Wednesday, November 2, 2016

For Friday: Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Cantos 3-4

Synopsis of Canto 3: The action opens in ritzy Hampton Court; there, gossips have gathered to chat, and “at every word a reputation dies.” Here also Belinda is having a card game (ombre) with the Baron, and the card game is described on pages 55-58 like an epic battle, with the various kings, queens, and knights assaulting, retreating, and dying on the “velvet plain” (the card table). The Baron seizes a moment in the climax of the game to seize Belinda’s precious locks, assisted by Clarissa, who gives him a deadly weapon (a pair of scissors). He cuts them off and she shrieks hideously while he glowers in evil triumph.

Synopsis of Canto 4: Crushed by the weight of her tragedy, Belina is insensible. So Umbriel, one of the spirits, goes down to the underworld (echoing The Odyssey, where Odysseus visits Achilles in death) to seek an audience with the Queen of Spleen. For 18th century audiences, spleen is a substance in the body which makes people moody, depressed, sullen, and even angry. In the poem, it’s a place of nonsense and irrationality, where men get pregnant and “maids turned bottles, call aloud for corks.” Umbriel convinces the Queen of Spleen to give her a bag full of fears, sorrows, passions, and rage, which she brings back to Belinda to assist her in the battle against the Baron. The Amazon, Thalestris, is also trying to rouse Belinda’s fighting spirits, reminding her that she will be the laughing stock of all London. She also tries to convince the Baron to release the lock, but he refuses. Belinda is distraught and cries, “Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize/Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!”

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: While Pope’s initial target in his satire is Arabella Fermor, how can we tell he is more specifically targeting upper-class society? How does he satirize the behaviors, customs, or ideas of the English aristocracy in Cantos III and IV?

Q2: Though it’s very amusing to compare a card game to an actual war, or the rape of a lock with the abduction of a queen, why might Pope suggest that in his society, such comparisons actually make sense? That is, despite the humor, why might a noblewoman actually lament the loss of her lock, or the loss of a card game? What are the stakes to losing these in 18th century society, according to the poem?

Q3: Some critics/readers have suggested that the Queen of Spleen and her court represents an attack on women. Do you find this passage misogynistic? Is he making fun of the affectations and behaviors of women of his society? Or is he merely poking fun at certain types of women? And clues to tell one way or another?

Q4: Why does Ariel give up protecting Belinda’s lock in Canto 3? What does he see that makes him abandon the field and consign Belinda to her dreadful fate? 


  1. 3. Personally, I know plenty of women that are overdramatic, such as Belinda is in this poem. I make fun of women all of the time for making their emotions so extravagant and exaggerated. I could see why people would find this section as "misogynistic", but I think Alexander Pope was just poking fun at Belinda, or "Arabella", in this case. He had no problem writing an entire satiric poem about an overdramatic woman and her "lost locK", so why would he have any issues writing about the emotions of women? I thought it was funny.

    4. Ariel gives up once he finds out that Belinda's got her eye on someone. He thinks that she likes them, so he does not interfere. It's also possible that this could mean she "wanted" to be violated. I'm guessing Ariel did not like what he saw in her mind, so in his own mind, I think he gave up on Belinda. I can picture him saying, "Fine, if you want to be like this, after everything I've done, then I will no longer help you." I think this was his breaking point and he just suddenly became tired.

  2. 1). Pope using analogies regarding the upper-class in this work. This in itself is telling of his pointed direction. I think that him regarding the "battle" as a card game is in itself satirizes  the upper class - their "heroic deeds" are only simple games. (P.55)
    He satires the customs and behaviors of the English aristocracy in Cantos III and Cantos IV, on page 60 we see him describe certain people of the class with adjectives like ancient, youthful, scornful, and ardent.

    4). (It doesn't say if Ariel is reading Belinda's or Clarissa's thoughts... so hopefully this is accurate).
    Ariel gives up on Belinda because he finds an "earthly lover" in her heart. After inspecting Belinda's thoughts and finding this, Ariel abandons the field. Belinda's lock is immediately cut by the scissors upon his release.
    "Anxious Ariel sought
    The close recesses of the virgin's thought....
    Sudden he viewed, in spite of all her heart.
    Amazed, confused, he found his power expired,
    Resigned to fate, and with a sigh retired." (P.58)

  3. Q#1
    When describing Belinda, we know he is describing someone of the higher class. That includes women of the higher class in his society automatically. When he describes the "toilet" there are a lot of perfumes and cosmetic stuff. The dressing that the nymphs and fairies dress Belinda in are gorgeous, extravagant. The hair is twisted into high fashion-- with the locks showing. That represents higher society women. Take into account the place that this is all happening; London, in a fancy place.

    Losing a lock back then was actually a big deal, despite how ridiculous it is. That was their social marker. That was how you knew they lived well, they had a good spot in the class. I can see where Pope shows that in his poem and also with the background of his society. Being a woman and playing a card game while being unmarried was considered scandalous. If you lose that card game, you have to pay them with money. If you don't have that money, then that man might be tempted to have a woman pay back with her honor- her virginity. You don't do that in that time. Reading on in the story though, we see Belinda start to love and want the Baron. She is willing and acting to give herself up. Which ties into Question 4 why Ariel is done protecting her. After all her fairies did for her, after all Ariel did for her, she wants to go and give it up- without a fight, without honor. He's like "Girl, I'm out."

  4. 1. We can see Pope taking a stab at upper-class society at the beginning of Canto III while describing London. He mentions that while London is lavished with beautiful architecture, beautiful structures, and a bounty of flowers, there is more dirt behind the scenes. Pope describes how “Britain’s statesmen oft the fall foredoom / Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home” meaning they do their business, but also take care of business between the sheets (54). The poet mentions other upper-class citizens such as Queen Anna and politicians, but one of my favorite instances is his mention of the “hungry judges [who] soon the sentence sign, / And wretches hang that jurymen may dine” (54). The poor, hungry judges are dying to get to lunch, so they blow through their court cases quickly by condemning men who merely seem guilty to hang.

    2. Playing a card game with anybody was some serious business as it involved gambling and being expected to be able to pay what wages were lost, and it was also a somewhat intimate affair as women were to only play cards with their husband. Therefore, it was a very big deal for Belinda to be playing a card game with the Baron. If she were to lose and not be able to pay her lost wages, the Baron might very well demand something else in lieu of the money. Also, if anyone were to see Belinda playing cards with the Baron, word would probably get out that they were in something of a relationship. In the case of the lock, it sort of follows the same theme. To have a girl’s lock was visual and public evidence that there was a relationship, and certainly relations, going on. So a woman can have relations with a man behind closed doors and keep it private, but there is no hiding the absence of a lock of hair.

  5. Q-1 In a nutshell, Pope thinks the upper class is comprised of "pretentious rich people gossiping about the hoi polloi". He describes the rich as gossips and schemers. Pope often uses an anticlimactic description of the upper class. This means that he may describe the queen as a mighty ruler, but when she isn't busy with her royal duties, she enjoys a spot of tea. Instead of ending the description with a bang, it just fizzles out. I also feel that the overly dramatic reaction to the loss of Belinda's lock is supposed to be another jab at the upper class; possibly insinuating that the wealthy are petty and do not have their priorities straight.

    Q-2 Not only is there a chance to lose precious money, but there is much social stigma in the act of gambling. It was considered taboo if a woman gambled with a man that she was not married to. This was considered a very intimate activity, plus, it was probably seen as very un lady-like. In addition to this, the loss of her lock is solid proof that she has engaged in this scandalous activity; it certainly doesn't help that the Baron flaunts his victory.

  6. Question 3) I believe Pope is criticizing only certain types of women with the Queen of Spleen. As brought up in class, Pope is a man of moral. He understands in the world not all women of society act uppity and superior. Only women of upper class sleep to noon, compare the loss of beauty to the loss of a husband or dog. These women are vain and Pope knows this. That is why he is criticizing them.
    Question 4) Ariel gives up protecting Belinda because she falls in love, or rather lust. She drops her guard with the Baron throwing all caution to wind, and ultimately leaving her lock up for grabs. Ariel gains access to Belinda’s brain and sees the painful truth that she secretly wants to be violated; therefore, Ariel sees no reason in protecting it. This allows the Baron to finally cut the lock.

  7. 3) I actually enjoy the way that Pope criticizes the upper class of women. I enjoy this because we can see through what we have read so far that Pope is not afraid of hurting anyone's feelings. Pope as we can see is a pretty straight shooter and besides that he is a morally correct man. I think that he criticizes the women of the upper class because that all seem to be rather dramatic to the rest of society and Pope can see this and is brave enough to write about it and point it out.

    2) Back in this time period loosing a lock of hair was a much bigger deal than it would be today. We have already discussed that women who were upper class cared way too much about their appearances. The women may actually lament the loss of card game because card games were for gambling and if the women lost they would have to pay which some may not be able to afford. However Belinda should probably not have been playing cards with a man she was not married to anyways. I think Pope does a good job of relating the card game to real life war because in the time period playing cards would have been a way bigger deal than it is today.

  8. Q3: I believe most modern readers would see this as an attack on women because there is a common phrase used by (some, or most) men, and sometimes even other women, against women to discredit their emotions, arguments, and concerns, which is: “Are you on your period?” or “You’re just PMSing”. Which it’s easy to replace Popes example of the Spleen with a uterus and get offended. If that were the case of the Spleen in this poem being an actual organ and not just a source of bile that everyone has within themselves (male or female) that makes them feel depression or various other more negative emotions. But, as we have discussed in class Pope means the latter. While this still comes offensive to women, it is possible that Pope means for it to be an insult and mockery of the behavior of the high class women who are focused on ther vanity and not their substance.

    Q4: Ariel goes into Belinda’s mind and sees that she is in love with the Baron. Ariel sees this as a sign that Belinda wants to be “violated” and decides that her lock isn’t worth protecting, if that is what she truly wants.


  9. 1.To me Pope is taking on the task to enlighten society how they are transforming their women into individuals who are quite melodramatic in nature. As previously addressed in lecture, on page 54, Pope talks about the beauty of London; however, he does this in a way that depicts what he thinks they is occurring within the well-known upper class walls. An example of this is in lines 7-8, when saying, “Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, /Dost sometimes counsel take—and sometimes tea” (Pope, 54). Though per Pope, though they be fake, in painting such a stage of expectations for young girls such as Belinda, it is no wondering that she be so upset when her lock is taken.

    4. The reason why Ariel gives up on protecting her is because per the text, “He watched the ideas rising in her mind, /Sudden he viewed, despite all her art, /An earthly lover lurking in the dark” (Pope, 59). Ariel is looking inside her thoughts and sees the Baron has captivated her. Because of this “shock,” he stops fighting for her (Pope, 59). I’m honestly not sure if Ariel gave up because he was upset with this new finding or if it was more along the lines of if you want him, here is your kind of attitude. The turn of events in the poem are the reason he left her.