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The Women in Beowulf

There are eleven women in Beowulf; of them, five have a name: Wealhtheow, King Hrothgar’s wife (the only woman who actually speaks); Hildeburh, the main character of the Finn episode narrated by the scop at Heorot; Hygd, King Hygelac’s wife; Modthryth (or Thryth), whose appearance in the poem as a “bad queen” seems to illustrate the example of a deviated “peace-weaver”, and in this aspect her role is similar to Heremod’s, the Danish king who, instead of giving treasures to his thanes and creating around him a net of allegiances, killed them. Finally, the last woman who has a name in the poem is Freawaru, King Hrothgar’s daughter, whose existence we become aware of for the first time only when Beowulf relates to Hygelac about his Danish experience. These five women are all queens.
The other women of the poem are Grendel’s monstrous mother (who can hardly be defined a woman), a nameless Geatish woman who mourns for Beowulf’s death at the end of the poem and, finally, four other women who are only mentioned briefly by the author. The first of them we meet is Healfdene’s daughter, that is Hrothgar’s sister, of whom we know that she married Onela the Swede:
hyrde ic þæt [… …On]elan cwen, / Heaðo-Scilfingas healsgebedda.
("I heard that she was Onela’s queen / a balm in bed for the Scilding")

Mostra/Nascondi contenuto.
There is no other speech by Wealhtheow, but she is mentioned again when Beowulf tells Hygelac about his Danish deeds, and describes her as a “friðusibb folca”, that is as a “pledge of peace between the peoples” 10 . The hero here summarizes the queen’s behaviour and actions at Heorot - she went throughout the hall, encouraging the young men and giving them circlets. Hildeburh This Danish princess is the main character (together with Hengest) of the “Finn episode” (lines 1071-1159a) narrated by the scop at Heorot after Beowulf’s victory over Grendel. She has married the Frisian King Finn, probably in order to soothe a feud between her people and the Frisians. However, when her brother Hnæf with his thanes comes to visit her at Finn’s stronghold, the feud is resumed. During a battle between Danes, Frisians and also Jutes, Hildeburh’s son and Hnæf are killed. She then decides to burn brother and son on the same funeral pyre and accompanies the ceremony with a mourning song. After a while, Hengest, one of Hnæf’s thanes, avenges his lord by killing Finn (who is responsible for Hnæf’s death, though it was not he who actually killed him) and goes back to Denmark bringing with him Finn’s treasures and Hildeburh. This is the plot of the story, but what lines 1071-1159a actually tell are the events which follow the first battle between Danes and Frisians, during which Hildeburh’s son’s and Hnæf’s fate is revealed. Lines 1071-1079a begin the story describing the queen’s sorrow: Ne huru Hildeburh herian þorfte Eotena treowe; unsynnum wearð beloren leofum æt þam [l]i[n]dplegan bearnum ond broðrum; hie on gebyrd hruron, gare wunde; þæt wæs geomuru ides. Nalles holinga Hoces dohtor Meotodsceaft bemearn syþðan morgen com, ða heo under swegle geseon meahte morþorbealo maga. 11 (1171-1179a) 10 Line 2017. 11 “Indeed Hildeburh had no need to praise the loyalty of the Jutes; without guilt she was deprived of dear ones at that shield-play, of son and brother; they fell before their fate, wounded by the spear; that was a mournful lady. Not at all without cause did the daughter of Hoc mourn the decree of fate when morning came, when she under the sky could see the slaughter of kinsmen.” 6

Laurea liv.I

Facoltà: Lettere e Filosofia

Autore: Lucrezia Stocco Contatta »

Composta da 29 pagine.

 

Questa tesi ha raggiunto 485 click dal 16/11/2012.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.