Rape of the Lock
Lecture around November 3, 2011
- Battle of Wits (5:35)
- Game of Cards (3:19-104)
- Journey to the Underworld (4:11-88)
- Arming Scene in Sir Gawain: 2:566-8
- Sylphs (air)
- Gnomes (earth)
- Salamander (fire)
- Nymphs (water)
- p.91 is part of the exposition that comes from one of the Slyphs.
- l.99: “with varying vanities from every part they shift the moving toy shop of their
heart...oh blind to truth the Sylphs contrive it all”
- sense that the Sylphs handle parts of the body to keep this world of glamour going.
- Pope is depicting a horribly enclosed narcissistic world. Motion without purpose, people
fight with each other over the size of the decorations on their swords.
- These people exist in an aimless social realm, no goal that they are aiming for. Like
Gabriel circling round and round the horse and going to the same party over and over
- There is a purposelessness, lack of important things to do, trivializing mentality. There
must be serious moral problems here, one of which is the vanity of Belinda.
- Belinda and her friends put too much emphasis on material things and put an excessive
attention on personal appearance. Not surprisingly, the first important passage in the poem
concerns Belinda sitting at her vanity, making herself up.
- l.121: now unveiled the toilet stands...each vase in mystic order laid… first robed in white, the
nymph… adores with head uncovered the cosmetic powers” for Belinda that cosmic is the
cosmetic. She’s vesting cosmic importance in her makeup. “Pride” is capitalized. Pride and
vanity coexist frequently together.
- Vanity is what Belinda is worshipping.
- Direct equivalent of the world of Gossip Girl, especially Blair’s life.
- Last epic device: Supernatural World. Pope calls this the light militia of the lower air. In PL the
supernatural creatures are the fallen and unfallen angels. Here, they are just airy creatures that
Pope invented. They represent different aspects of the elements and refer to different aspects of
the female world. The most important is Ariel, Belinda’s “body” guard. Like Prospero to Miranda.
- When she wakes in the morning, he’s by her, attending to her.
- Without Belinda’s honor/chastity she would be a dubious item for marriage.
- Guardianship of her chastity/virginity.
- Pope likens Belinda’s petticoats to a fortress, which has 7 perimeter walls protecting the inner
sanctums. Her dress is to protect her virginity. - Epic conflicts. In classical epics there are huge battles and wars. Here the trivial wars that take
place are going to be likened to those things in order to be shown to be trivial.
- This battle is of words. Nothing damaging occurs except a damaging of ego.
- Game of cards. Over 80 lines of the poem is devoted to this game. This passage contains
underlying assumptions. l.75 in Canto 3: The Baron only shows half his face (does everything in
halves). A “refulgent” Queen (the queen on the cards) is just used to make this poem seem
more epic than it is.
- Assumptions lie in the racial references in last few lines. Belief that Indian soldiers were