Analysis of Gender Roles in Beowulf

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About this sample


Words: 856 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 856|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Gender roles have always been typical, meaning, men are superior to women and they follow what their husbands say. It is usually how it has been for many years because of men dominating the world. The women have always limited their power and their actions because of the men. It has changed recently but still men and women are not at the same level. It is not similar to the book because some women do show leadership and that demonstrates the difference in the Anglo-Saxon era. In the book Beowulf, women play important roles such as monsters, peace-weaver, and hostess.

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Women of Beowulf showcase their characteristics which is surprising to know that women like such exited back then. A character that demonstrates the evilness, monster-like characteristic, is, Grendel’s mother. Grendel’s mother is never described as nice or sweet but is known as “woman-monster”. Grendel’s mother is not as powerful as Grendel but has committed some actions close to it. It was a point where “Beowulf was nearly killed by Grendel’s mother”. By almost killing the protagonist, it portrays the monster/enemy characteristics she is known for. Grendel’s mother has such anger in her because she wanted “avenge the death of her son”. She took her revenge out by killing “the counselor” of Hrothgar in his sleep. Grendel’s mother is involved in various killings because of revenge on the death of her son. Later in the story she is killed by “an ancient blade forged by the giants,” which ends the part of Grendel’s mother and her villain type characteristic. Grendel’s mother was an important character in the book because of her courage to fight a man, or protagonist to be specific. It shows how the women in Beowulf are courageous and stand up for themselves and their families.

Another woman who portrays a unique character in the book is, Wealhtheow, Queen of the Danes and Hrothgar’s wife. The job of her was to “[visit] every corner of the hall, tendering the jeweled cup to the veterans and the younger men”. It seems like a nice task to do but the whole purpose of it is, that it shows hierarchy. It shows hierarchy because she passes the cup in order by her husband first, then the knights and finally to Beowulf, which represents the low level he is at. The levels can change based on the work done, like when Beowulf defeated Grendel, his level changed from third to second. The action done by the queen shows how she is not the typical queen of following the commands of her husband, but rather an independent woman of making her own decisions. She shows the characteristics of a peace-weaver.

While there are women like Grendel’s mother or Wealhtheow, there are also people like Queen Hygd. Queen Hygd had a similar purpose like Wealhtheow because she also “went round the hall with vessel of mead, and placed goblets in the hands of the fighting men”. The difference between Wealhtheow and Hygd is that Wealhtheow had to give the first cup to her husband to show the hierarchy or the power of her husband. While for Queen Hygd, she passed the cup without a particular order which explains how Beowulf is not treated differently as he was when with Hrothgar. It portrays the role of a hostess because she just passes the drinks without any other context to it.

Finally, we see the importance of women and gender through the men’s perspective. Beowulf and other men portray the typical men’s personality by not letting women express them. There are also other men who suppress women by not letting them advance ahead of men. The women of Beowulf though fight till they can for themselves. The typical behavior of men portrayed in Beowulf is when the Great prince “did not hesitate, be seized Grendel’s mother by the shoulder”. The Great Prince was trying to kill Grendel’s mother, but the monster character of Grendel’s mother did not hesitate and “she immediately came back at him with a ferocious grapple”. As clearly seen here, the women play out their roles that they portray clearly. They do whatever they can in their possession for their own safety.

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In conclusion, women in Beowulf portrayed characteristics of an independent woman which was not normal in the middle ages. The poem helped express the women and gender issues during the time. It showed characters like Grendel’s mother, Queen Hygd, Wealhtheow. They all portrayed different types of characteristics that helped show how strong some women were back then. Like Grendel’s mother, who showed the enemy characteristics because of her revenge on the person who killed her son. Also, like Wealhtheow who showed hierarchy by passing a “drink,” which Queen Hygd showed the same process but without the hierarchy. Queen Hygd showed the role of a hostess by passing out the drinks to people. In the end it is also seen how the men of Beowulf treated women which showed their mentality and perspective on gender roles in the middle ages. Overall, the women portrayed strong, independent characteristics that help show how they can also fight a man and do what they want to.


  1. Olsen, A. H. (1992). Language, Sign, and Gender in" Beowulf.". (
  2. Davidson, M. C. (2005). Speaking of nostalgia in Beowulf. Modern Philology, 103(2), 143-155. (
  3. Price, B. A. (2020). Potentiality and Possibility: An Overview of Beowulf and Queer Theory. Neophilologus, 104(3), 401-419. (
  4. Phipps, C. (2012). A Feminist Critique of Beowulf: Women as Peace-Weavers and Goaders in Beowulf's Courts. (
  5. Anderson, C. (2001). Gæst, gender, and kin in Beowulf: Consumption of the Boundaries. The Heroic Age, 5, 18. (
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Analysis Of Gender Roles In Beowulf. (2023, March 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from
“Analysis Of Gender Roles In Beowulf.” GradesFixer, 01 Mar. 2023,
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