Monday, May 5, 2014

The Rape of the Lock (Ukradnutá Hudrlinka)

The Rape of the Lock, by Alexander Pope

v     This poem, written in 1712, is a mock epic, meaning an epic satire. The entire poem makes fun of a young man and woman who fought at a fancy party.

v     Don't worry, this poem has nothing to do with rape.

v     Here’s the situation. Two wealthy families wanted their children to fall in love and get married. The man was Lord Petre, and the woman was Arabella Fermor.

The real Arabella Fermor

    Unfortunately, the man was a bit of an idiot, and he decided to cut a piece (a lock) of Arabella’s hair – he wanted to keep it, as a trophy. It sounds strange today, but this used to be common, although you’re supposed to ask for it. Lord Petre snuck up behind her and took it. Arabella got upset and demanded the hair back. It was a big scandal, ruining the marriage plans. Alexander Pope was asked to write a poem to show the funny side of the situation, and to calm everyone down so they could make peace. He called it The Rape of the Lock as a way to exaggerate the situation.

v     It didn’t work. Arabella eventually married someone else – Francis Perkins. She never forgave Lord Petre, but she did forgive Pope.

v     The poem is written like an actual Greek epic, divided into five sections, called cantos.

v     The reason was to exaggerate the importance of the situation – a bit like Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing (Veľa kriku pre nič). The entire poem is much ado about nothing, and is very sarcastic (it’s like an 18th century Triumph, the insult comic dog:

v     In the poem, Pope changed the names of the couple. Arabella was called Belinda, and Lord Petre was called The Baron.

v     The Poem starts with Belinda getting dressed to go to a fancy party.

v     Meanwhile the young Baron is already so in love with Belinda that he’s made a little altar to her in his room. At this altar, he burns all the trophies he’s ever gotten from other girls – a love letter, a glove, and three garters (podväzok).

a garter

v     Belinda arrives at the party by boat on the River Thames. She meets the Baron and they play a game of cards. She wins.

v     The whole time, Belinda is protected by little spirits called sylphs, that act like guardian angels, keeping her hair nice, her ribbons in order, etc.

v     A false friend named Clarissa gives the Baron a pair of scissors to cut her hair. He tries to do so, but is unable – the little sylphs keep blowing on her hair back and forth.

v     Eventually, the sylphs give up because, and this was probably most insulting to Arabella, they all realized that she liked the Baron, so she should go ahead and accept him. When the Baron finally cut her hair, he also cut a sylph in two, but didn’t kill it because they’re made out of air (and invisible).

v     Belinda got very angry. Clarissa, her false friend, told her it’s not a big deal, and she shouldn't be so vain. Meanwhile, her true friend Thalestris convinced her to go fight the Baron. So, Belinda grabbed him, held a needle to his throat and demanded her hair back.

v     But, by this time the Baron had lost it, and it had somehow risen up to the sky where it became a bright and shining star, to light the night sky forever as proof of her eternal beauty – can you see the sarcasm? And you can also understand why this poem didn’t work, although it did make many people laugh who read it.

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