Unferth, Beowulf explains the reason he “lost” a simple swimming match with his youthful opponent Brecca. Not only had Beowulf been swimming for seven nights, he had also stopped to kill nine sea creatures in the depths of the ocean. Beowulf is also strong enough to kill the monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the Danes for twelve years, with his bare hands by ripping off his arm. When Beowulf is fighting Grendel’s mother, who is eeking revenge on her son’s death, he is able to slay her by slashing the monster’s neck with a Giant’s sword that can only be lifted by a person as strong as Beowulf. When he chops off her head, he carries it from the ocean with ease, but it takes four men to lift and carry it back to Herot mead-hall. This strength is a key trait of Beowulf’s heroism. Another heroic trait of Beowulf is his ability to put his peoples welfare before his own. Beowulf’s uncle is king of the Geats, so he is sent as an emissary to help rid the Danes of the evil Grendel. Beowulf risks his own life for the Danes, asking help from no one. He realizes the dangers, but fears nothing for his own life. After Beowulf had served his people as King of the Geats for fifty years, he goes to battle one last time to fight a horrible dragon who is frightening all of his people. Beowulf is old and tired but he defeats the dragon in order to protect his people. Even in death he wished to secure safety for the Geats, so a tall lighthouse is built in order to help the people find their way back from sea.

Comparison and Contrast Paper: Beowulf Vs. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

There are a number of characters that can be created by the author depending on the massage that they want to pass. Both Beowulf and Sir Gawain are the main heroic characters in the ancient Greece. They bare such qualities as famous, come from noble families and may at the end bare a tragic fall.

They are said to be brave, gallant, and strong and can bare supernatural powers. They are skilled men who are victims of perfection. They rule a nation or state and are believed and given much attention by their subjects. Heroes are therefore supposed to be idealizing people since they face challenges and temptations and should be able to deal wisely with them (Woolf 12). Tragic heroes later come to a fall. The fall may be caused by their close friends or relatives who are conversant with their secretive lives in detail. The lives of these characters therefore help us to draw their similarities and differences. Both Gawain and Beowulf are great leaders. They are liked and loved by the people they lead. They are both brave and loyal leaders. They respect their kings and kingdoms. This is by following the set doctrines and ways. The fact that the two characters represent good makes them similar. The author presents them in a way to show goodness. For instance when Beowulf fights with the terrible creatures the monsters and wins the author is so happy and congratulates him for that comments him and says the Beowulf will always defeat the evil one (Greenblatt17). The same also happens for Sir Gawain and the monster the Knight. Even after he is defeated the author takes his side and claims that when we fail and become true to ourselves then the goodness in us pronounces us as winners. The thematic concerns of the two tragic heroes are similar. In both works the audience meets a well-shaped and brought out hero by the author. The heroic figure is brought out by the physical, emotional and psychological prowess endowed in them. This enables them to be well equipped for the tasks and challenges ahead of them. They both command leadership and fight winning battles. They also comprehend heroic behaviors and epic journey. There are major differences that can be highlighted from the lives of sir Gawain and Beowulf’. Beowulf is mainly known for his bravery while sir Gawain is mainly known for his honor. Sir Gawain’s honor is best shown when he succeeds greatly in his search for the green knight. Beowulf also shows his bravery in killing Grendel’s mother and also when he fought with the robust dragon. Sir Gawain and Beowulf also differ in the responsibilities they take. Beowulf is a hero while sir Gawain is a knight. They bare different sources of inspiration on how to go about the battles. Beowulf follows the heroic doctrines that pay more attention to honor, ability to be strong and courageous while sir Gawain follows those of soldiers. They each represent the values of their culture. Beowulf represent the spirit of the warriors which was more concerned with bravery, physical strength and loyalty while Gawain represents the ways of the soldiers which mostly emphases on courage. This difference therefore is clearly illustrated in the way the two heroes fight the evil monsters. Beowulf defeats the monsters and wins his people fifty years of peace before the robust dragon. Gawain’s case is different because he is defeated by the monsters and starts a personal fight with his inner self. As the story comes to an end, Gawain is a failure, while Beowulf emerges a success. Gawain fails in the fact that he is in such of perfection although he had done what had not been done by any other soldier or were willing to do. Beowulf gets victory from the fact that he fought successful battles, defeating the monsters and won liberation of his people for fifty years. Both heroes differ in the way they acquire their tragic flaws and hamartia. Sir Gawain as a hero gains his flaw from his concerns for his dear life. He loved himself and valued his own life and therefore he could never gain courage to fight against his own reputation. The tragic flaw of Beowulf came from his own excessive pride. Beowulf kept on fighting monsters although he was very old. He wanted fame from his subjects and was also characterized by greed and lust. Sir Gawain differs from Beowulf in the fact that he is a believer In the Christian faith while Beowulf believes in the pagan history. He only believes in fate and knows that it is only fate that will unfold and testify. Nothing can change fate. Sir Gawain believes in Christ the power and through him he can be change things. He therefore believes in brotherly love, chastity and courtesy unlike Beowulf who is undisturbed of whatever fate is placed on him. He has nothing to do with it because it must come to pass.

Work Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. “The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th. ed.Vol A. New York: Norton, 2012 Woolf, Virginia.” The Mark on the wall.” ” The Norton Anthology of English Literature”. 9th ed. Vol F. Stephen Greenblatt. New York. Norton, 2012

Comparing the Peaceweavers


  • 1 Comparing the Peaceweavers and the Hell Brides in Beowulf
  • 2 Works Cited

Comparing the Peaceweavers and the Hell Brides in Beowulf

Throughout the British Literature time period of 450-1066: the roles and perspective of women were very subjective in the idea that a woman needs a man to be powerful. An independent woman was viewed as weak and unimportant. The belief that a man good fix or heal an evil/ bad women was a common belief.

By looking at the different roles Women play in Beowulf, women either have to be good or evil, there is no middle or in-between, to be good they seem to have to be affiliated with a man.

Throughout the poem, there are several women Characters from Wealhtheow to Grendel’s Mother. While some are shown to be nice and loving others such as Grendel’s mom are portrayed as demonic monsters. The poet and novelist George Meredith said that every society must have its civilization judged by the way it treats its women: what happens in bodily fact, and also what is said, felt, imagined and fantasize by and about them. Sometimes there is a wide gap between fact and fancy(Herbert 1997).

The two queens in Beowulf, Wealhtheow, and Hygd are married to the Kings Hrothgar and Hygela both queens take up the important jobs of cupbearer, Wealhtheow came in,Urging him to drink deep and enjoy it(Beowulf 612) and becoming Peaceweavers. A Peace weaver is a woman who married someone from an enemy tribe in order to establish peace between her family and his.

The royal bride who holds out her welcome to bring warring tribes together in friendship at her wedding feast (Herbert 1997) Their main job was to see the comfort of the men and bear children(“The Wife’s Lament Pages”). Queen Wealtheow is married to the enemy of her people, her daughters even carry drinks between the members of her own tribe and the Geats. The marriage of a peaceweaver is basically a political event but they actually do love their husbands and respect them.

Now one of the Queen’s important jobs is to be the cupbearer what they do is carry the mead cup and pass it to the King and his warriors. This role might seem passive but it’s actually empowering and adds to the queens’ power. They will give the cup first to the king because he is the highest in rank and the first time Beowulf would be the last to recover it, however, the second time around the order went from the King to Beowulf second. Haerehts daughter moved throughout the spacious building with mead cups, cared for the people, carried flagons to drink to the hands of the Heathens.

The two queens play a role in politics and do influence it. After Grendels death by Beowulf queen Wealhtheow said a speech to Hrothgar. be gracious towards the geats(1173) and she heard they told me that you wish to take the warrior to be a son to you. I would think this means he would become king one day. After the king dies Hygd tries to pass the Beowulf the crown to be King, she did not trust that her son knew how to hold the throne of his homeland against foreign nations.( Beowulf 2373-76) In old English poems, noble women would give gifts Beloved Beowulf, enjoy this collar with good fortune, and make good use of this garment.

Now on the opposite side of the spectrum, let’s look at how Grendel’s Mother is portrayed compared to the queens. So for one, she is completely isolated and lives by herself in what she calls home in a cave under a lake. She is an independent woman and has no affiliation to a man other than her son Grendel. She is portrayed as an evil demonic monster, Grendels mother, Monstrous hell-bride, brooded on her wrongs. She had been forced down into fearful waters(Beowulf 1258).

She is seen as evil and independent and t just so happens she has no male affiliation attached to her. perhaps, for this reason, Grendels Mother is presented as husbandless and son-obsessed- to suggest to an Anglo-Saxon audience the dangers inherent in womans functions as friousibb pledge of peace.The author Gives Grendel’s mom masculine traits. And uses masculine words/phrases to describe her. Grendel’s mother has the form of a woman(idese onlicnes, 1351) and is weaker than a man and more cowardly, for she flees in fear for her life when discovered by Heorot. The author occasionally uses a masculine pronoun when referring to her s be instead of so be in 1260,1497 and h instead of ho in lines 1392, 1394 (Heaney Beowulf A verse Translation 1895).

Modthyrth a queen who punishes anyone if they look at her the wrong way. She killed anyone that came into her hall. To look her in the face, if an eye, not her lords Stared at her directly during daylight, The outcome was sealed: he was bound In hand-tightened shackles, racked, tortured until doom was announced–death by the sword, Slash of blade, blood gush and death qualms in an evil display(Beowulf 1934). Modthyrth is shown as an evil queen and for good reason at that. She is almost stereotyped into how she should act because she’s a queen. Even a queen Outstanding in beauty must not overstep like that. A queen should weave peace, not punish the innocent(Beowulf 1940).

She is compared to Hygd she is presented as a how women are supposed to behave. Hygd is described as gracious in bearing and manner, attentive to the men around her, and loyal to her husband and lord. The author makes Queen Modthryth the foil of Hygd. A foil is a character whose traits contrast with and another. Even a queen Outstanding in beauty must not overstep like that. A queen should weave peace, not punish the innocent(Beowulf 1940).

Queen Modhyth and Hygd are described as different and makes Hygd seem far superior to Modhyth. It carries the same ideology that a woman is supposed to act a certain way. She will eventually stop her bad doings and settle down to marry, as soon as she boarded a boat to cross the pale waters to marry Offa according to her fathers counsel. Once there the woman worked well on the throne, renowned for goodness(“Good Queen Modthryth? How marriage makes women (and men) better” 2018). This holds the idea that bad woman can be fixed by a man.

Queen Wealhtheow and Grendel’s mother are similar in that they are both mothers.
Wealtheow is seen as a more superior woman compared to Grendel’s mom because she is a peaceweaver, cupbearer and a queen. Grendel’s mom lives below the earth in an empty cave underneath a lake and Wealtheow lives above land and it in a castle. So there is a clear social class gap between the two. Wealhtheow represents the good in life, mankind, and light mindful of etiquette (Beowulf 613). Grendel’s mom represents evil, darkness, and danger.

Wealhtheow is shown as a beautiful, childlike female, Grendel’s mom is fat, old, and lonely.
The women in Beowulf closely resemble the Anglo-Saxon woman in that they had the option to choose who they could marry. Arranged marries were however usually held in the upper class, peace-weaving marriages were considered even higher. In order to become a peace-weaver, you had to be of high class to marry another tribes king in an effort to keep the peace. Some would argue they held more power than the kings since theyre the ones keeping peace from one another’s clans.

The Queens were described as how and what women should act like and be during this time period. Queen Modryth was viewed as evil and helpless and had to have a man in her life to resolve her problems. If you look closely at the end of the book the women you are married/ have a man in close relation, are viewed as better or more important. Grendel’s mother doesn’t even have a name for crying out loud. I wonder if she was married we would know her real name.

The author gives the reader a biased description of her attacks against the humans, he didn’t truly state her point of view which made her seem a selfish evil monster. Monstrous hell-bride( Beowulf 1259). I wonder if he added that she was doing the same act that Beowulf was doing it’d be different. I mean Beowulf is avenging the men Grendel’s mom killed so why is he considered a hero when he caused their deaths by killing Grendel? Although the author is unknown I would bet the author was a male, just based on the trend of women can’t be good until/ unless a man is in their life.

Works Cited

  • Good Queen Modthryth? How Marriage Makes Women (and Men) Better. A Blogger’s Beowulf, 5 Apr. 2018,
  • Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: a New Verse Translation. W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.
  • Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf A Verse Translation. 1895.
  • Herbert, Kathleen. Peace-Weavers & Sheild-Maidens Women in Early English Society. Anglo-Saxon Books Frithgarth, 1997.
  • The Wife’s Lament Pages. Research at UVU,’slament/wifepeacew.html.