Discuss the presentation of gender roles in Beowulf.
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While most attention is given to men and their role of leader, warrior and protector, at the same time it is important to realise the roles that women are given in this text and the important role they played in Anglo-Saxon society as a whole. For example, women are used to bring peace to warring tribes, as Hildeburh indicates. She was a gift from the Danes to the King of the Jutes in order to create peace between the two tribes. Wealhtheow likewise plays a very important role in terms of acting as a hostess to her husband and also reminding all present of the social status of various guests through her function of carrying a cup of mead to all the warriors in order of their social importance:
So the Helming woman went on her rounds,
queenly and dignified, decked out in rings,
offering the goblet to all ranks,
treating the household and the assembled troop
until it was Beowulf's turn to take it from her hand.
Women therefore play a very important social role in Anglo-Saxon society and are not forgotten and oppressed, as some might assume. Although central focus is placed on men and their various roles of protector, warrior and ruler, women, it is clear, have equal importance in Anglo-Saxon society in the way that they are used to bring peace and maintain social status and order.
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