The Ladies of Beowulf 

In Beowulf, the poem is focuses primarily on the deeds of the males. Each woman in Beowulf the poet portrays as a strong individual, each of them having a specific role in the poem. All the women struggle to define a place for them to be in the heroic world, but they are still not main characters in the poem.

The narrator depicts Queen Wealhtheow the most in Beowulf. Throughout the story, the narrator portrays Queen Wealhtheow as the wife of King Hrothgar and also a mistress of the Heorot Hall. The most important duty of Queen Wealhtheow is to carry the ceremonial goblet of mead around to the warriors during the feast, which helps to establish a tone of affection between the Geats and Danes. Queen Wealhtheow gives Beowulf a long speech to help him be aware of the rights and responsibilities that he takes after her husband passes away and to make sure that he does not take the kingdom for himself: “Beloved Beowulf, enjoy this collar with good fortune…, and make good use of this garment” (Beowulf 1215).

Hildeburh serves the role of the peacekeeper in the kingdom. This role requires her to go marry someone else from another kingdom so that the two kingdoms will be in harmony together. Hildeburh has a role through the whole poem which is to make peace with the Jutes and the Danes. She has no problem in her task of marrying a Jute and making peace with the two kingdoms: “Hildeburh had little cause to credit the Jutes: son and brother,she lost them both on the battlefield… So a truce was offered as follows” (Beowulf 1070-1085).

Grendel’s mother is the only female that has a different role from the rest. Grendel’s mother happens to be one of the three antagonists in the poem. The poet gives Grendel’s mother a role in the story to avenge Grendel’s death which happens early in the poem. Grendel’s mother gives Beowulf a good fight but comes out on the bottom in the end. Before Beowulf even makes it to the lair, Grendel’s mother “…sensed a human observing her outlandish lair from above. So she lunged and clutched and managed to catch him in her brutal grip; but his body, for all that, remained unscathed…” (Beowulf 1500). The battle is a hard one for Beowulf even though he has the strength of 30 men in each arm and can hold his breath for days, but Grendel’s mother loses the fight because Beowulf takes her sword and uses it against her.

The slim amount of females may not sound like they did a lot throughout the poem, but overall they are a large part in the poem. They are either making peace between the kingdoms so there are no wars, serving food and drinks to the warriors so they do not have to worry after a long day of fighting or being a mother to the main antogonist of the poem. The females all offer a different perspective in the poem since they are not there to fight, besides Grendel’s mother, but to keep peace within the kingdoms and outside the kingdoms.