Feasting in both epics of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are used as forms of celebration. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the feast is held in anticipation of the New Year and involves eating, dancing, gift exchange, games, and the shared excitement of the New Year. The descriptions of the feasting hall make it seem as if nothing had been forgotten in the preparations. The poet talks about the order of the table, seating manner, serving, and behavior of those dining to give the reader a true insight as to what this feast might have entailed. As for Beowulf, rather than for celebrating a holiday, A feast is held in his honor that he chose to take on the challenge of defeating the infamous Grendel. Feasts of hospitality were rather common and important in the social setting of the Early Medieval English Culture. At this feast, it is assumed that guests felt unsafe even with the presence of Beowulf because of the previous attack of Grendel.
Hrothgar’s Great Mead-Hall was intended for use of feasting, drinking, celebration, and the giving of gifts. In mead halls like Heorot, women such as Wealhtheow and Hygd were both hostesses of feasts and unlike other women of the Viking age, they were able to have an unusual influence on societal structures, even against the wishes of their husbands. Being Queens, the roles played in society of these two women were much above those of other women. They were both well respected and honorable in a male-controlled society.
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Guinevere and Morgan LeFay are two examples of women who play an important role in the development of the story helping the plot move along as they scheme against Sir Gawain. According to Baker, “Women are thus the epitome of good morality, the test of faith, but also sources of necessary conflict within the plot”(Baker). As a counterexample of these women, we could compare them to the roles that Grendel‘s mother plays in Beowulf. She is very hostile and uses violence and physical strength to resolve her problems. Other women of the time most likely would have been submissive and somewhat scared of other men, but Grendel’s mother, after the killing of her son by Beowulf, sought nothing but revenge.
As for the roles played by men in both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf, the two main characters, Beowulf and Sir Gawain both represented honor and bravery. Beowulf was more than willing to take on Grendel and the Dragon, even if it meant his own life was on the line, making him a hero. Sir Gawain represented bravery by taking the challenge of the Green Knight in place of King Arthur even though he knew that it could mean his death could be the result. Lessons that could be taken from these two powerful characters and applied to their societies could be that protecting your community in Beowulf’s case, or your leader in Sir Gawain’s situation is better than dying of old age and cowardly actions.