Role of Women in the Poem Beowulf Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 1st, 2020


In the poem Beowulf, it is the male characters that have mainly been covered. The poem mainly concentrates on the actions and activities that were conducted by the male characters. However, from a careful analysis of the context of the poem and the society in which it is set in, it is evident that women also played a key role in the poem. Therefore, in the poem, women form an integral part of the story thus they are not just marginal characters in the story (Mitchell 21). In the story, there are six main female characters. These include:

  1. Wealhtheow
  2. Hygd
  3. Freawaru
  4. Hildeburh
  5. Grendel’s mother
  6. Thryth

All these female characters play a critical role in the development of the plot of the story. This paper shall therefore analyze their characters and impacts that they have in the story. Due to their similarities, some characters shall be analyzed together.

Wealhtheow and Hygd

From a careful analysis of the characters of these women, it will be true to conclude that they are hostess. Wealhtheow for instance was described as a woman who follows the culture of the land to the latter, soft spoken and wise. Hygd on the other hand is described as a wise and enlightened woman.

In one of the scenes, Wealhtheow is seen conducting a cup carrying activity. From plain analysis, this can just be seen as a simple activity. However, from a careful analysis, one sees that she first passed the cup to Hrothgar who drinks and after he is done, she takes the cup directly to Beowulf. After Beowulf is done, she does not give the cup to the other retainers but she goes directly to her seat. This act of Wealhtheow is a clear indication that Beowulf has risen in status. This comes about after he promised the king that he will slay Grendel.

Hygd on the other hand also carry`s the cup. However, at this time, Beowulf had returned to his hall where he was the master. Hygd handing him the cup proves that in deed he is the master of the lot (Mitchell 40).

Hildeburh and Freawaru

In the poem, these women are seen as peaceweavers. In ancient English literature, the term peacemaker was used to describe a woman who was handed into marriage in order to bring peace to two rival communities. In the story, Hildebrurh, is the princess of Dane. She was married by the Finn who was the then king of the Jutes.

From the union, Hildebrurh got a son that had the blood of the two tribes. However, this union did not stop these two tribes from fighting and Hildebrurh lost both his son and husband in the war. She was eventually taken back to her people (Donoghue 122). Freawaru also plays the role of a peaceweaver. She is married to Froda who is the son to the king on Heathobards. The Heathobards and the Danes had been in conflict thus this married is indeed a peaceweaver.

Grendel’s Mother and Thryth

These women are different from the ones who have been discussed so far in this paper. Instead of using marriage and words to settle their disputes peacefully, they use force, violence and weapons to settle their scores.

Thryth for instance was the daughter of the king. She used to brutally murder men who passed through her hall. Grendel`s mother on the other would also ambush any individual who would come to her den. This included Beowulf (Donoghue 163). However, these women were tamed in the end. Thryth was married off to Offa and Grendel`s mother was killed.


From the analysis of the character of all this women, it is evident that they play a critical in the development of the plot of the story. These women are used to bring peace between communities while Grendel`s mother and Thryth were a source of terror. It is thus obvious that women played a critical role in the poem of Beowulf.

Works Cited

Donoghue, Daniel. Beowulf. New York: Norton, 2002. Print.

Mitchell, Bruce. Beowulf: An Edition with Relevant Shorter Texts. London: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. Print.

This essay on Role of Women in the Poem Beowulf was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

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