Prominent Role of Women in the Novels The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Beowulf, and Sir Gawain and The Green Knight
The stereotype that “women had no place in the masculine, death-centered world” has always been an issue. This may be as a result of the consequences of male courage and superiority; therefore, the importance of women is presumably reduced. However, their emergence in homes and society appear to be restricted and hasty. They do play fundamental position and roles which kept the homes and the society intact.
“Alison” in The wife of Bath’s prologue, “Wealhtheow” in Beowulf, and “Lady Bercilak” in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight has exposed the position of women as strong holders of families and societies. They use the power of sexuality, peace weaver, physical attraction, deceit and submissiveness with the sole aim of control. Women may exercise control through peacemaking.
In Beowulf, some different women performed a different task. Grendel’s mother as a monster was a thorn in the flesh to the kingdom. While Hildeburgh, daughter of the Danish king, married the king of the Jutes, Finn, trying to initiate peace among the two groups. Other women also contribute their quota to the wellbeing of the kingdom. Among all these women, Wealhtheow, who is the Queen of the Danes and Hrothgar’s wife, met my yardstick as a powerful/strong woman. Her role was gentle, good mannered peace weaver was used to control the king and his subjects. One of the outstanding acts was “Wealhtheow came in, Hrothgar’s queen, observing the courtesies. Adorned in her gold, she graciously saluted the men in the hall, then handed the cup first Hrothgar, their homeland guardian, urging him to drink deep and enjoy it because he was dear to them. And he drank it down like the warlord he was, with festive cheer.
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. With measured words, she welcomed the Geat and thanked God for granting her wish that a deliverer she could believe in would arrive to ease their afflictions.” (Beowulf 138). This evidently insignificant task informs us that there exist hierarchy in the kingdom and that Beowulf is among the lowest ranked. The hierarchy shows the chain of command, and where there is a respected Hierarchy, there is peace.
During the second celebration, Wealhtheow passes the mead cup to Beowulf immediately after passing it to the king, showing that he has risen in status after defeating Grendel. Wealhtheow uses her peace weaver, gentle and humility to establish a positive control in their kingdom. However, women can use sexuality to establish control of men and society. Sexuality could be good if used without bias or without any hidden objectives. Many women in the Bible, uses sexuality to win the heart of men or to bring them down. Some also use it to control men.
In the “Wife of the Bath’s prologue and tale” Alison who uses sexuality to exercise mastery and control over her five different husbands is my powerful/strong woman. She uses her sexuality to control three of her husbands whom she described as “in faith, I set no store by their pleasure. To me, they had given land and treasure; no longer need I use my diligence to win their love or do them reverence. They loved me so well that, by God above, I set no value then upon their love.” (Chaucer 796). She says.“I governed them so well, after my law, That each of them was eager, as I saw, To bring me home some gay things from the fair. They were glad when my speech to them was fair; I scolded them, as God knows, spiteful.” (Chaucer 797). She also uses deceit, lies, and pretense, in conjunction with sexuality to control her fifth husband.
When the fifth husband was reading a book that exposes the wicked things women uses as a control mechanism to make or bring men down. She ripped three pages off, and that made her husband hit her with the book. She felled on the floor. In her pretense, she said “And when he saw how still it was I lay, He was aghast, and would have fled away, Till, at last, out of my swoon I awoke. Oh! Hast thou slain me, false thief? Then I spoke, ‘And for my land, has thou now murdered me? Before I’m dead, yet will I still kiss thee.” (Chaucer 809). After kissing him, he knelt down and promised never to hit her again but instead Alison avenged by hitting him back.
In the end, “He gave me all the bridle in my hand To have the governing of house and land, And of his tongue, and of his hands, then, too: I made him burn his book without ado. And when I had gotten back for me, By mastery, all the sovereignty, And when he said to me, ‘My own true wife, Do as you like the rest of all your life.” Alison uses her sexuality to control all the husband she got married to. This is still evident in today’s modern world, so many women use sexuality to typically control their husbands as was during the biblical era. Meanwhile, women may employ their beauty to attract men with the ultimate aim of controlling them.
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I consider Lady Bercilak a powerful/strong woman who uses her physical attraction to test Gawain’s integrity. At last Gawain yielded to her attractiveness by receiving the green girdle amongst the various gifts offered. Although it looks like the affection Gawain has regarding Lady Bercilak is the civilized one. It seems he also has a physical attraction to her, “when I swagger in the saddle – a sad reminder that the frailty of his flesh is man’s biggest fault.”(2435-2436). Lady Bercilak takes advantage of Gawain’s attraction to her to control their meeting and use them for her motive. No wonder Gawain accuses Lady Bercilak of not adhering to their agreement, “But no wonder if a fool finds his way into folly and be wiped of his wits by womanly guile” (Sir Gawain and The Green Knight 888; 2414-2415).
It is obvious that Lady Bercilak physical attraction by Gawain was used at her advantage to control Gawain. In conclusion, “Adam fell because of a woman, and Solomon because of several, and as for Samson, Delilah was his downfall, and afterward David was bamboozled by Bathsheba.” (Sir Gawain and The Green Knight 888). The demise of these great men was as a result of the women desire to control them. Women use sexuality, physical attraction, and peace weaver to control men and society. This was practiced by the powerful women in Beowulf, Wife of the bath’s prologue, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is still evident in our present time.
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