This paper examines the Old English poems of Beowulf and the lesser-known elegy The Wife's Lament in the light of modern understandings of gender and gender theory. In particular, it will look at the ways women's deviation from gender norms is treated as a deviation from nature itself. In The Wife's Lament, the nameless narrator finds herself exiled from her community, one of the worst fates one could experience in the Anglo-Saxon world, for her departure from gender confinements in order to be reunited with her husband, while in Beowulf, Grendel's Mother is killed for the same set of actions that would have seen a man praised. Both fates demonstrate the conclusion of a cycle of dealing with those that threaten a status quo founded on the oppression of adjacent demographics: to villainize their deviance, to punish them for it, and to erase them from future eyes.
"Misogyny, Monstrosity, and Patterns of Power in Old English Literature,"
Proceedings of GREAT Day: Vol. 2022, Article 3.
Available at: https://knightscholar.geneseo.edu/proceedings-of-great-day/vol2022/iss1/3