The Wife's Lament Pages
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In Anglo-Saxon, "fríþwebba" means peace-weaver. The term was used to describe a woman who married someone from an enemy tribe in order to establish peace between her family and his. The marriage was a political arrangement to hopefully end hostility between warring tribes. The term presumably originates in Beowulf, where Queen Wealtheow is described as a "peace-pledge between nations . . ." Not only is the queen married to an enemy of her people, but she and her daughters even take it upon themselves to carry drink between the members of her own tribe and the Geats.
The term "peace-weaver" could be used to describe the wife of any home, whether or not her marriage was a tool to stop or prevent war. A wife who kept peace in her home was a peace-weaver. Although it may seem that the marriage of a peace-weaver is more of a legal contract than a marriage of love, Anglo-Saxon women were very loyal to their husbands and pledged to obey them. Their main role in Anglo-Saxon Society was to see to the comfort of the men and bear children. Although they did not have many legal rights within the social system, the women who were the most dedicated to their preconceived roles were also the most respected.
It seems likely that the wife in "The Wife's Lament" is a peace-weaver. She is mourning her separation from her husband and complains of the hate and mistreatment directed toward her by her husband's relatives. The narrator of "The Wife's Lament" obviously cares for her husband and misses him greatly. She is also fiercely loyal to him, despite her problems with his family. She could possibly escape her circumstances, but she chooses instead to stay near her husband's relatives. Despite her unhappiness with her inlaws and her husband's exile, she remains faithful to him.