The Role of Peaceweaver: Female Sexual Power in Beowulf
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The role of women in Anglo-Saxon society is a subject that is hotly debated by scholars of the period. While scholars like Gillian Overing argue with feminist perspective that the women of this era were put in positions of subservience and servitude, my assertion is that this view is based upon highly prejudicial 20th century thinking. Each participant in Anglo-Saxon society had a distinct role to play and these roles were based upon a code. Victoria Wodzak writes, ?The interaction between the domestic world and the heroic world?exemplifies both an opposition and a symbiosis between warriors and weavers, between the heroic code and the domestic code?(256). In the epic Beowulf, the role of the women is primarily that of peace-weaver. This is a term that is used once in the actual text of the poem but countless times in its criticism.Critics like Overing and Wodzak have latched on to the term in an effort to describe the futility of the woman?s role in society. Wodzak writes, ?Women attempt to weave peace in a bifurcated domain. They invariably fail?(256). Most critics agree that the peace-weaving process is an unsuccessful undertaking but in order for this term to come into the Anglo-Saxon lexicon the act of uniting two kingdoms through marriage must have been successful at least once. Women would not have been referred to as freo?u-webbe or peace-weavers. Both Wealhtheow and Freawaru are given the title fri?u-sibb or a pledge of peace. This role was obviously an important one for the Anglo-Saxons and the repetition of the title throughout the poem indicates this.