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Medieval Cociety Roles of Women and Men

In: English and Literature

Submitted By MarittaShaw12
Words 1037
Pages 5
Reversing the Roles of Medieval Women

Throughout the Medieval period women were forced to take background roles in society. They were considered inferior to men and reduced to roles that were limited to motherly figures and skilled work. Unlike men, they were not allowed to take arms and once married their ownership was passed on to men. In Beowulf, whose author is unknown, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Geoffrey Chaucer, women took more active roles in the lives of them than society allowed them. In Beowulf, Grendel’s mother is portrayed as a monstrous woman who attacks men to avenge the death of her son Grendel. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Lady Bertilak and Morgan le Faye diminish the roles of men proving them to be cowards that don’t live up to the standards of powerful men. These women proved to be exceptions to the ideal medieval woman who were ultimately separate from men.

Women play a minor role Beowulf, Grendel’s mother plays a significant role as she is known as just that, Grendel’s mother. She is not given a name as other women in the poem although she comes in direct contact with the poem’s main character, Beowulf. As a descendent of Cain, she invades Heorot to avenge the death of her son Grendel, who is killed by Beowulf to save their civilization. Throughout medieval literature women play background roles as mothers, caregivers, and peacemakers; they were not allowed to take arms but were reduced to their roles as women. The role that Grendel’s mother plays is simply a mother, although seeking revenge on her son, her name comes from a man. As she does not possess a name of her own. She is simply named after her son. “She is identified only by her biological function of having given birth to Grendel (a role that links her to nearly all other women in the poem)” (Horner 82). Although her name attempts to reduce her role as a woman,...

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