A Feminist Critique of Beowulf: Women as Peace-Weavers and Goaders in Beowulf’s Courts

A Feminist Critique of Beowulf: Women as Peace-Weavers and Goaders in Beowulf’s Courts

By Charles Phipps

Masters Thesis, Marshall University, 2012

Abstract: This thesis documents the relationship between “Goaders” and “Peace-Weavers” amongst the women of Beowulf. These roles have a large place to play within the framework of the Beowulf narrative and all of its female characters fall into one of these descriptors. Goaders are women who have the role of driving men to violence with words. They do not actually perform the violence themselves but instead induce it in others, souring relationships and compelling men to war. Peace-weavers, by contrast, urge men toward reconciliation with speech and encouragement. Examining the poem’s context for these two roles and how they relate to one another provides insight not only into the Beowulf poem but also the culture which created it. It, further, provides information on the nature of expected gender roles for women of the period.

Introduction: This thesis will examine the fundamental roles of women in the societies described in Beowulf, paying specific attention to the function as peace-weavers and goaders. The origin peace-weaver comes from a similar word in Old English called freodu-webbe which translates as: a peace-weaver, woman. The dual meaning implies that women are innately peaceful and meant to bring it to their household.

Gillian Overing had this to say:

The peace-weaving role also opens up a more complex perspective on weaving as différance. The play of absence and presence is imaged in these supposedly active weavers of line and connections between tribes and between stories within the text, whose actual presence is shadowy, barely discernible.

It should be noted that Overing is applying Derrida’s terminology. The depiction of women in Beowulf as shadowy and barely discernible is also one I disagree with. The presence of women (as well as their influence) in events both political and plot-driving is significant.

Click here to read this thesis from Marshall University

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