Analysis Of Women And Their Fundamental Roles In Beowulf

A number of literacy experts over the years have examined critically Beowulf’s portrayal and role of woman. These analyses enable us to understand women more precisely and accurately. The critics seem to believe that women are portrayed as hostesses and peace weavers in every narrative. This is important as it establishes the importance of this role for the overall story. These are the categories that all of the women in this narration belong to. A hostess represents a women who looks after the men of the king, while peaceweavers unite opposing tribes. Other analytical interpretations corroborate the relationship between the categories in order to give insight into Beowulf’s writing time.

Dorothy Porter has written an article entitled “The Social Centrality of Women: A new Context”, which examines the portrayal of Beowulf’s women. Porter claims that the female characters are important to both the story as a whole and society. Porter begins with an analysis of the female characters that are important to the story: Wealtheow, Hygd and Freawaru. Hildebruh’s mother Grendel, Thryth and Grendel himself. She first discusses Wealhtheow & Hygd together because both are queens & considered to hostesses. She says that both of them have an influence on the meadhall. Their husbands are not always in agreement with the influence they have on the mead hall. Porter continues to talk about the characters. Wealhtheow, a “mindful of the customs”, a “woman of excellent heart”, a woman of “sure speech” is what Porter describes Hygd as. Both women offer mead to the men in the kings’ halls. Porter reaches the conclusion that the women in question were used as tools by the kings. Hildeburh, Freawaru and other peace-weavers are considered to be a group.

Grendel’s mom and Thryth will be the characters discussed. These women have been portrayed in a monstrous manner. Porter describes Thryth first as a woman corrupted by terrible crimes. Thryth’s status in the society is enhanced by her being a daughter of a monarch. She is vilified and not praised in society. She is now praised for her new attitude after marriage. She becomes known as someone who does good in the community. She talks about Grendel’s mother, who welcomes people into her house and uses violence as a way to settle disputes. She is finally tamed by Beowulf after he kills her. She’s apparently related to the descendant Cain, which is why Grendel is a mirror of Cain. Porter goes on discussing Grendel mother and her being scolded for not avenging the death of Grendel. She then compares and contrasts Grendel with Grendel’s mom, stating that the mother was more vengeful than Grendel. Porter concludes, Porter believes that the Beowulf women are symmetrical for a purpose and encourages comparison and contrast. The hostess and peace weavers are central to the poem and aid in its comprehension, while the monsters serve as counter-examples and contrast the female characters.

The focus is now on the role of women in Beowulf. Petra Prochazkova argues in “Female Characters of Beowulf” that female characters in Beowulf are merely categorized as peace-weavers. She discusses Hildeburh’s and Freawaru’s roles as intermediaries who are trying to bring two tribes together. However, some of the female characters are not very good at weaving peace. Thryth uses violence for self-defense as does Grendel’s mum, but both are deemed unacceptable because of their violence. She also states that queens are praised by their sons. In Grendel’s case, they may be praising or mourning their deaths.

She then continues her discussion on the social role of the queen. She also asserts Wealhtheow’s role as hostess is depicted in Beowulf. However, the argument is that Wealhtheow’s role as a mead-hall instrument should not simply be the way in which the text is examined. She explains that a queen’s order of approach towards the men of the king is determined by their position. She argues that Wealhtheow is the one who has the real power in the hall, not the queen. She discusses Wealhtheow’s functions in great detail. She believes that Wealhtheow’s other functions are crucial, such as conversing with kingsmen and praising their loyalty. Wealhtheow serves as a sort of intermediary between kings and the men. Wealhtheow struggles to achieve her goals and is not passive. The author also concludes that the female characters are symmetrical and provide differences through comparisons and contrasts.

Murphy highlights the importance of masculinity in Beowulf’s central theme. She says Beowulf, as written by a man’s perspective, has male characters. Beowulf has a dominant male theme. Valor, prowess, violence, and other themes are included. According to the author, women have little influence in Beowulf. The author goes on to explain that women are classified as either a hostess or mother. Murphy claims that Wealhtheow’s role is more like a peace-weaver than a hostess.

Continue to argue her active role in the society by pointing out that she encourages the men of King’s. The author analyzes then the impact that the women’s narrative has. Murphy claims that Wealhtheow is the glue which holds the Scyldings together and Beowulf. She explains that Hildebruh, who failed to be a peace-weaver like Wealhtheow represents the contrast. Murphy agrees that Wealhtheow was a great hostess, whereas Grendel’s Mother and Thryth may have been hostesses too, but they were not the best. She found it fascinating that Grendel’s mom was the only character sent into exile. Murphy says that women’s characters have a stronger connection to grief. Grendel’s mom is ultimately driven to revenge Grendel’s murder by this grief. Murphy concludes that women play masculine roles. Grendel’s mom challenges the idea that women are passive and masculine when she fights Beowulf. Beowulf has a strong focus on men. The female roles are described to show a normal functioning society.

In an article entitled “Our Monsters Ourselves,” author… offers a new perspective on Beowulf and its female characters. She agrees with the author that Beowulf focuses on themes such as honor, war, and violent acts. According to the critic, all the females in Beowulf are peacemakers. The women are either peace-weavers that try to avoid conflict between tribes, or used as trophy ideas. She is critical of the fact that these characters did not fulfill their roles. Wealhtheow served as a prize to help avoid wars between tribes. Hildebruh, Freawaru and others failed in their roles as peace weavers. They did not rise above the gender norms of women.

Grendel’s Mother is the only character in the story that appears to have masculine qualities. Grendel’s Mother was a character who fought against her fate and refused to be a victim of society. The author makes a great point by pointing out that Grendel’s Mother was not always portrayed as a villain. She was depicted as a creature because she posed a danger to male authority and departed from the typical female roles in narration. In the narration, she is described as a fighter. Grendel’s mother challenges the traditional roles of women in the story by breaking into Heorot’s hall, and eventually fighting Beowulf. She challenges gender roles as she decides to avenge son’s murder. In most stories, avenging the death of a son is usually a man’s role. However, in Grendel, Grendel mother takes on this masculine role. She believes that Grendel’s mom was evil because of her masculinity in Beowulf. She defied the gender roles and was therefore compared to a monster.

Kelly Bray’s “Medieval Women” focuses primarily on Beowulf. Bray argues that Wealhtheow didn’t make for a very good peace weaver. She admits to being a tool. Bray discusses Hildeburh’s and Freawaru’s marriage as peaceweavers. She concludes, in the end, that marriages built on the idea of peace weavers lead to conflict or war. She says that Grendel’s Mother is the only woman in Beowulf who has power. Grendel’s Mother, in her attempt to avenge the death of son she was attempting to kill Beowulf. She is defeated. Grendel’s mom was unique because she went above and beyond the normal roles women play. She took the matter into her head and faced the issues head-on when she sought revenge for her son’s murder.

By researching Beowulf and analyzing the narrative, literacy critics came up with a unique way to portray the women. Each critic chose three or more categories to describe women. Porters argues that Beowulf is a story about women, and they are also central to society. She describes hostess and peace weavers as well as monsters. Some other critics discuss the same idea but order women differently. Each critic has a centralized idea of women falling into two categories: hostess or peace weaver. Critics were divided on the role of Grendel’s mom. Was Grendel’s mother a hostess and a beast? According to critics Bray as well as the author of Beowulf’s Female Characters “, Grendel Mother was the one woman that defied the stereotypes of women. Both agreed that Grendel’s Mother is portrayed as a monster because she is powerful and capable.

Murphy, another critic, says that Grendel’s Mother belongs to the hostess category but is a terrible host because she kills any guest who enters her house. The reader will learn that the different categories the women fit into played a key role in Beowulf’s setting and society. After reading the paper and the analysis, it is clear that the author based the structure of Beowulf on the women’s roles. The critics could identify the categories that they thought the woman fit into. Readers can confirm that critics have classified the woman in different categories based on valid arguments and evidence. Grendel’s mom was the subject of the most discussion and the evidence that supported the critics’ claims about her categorisation. The primary debate was whether or not she should be considered a monster. This is a volume of a speech about objectifying women in order to satisfy male libido. When she no long serves this purpose, she’s viewed as an obscene monster who is capable of destruction.


Bovey A. Bovey A. Bovey A. Murphy L. (2012). Beowulf’s female characters Retrieved November 28, 2019, from

Bray, K. (n.d.). Medieval Women. Retrieved November 30, 2019, from On April 10, 2013. A Feminist Critical Analysis of Beowulf. Retrieved November 30, 2019, from

Porter, D. C. (2001). The Social Context of Women’s Role in Beowulf Retrieved November 30, 2019, from

PROCHAZKOVA, Petra. Female Characters of Beowulf Online. Brno, 2007 [cit. 2019-12-06]. Available at: Bachelor’s thesis. Thesis supervisor Prof. Mgr. The supervisor of the thesis is Prof. Mgr. Milada Frankova, CSc..

Unknown. On January 1, 1970. Beowulf’s Female Characters. Retrieved November 30, 2019, from


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    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

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