Masculine Ideals In Beowulf

650 Words3 Pages
Masculine Ideals in Anglo-Saxon Society
The concept of a hero is prevalent through all generations because it presents a template for ethics and behavior. Beowulf is a pivotal epic told by poets throughout early european society and mirrors the manly nature of their ideal hero. The patriarchal values of the Anglo-Saxons are displayed through the epic Beowulf. The characters’ loyalty to their leaders as well as their conventional sense of masculinity indicate that the values of a society determine the values of an individual. The legend begins with an intricate history of the Danes’ leadership, showing the high regard the Anglo-Saxons had for their rulers. One of the kings, Shield Sheafson was a “scourge of many tribes” and “a wrecker of
…show more content…
Beowulf reflects the traits that conformed to their masculine norms . While sorrowful Hrothgar laments the deaths caused by Grendel’s mother, Beowulf urges him to “not grieve” and to “avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning” (1384-5). However, earlier the epic alluded to a story about a princess named Hildeburh who after losing her husband, child, and brother, was “waylaid by grief” (1081). There is a definite contrast between how men and women are expected to confront loss- according to the patriarchal values, men avenge and women weep. Therefore, Beowulf is even more of an ideal masculine hero because he adheres the the Anglo-Saxon gender roles. He outright rejects feminine traits ergo, his character propagates ideals to the audience. In addition, the ability to sacrifice one’s life is tied directly to masculinity. When Grendel’s mother is seeking revenge for her son and needs to be killed, Unferth does not portray manly will. Thus, he is described as “not man enough/ to face the turmoil of a fight… and to risk his life”(1468-70). Through contrasting Beowulf’s readiness to kill Grendel’s mom and Unferth’s lack thereof, manliness is even more yearned for. The society can then use Beowulf’s standards and spurn Unferth’s behavior, forming a guide for individuals to
Open Document