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Epic Poem, Beowulf – Women in Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon Society

Women in Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon Society

Beowulf, one of the most translated and reproduced epics of all time, is literature that concerns characters. While Beowulf himself is the obvious hero of this Anglo-Saxon epic, many companions and fellow travelers are mentioned throughout the text. Some of these secondary characters are almost as noble and courageous as Beowulf himself, while others are lowly cowards. Be what they may, all are captured in this timeless tale of adventure. Women, however, are rarely mentioned in Beowulf. This is because of the context of an Anglo-Saxon society with rigid beliefs and customs. Even though there is very little mention of women in Beowulf (and any other document of the time period), it is possible to gain an understanding of the position of women in an Anglo-Saxon society.

Both Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s queen, and Hygd, Hygelac’s queen, apparently

held power in their courts. Wealhtheow’s actions in rewarding Beowulf after

his battles show the queen’s role and position as hostess. She awards him

“two arm ornaments, mail, rings” and a be…

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…men in that society, though it may have little tangible

impact on today’s life, seems to imply that it is not entirely true that the

Anglo-Saxons restricted the freedom of women in favor of a purely

male-oriented, hero-worshiping society.

Works Cited

Beowulf and Other Old English Poems. Trans. Constance B. Hieatt. New York; Odyssey Press, 1967.

Gies, Frances and Joseph. Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages. New York; Harper and Row, 1987.

Page, R.I. Life in Anglo-Saxon England. New York; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1970.

Enslaving Nature of Love Exposed in Lucretius

Enslaving Nature of Love Exposed in Lucretius

In Dryden’s Lucretius, the speaker argues that (1) Love is a sickness, (2) Love’s sickness enslaves, and (3) all attempts to remedy Love’s sickness are vain and will only frustrate the lover. Just as Milton’s Adam and Eve become enslaved to sin by disobeying God, so mankind becomes enslaved to Love when pierced with Cupid’s “winged arrow”. In Milton, there is redemption and freedom through Christ, but in Dryden, no salvation from love is possible. This poem leaves mankind in a hopeless, frustrated state, unable to break free from love’s yoke. This essay will center on the last heroic couplet: “All wayes they try, successeless all they prove,/To cure the secret sore of lingering love”.

In order to prove the first premise, this essay will begin by examining the last line of the couplet which argues that the lovers are trying to “cure the secret sore”. This line prompts the idea that love is a sore that needs a cure, but it also raises two questions: (1) why does the speaker call love a secret sore? And (2) how does the speaker use this imagery in the rest of the poem? In the poem’s mythology, love is a sore left by Love’s arrow (which probably alludes to Cupid’s handy-work) as described in the first line of the poem: “he who feels the Fiery dart/ Of strong desire transfix his amorous heart”. The “secret sore” can also refer to the idea that Love’s wound is concealed (as an internal injury), and thus cannot be helped by external/physical remedies. The speaker argues that even sex proves unprofitable in trying to cure love: “Our hands pull nothing from the parts they strain,/But wande…

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…ess appetite”. It seems as though the speaker is trying to frustrate the lover by offering impossible remedies. The speaker amplifies frustration by using an eye rhyme to finish the poem. This doesn’t show Dryden’s lack of skill, but rather a way to frustrate a reader’s rhyme.

The last heroic couplet provides no hope and leaves only frustrating thoughts for the lover: “All wayes they try, successeless all they prove,/To cure the secret sore of lingering love”. The speaker even argues that though Nature provides satisfaction for physical urges (e.g. hunger and thirst), Nature does not give Love the same satisfaction. The speaker describes a lover as a type of Sisyphus, enslaved in a vicious cycle of trying to accomplish the task (of fulfilling love’s desires), only to have the problem roll back down and having to start over again.

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