Wealhtheow in Beowulf


Wealhtheow is an excellent and perfect example of a mediaeval hostess who upholds the social norms of that time and also manifests the status of men publicly in the royal court and mead hall. She is the queen of Spear-Danes and the wife of Hrothgar. She has two sons named Hrethric, Hrothmund and a daughter named Freawaru. The Anglo Saxon word “Wealhtheow” means treasure-bearer. She appears briefly in the text and as she is a peace weaver, she appears in the text only when a contest has been won by Beowulf.

In Anglo Saxon time women were humiliated and they had no right or free will. Being married to the enemy to solve a feud is the only joy that a girl could bring to her parents at that time. Wealhtheow is not different. She is married to Hrothgar, the king of Spear-Danes to solve the feud between the Helmings and Danes.

Wealhthew’s most important duty is the ceremonial of carrying meads in the goblets among the warriors that helps to establish a brotherly tone among them. Hrothgar arranges a feast when Beowulf arrives at Hrothgar’s hall and proposes to help them. In that feast, Wealhthew appears with a goblet of mead. At first she gives it to the king to drink it and then she gives the cup to other courtiers. She gives the cup Beowulf at the end as he is the newly arrived guest of the Danes. The sequence of cup-passing events is determined by the rank of people in the court.

However, another feast is held after Beowulf has killed Grendel and in that feast, Beowulf is offered the goblet of mead just next to Hrothgar. It shows a dramatic rise in his status. According to Jane Chance, “As she passes the cup from warrior to warrior, it weaves an invisible web of peace among them; The order in which each man is served, according to his social position, reveals each men’s dependence upon and responsibility toward another. ” In another word, when she passes the cup, it kneets a bond of wave between them and it binds them together. Thus the humble queen herself emblematizes peace and her role obviously matches with the role of Freawaru and Hildebruh as all of them work as peace-weavers in the text.

In addition Wealhtheow, unlike other Anglo Saxon women, is intelligent, wise and a free thinker. She strongly censures her husband and raises an objection that Hrothgar should think of his own family first. Wealhtheow expresses her anxiety about the kingdom and about the rights of his sons after Hrothgar’s death. In her long speech, she wants help from Beowulf to defend the right of her sons whenever it is needed. Furthermore, she is very diplomatic queen and she is fully aware that a complication can arise regarding Hrothulf who is Hrothgar’s nephew. When Wealhtheow says,” I am certain of Hrothulf”- we can see a glimpse of tension in her mind. She never wants to deprive her sons from their right to the throne. Moreover, as an honour for saving their people from the grasp of the evil monster, Wealhtheow gives Beowulf a golden torque or golden necklace which symbolizes the loyalty and more deeply saying, a diplomatic connection between the Danish people and Beowulf.

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