For Wednesday: Pope, “To a Lady” (pp.138-147)
Synopsis: Basically, this is a poem that responds to the comment made by a “lady” of Pope’s acquaintance, who said “Most women have no characters at all” (line 2). He is responding to her comment in a poem which examines many different types of women, each one identified by a mythological character that is an allegory for her demeanor (saintly, gossipy, selfish, witty, etc.). This also relates to painting, since many noblewomen were painted in mythological clothing and poses—this woman as Diana, this one as Helen, etc. Pages 138 through 144 satirize each type of woman, showing her faults and shortcomings much as she did with Belinda in The Rape of the Lock. On page 144, however, the poem shifts: he now explains how a woman should be “painted” in life, meaning, how she should act and present herself. Yet women are tricky creatures, who are much given to variety and contradiction, he claims. So he discusses the ideal woman—the “Lady” he is writing to—who combines the best qualities of men and women.
Answer TWO of the following:
ONE of the character types Pope explores in the first
pages of the poem. How does he satirize her character? What is her chief flaw
in his eyes? Why should women avoid this type of woman?
Q2: On page 144, he writes that “artists! who can paint or write/To draw the naked is your true delight.” Pope is not recommending that artists draw women without clothing, so what does he mean here? How should artists paint women “naked” instead of painting them in one of the various character types?
Q3: Pope also claims that “A woman’s seen in private life alone...Bred to disguise, in public ‘tis you hide” (144). What does seeing a woman in private show us that seeing her in public disguises? How does this highlight the chief vice of women, a vice that relates to Belinda and The Rape of the Lock?
Q4: On page 146, Pope offers advice for the ideal woman, who “ne’er answers till a husband cools,/Or, if she rules him, never shows she rules.” Is this advice contrary to what a Wife of Bath would say, or is it the same advice, translated into the 18th century? Is he admonishing women to be quiet and submissive, or is he teaching them how to have more discreet and intelligent command?