BEOWULFPAPER - The Limited Role of the Anglo-Saxon Woman in...

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The Limited Role of the Anglo-Saxon Woman in Beowulf In the Anglo-Saxon society, women were expected to display feminine virtues and assumed roles that would display these qualities. The time that Beowulf took place was one where warfare was common, and a person’s fighting abilities and successes produced honor and glory. The results of these fights therefore determined one’s status in society. Combat, violence, and power were ideals associated with masculinity and were a part of life that excluded women entirely. This segregation automatically demoted women to a lower status then their male counterpart. A woman’s expected restrictive participation in society constrained them primarily to tasks that pertained to the family. Their contributions chiefly lay in being loyal wives to their husbands, staying devoted mothers to their children, keeping peace between feuding tribes, and serving as obedient mistress. The mistress was generally in charge of all household duties, as long as she had permission granted by her husband The fact that the wife must even ask permission before performing her select tasks, sheds light on the fact that a woman’s role was completely defined by her husband. Free will was something foreign to females of this time. An important duty was the handing of the cup in the mead hall. The order in which the cup was passed signified status. “She graciously saluted the men in the hall, then handed the cup first to Hrothgar” (614-16), which signified her devotion and loyalty to her husband. Wealththeow, the wife of Hrothgar, is a character in Beowulf who carried out he duties of mealtime for her husband. She made sure that everybody was content, well fed, 1
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and happy. She wore jewelry given to her by Hrothgar to signify the thanks and dignity she brought to his life. Wealththeow was also willing to speak up to her husband Hrothgar when it was in their children’s best interest. When her husband wants to adopt Beowulf, Wealththeow is quick to remind him that they have their own children worry about, and it would not be wise to take additional responsibility. Even with this voice, it was the male’s decision
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BEOWULFPAPER - The Limited Role of the Anglo-Saxon Woman in...

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