Rape of the lock by Alexander Pope
The Rape of the lock is not only an exquisitely ingenious example of a perfect satire, it is an exceptionally beautiful candidate contesting man’s greatest achievements in intellectual capacity, for the kind of grace that is an immortal goal in every man. Rape of the lock is an uncommon satire based on a true incident in the life of Arabella Fermor and Lord Petre, where Lord Petre at a ball was so enraptured by Miss Fermor that he proceeded to snip away a lock of her hair. This very incident triggered rigorous rivalries between the two respectively distinguished families, which we are made to know, were on otherwise better and more convivial terms. Pope, imbued and kindled by both Muse and imagination, went ahead to concoct a tale that elaborated the vanity and the ludicrousness of undertaking such a needless enterprise of a breach for an unworthy and ineffably trifling reason. It is believed that Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope, was instrumental in redeeming the lost cordiality and amity amongst them and pronouncing the hatchet buried. In the following snippets, I’ll alight upon what I consider the cardinal cantos of the poem. So, they follow -
Before summarizing the third canto, it is essential to remember that Pope consistently burlesques Homer’s and Virgil’s prowess in the epical fashion, establishing the most fundamental and draconic of principles of allowing some semblance to the genre of producing a mock-epic. The third and fourth cantos, with the one exception of the Homeric battle in the fifth canto, stockpile almost all key instances of parodied or satirized scraps of the majestic epic approach. Even in a segregate essay by Pope himself, he pokes cool, unlabored fun at the epic motif and infers that the epical style of writing is choked with invariable conventional loopholes that can only very lamely qualify as stipulations of style or a freak of an ideology.
Now, the summarizing of Pope’s mock epic may concern a very abstract approach, as is commonplace to paraphrasing poetry. Written for the eighteenth century layman, on the whole the satire can be intriguingly assumed to mark the hypocrisy of the aristocratic class, and if such an advent is welcomed, then the third canto is the vastest episode of such a stabbing enterprise. By debunking the vanity involved behind the walls of the private chambers of Hampton Court, Pope concentrates on envisioning a supercilious and hypocritical stubbornness of a superfluous class that overtly toils to embellish their miens or general natures with unusual airs as those of snuff-boxes and card-games. Much space has been rendered to the neat portrayal of the card-game, Ombre, which has been confidently imitated from the ‘Scacchia of Vida’, and by such an example in a castigating satire, perhaps Pope aims to chastise the vain, grotesque and much refutable elitist temperaments and unworthy sophisticated dispositions of a haughty and lofty class of aristocracy. It is during the card game that Belinda encounters with the Baron and defeats him at the game.
Proceedings head so that the Baron, so stimulated by Belinda’s unerring, beguiling charms that he readies himself to snip away a lock of her hair. Though reasons have not been fashioned, but Clarissa is the one who lends the scissors to the baron to commence the nefarious deed. Throughout these junctures, it is perhaps the sylphs (Pop borrowed the idea of the invisible beings from a little French book entitled, Le Comte de Gabalis) that are not only great sources of amusement but provide some categorical intensity and swashbuckling nervy gung-ho zest to the scene – ‘Swift to the lock a thousand sprites repair’. A few sylphs tug at Belinda’s earring about thrice, making her turn just a tad, not enough to spot the Baron with the ‘engine’. Some sylphs humorously, drolly but still unsuccessfully attempt at blowing at the endangered lock to make it shift, budge.
Ariel, Belinda’s personal sylph, tries to conduct all other sylphs but then discovers that since Belinda holds some delicate but hidden feelings for the baron, he too retreats obediently. The deed is done. The Baron snips away a lock of Belinda’s hair with the spread ‘fatal Forfex’. The immediate denouement explains how a sylph ventures between the blades of the scissors to arrest the process but is divided in two, which line is an admirable parody on Milton’s idea of a wounded Satan – ‘The girding sword, with discontinuous wound, passed thro him; but the ethereal substance closed, Not long divisible’. At the end of the canto, Pope lends a comic panegyric to the invention that is steel and how more than once it has confirmed the doom of man. On the whole, it is just to point out that this canto might solely be the most pregnant of the five, for it holds all real and effectual action of the satire.
Omens have been general and generally conventional to a poet’s technique to imply or suggest or presage some oncoming adversity. Virgil did it to develop upon the death of Dido. The rape of Belinda’s lock too is preceded with alarming, droll and comic prodigies, which can be discovered in the first canto.
Canto 4 discusses the sphere of the domesticated supernatural, i.e., the sylphs, in detail and with more creative ingenuity as Pope deliberates on the ‘gloomy cave of Spleen’.
The affairs as their turn have them are sublimated from, and the scene shifts to the cave of spleen as a gnome or ‘a dusky melancholy Spright’, Umbriel, careers down or repairs to the Central earth, to the cave of spleen. Spleen, though imagined in the text as a deity, is actually the personification of a melancholic disorder prevalent in ladies of the upper social strata due to intense torpor, languor and indolence. There are vicious images governing the cave dovetailed with the enthroned, detached, ‘wayward queen’, to whom the gnome entreats to ‘touch Belinda with Chagrin’. The gnome returns with a bag of the queen’s replete munificence and finds Belinda in Thalestris’s arms. Thalestris, another character virginal to the poem as of yet, was the implied queen of the Amazons. It is suggested that Umbriel issues all the vile contents of the bag over them both, and then commences a menagerie, a pell-mell of swift comic action that would broadcast itself majestically in the fifth canto. Thalestris brandishes a violent, pugnacious speech under the supernatural influence and reprimands Belinda for her flimsy, helpless attitude. Then, we’re introduced to Sir Plume, who speaks naught but uncivil claptrap, twaddle and nonsense. Sir George Brown, the man after whom the character was framed, took great offense and couldn’t bear that Sir Plume would spew nothing but nonsense and gibberish.
Then the baron comes forth and reinforces his claim to the lock, and destines it as his forever. Umbriel, depraved gnome, sets himself to action once again as he breaks the vial of Sorrows and then the miserable, doleful nymph, Belinda, steals the cynosure. She curses the day, curses Hampton-court, and curses her need for vanity t
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