Throughout history, women have and continuously are looked down upon by society. This view of women does not go ignored in literature. Novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Awakening, and Beowulf portray women in different lights. Beowulf explicitly puts women in two perspectives. One woman is seen as being calm, noble, and beautiful and the other is seen as quite the opposite.
The female characters in Beowulf are the ones that provide support to not only their husbands but society as well. For a primarily male-centered story, women still play a central role regardless of their social limits. An example of a female character that is seen in positive terms is Queen Wealtheow. Since Wealtheow is the Queen, she has many working for her. However, her attitude towards her servants depicts her true gratitude towards them.
Her “excellent heart” (line 624?) is seen as she isn’t rude to her servants, in fact, she serves them and carries a cup of mead and brings it around the hall to give to them. Following this, Wealhtheow gives the cup to Hrothgar first, then to Beowulf (1162-1231). She generously gives to others first before she serves herself.
During the period of Beowulf, everyone believed that all women should try and act like someone such as Wealtheow. Wealtheow displayed the balance between elaborate and peace. Wealtheow plays the role of reminding each of the men that they have specific obligations. The men have responsibilities to their family, the king, and to their country. On the contrary, a female character that is seen in a negative and “evil” light is Grendel’s mother.
First of all, the fact that we don’t get a real name for her speaks how the people of the society view her. Grendel’s mother is often described as masculine, greedy, and primarily negative. She uses masculine as she engages in customs assigned to a warrior. She linked to, Cain who was the first evil human, so that also does not help her overall persona. She is believed to be cursed by God in some way.
However, she is still a human (line 27? Page 27?), referring to the death of her son as she struggled with it. The expectations of Grendel and his mother are held to different standards than the others in the poem mostly because they’re outcasts. Since she is looked at as Grendel’s mother and just that, her overall persona takes a toll for merely being the mother of Grendel. While Grendel’s mother is strong, she is strong with a side effect of violence. She is capable of a lot.
However, she was killed by Beowulf. Grendel’s mother is the most critical monster of the poem. While Queen Wealtheow is an example of what to become, Grendel’s mother is an example of what not to become. In this story, female characters serve duties to best help the men of the kingdom. The power that women hold in this story is more than what would normally be expected, their efforts are not powerless and not passive.