Germanic Roles In Beowulf

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In the epic poem Beowulf, the plot is centered on a heavily masculine view. As a result, many of the themes depicted were male-dominated, which left very little leeway for women to influence the story. Jane C. Nitzsche, however, was able to point out the ways in which Grendel’s mother represented how the Germanic ideals of women were able to be shifted, ultimately showing how women could not be confined into a single feminine role. The first instance where Grendel’s mother had shifted roles was after Grendel’s death. Not having a husband, Grendel’s mother was unable to pledge her primary loyalty towards the accepted Saxo Grammaticus dominant figure. This, in turn, portrayed her as a husbandless “son-obsessed” character, which showed the dangers…show more content…
For one, the reason for which Grendel’s mother was forced to avenge her son was that he was the only other member of her clan, and there was no male figure to do the avenging. Furthermore, the premise that all men and women do not fulfill their designated role in society is false. In the case of Grendel’s mother, I believe that she successfully played her role as a maternal figure. Only when Grendel was killed, was she forced to go beyond her gender boundary and assume the the stereotypically masculine roles. As for other women in the poem, Queen Wealhtheow represented the ideal Germanic woman, who was quite successful in creating peace and playing the role of hostess. Queen Hildeburh failed at this exact role and acted as a less significant character who simply did not even reach her expected ideal. Overall, I am led to believe that the poet aimed to depict females as having the same potential as males in a properly functioning civilization. Rather than being bound by what certain Germanic ideals see women as, the poet of this epic is saying that it is normal for women to participate in traditionally viewed masculine roles. Instead of having the actions of Grendel’s mother be surprising, the ideals imposed by society for men and women should not limit someone’s perception of a
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