Complicated Attitudes Towards Female Characters

I agree with this statement, as the female characters are revealed to the reader as being powerful over men, seductive, suspicious, mysterious, bewitching and in the end, cause destruction. However, in the poems, males claim some possessiveness over the females. For example; in the poem ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ a beautiful woman tempts men/ knights with her ‘faery’ beauty. The knight in the poem, falls in love with her through her seductive actions, but then she abandons him. ‘ I met a lady in the meads, Full beautiful – a faery’s child’

This quote shows how mysterious the female is by describing her as a ‘faery’s child’ which basically means a mystical fairy in human form, who is playful and has magical powers. In ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ the reader only gets one interpretation of the female through the knights direct speech, this reflects a complicated attitude to the reader as we have a biased opinion of the female. Also, not having direct speech from ‘La Belle’ adds to the mysterious-ness of female characters in Keats’ poetry. A male contrast in this poem is quite important, as in many of Keats’ poetry.

The knight claims possession over the female. He creates garlands and bracelets for which could be used to enclose and trap her. ‘I made a garland for her head, And bracelets too, and fragrant zone’ ‘I set her on my pacing steed’ These quote shows his possessiveness over the beautiful woman. In the same way, ‘The Eve Of St Agnes’ portrays these attitudes towards females. The narrator focuses on a virgin named Madeline, describing her as pure, nieve, vague and blinded by superstition. This gives the reader the impression of her being easily led and expressing her as being quite innocent.

In the poem Madeline is at a party and is oblivious to everything going on around her, she is only thinking of the legend St Agnes. St Agnes Eve is believed by virgins that on this night they will see their future husbands in the dreams. The poet describing Madeline as one of these believers, shows the theme of suspicion and witchcraft, as Madeline will perform the rites associated with St Agnes. Keats’ uses negative capability to contrast innocence with flirtatious, this happens when Madeline goes up to her bedchamber to undress for bed. ‘Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees; Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;

Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:’ Describing the way she undresses makes her seem like shes doing a striptease. A male in the poem named Porphyro, affects the readers attitude towards Madeline, as he comes across as being the seductive one. As Madeline undresses he watches as he’s hiding in her closet. This could portray to the reader about the attitudes towards women, that Madeline purposely stipped like that, because she was thinking about and wishing to tease Porphyro. But as a coincidence, he was there watching every move, showing the powerfullness of women over men. Also, the quote: Sudden a thought came like a full blown rose flushing his brow, and in his pained heart’ Keats’s could be referring to how cunning Porphyro might be, as he was told by the old belle dame that it’s St Agnes Eve and Madeline had gone up to her bedchamber to dream of her future lover, giving him a seductive idea. To conclude, Keats uses many different methods, to have an impact on the reader about complicated attitudes towards females in his poetry. Using sympathy as a weapon for the males in his poetry. However, more indepth reading shows that there may be contrasts between men and women and that their roles can be switched over.

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