Thursday, 25 April 2013

'The Rape of the Lock' as a Representative Poem of the Age


The age in which Pope flourished is called the Augustan or Classical age, as well as the age of Pope, because he becomes the chief poet and man of letters.

Frivolous Ladies Of London

Belinda represents the typical fashionable ladies of the time. What is her life, and how does she spend her day? There is not the slightest glimpse of seriousness or sincerity, goodness or grandeur of human life in any of her words and actions. Belinda is a beautiful lady; she has a host of admirers; she is a flirt and a coquette.

Favours to none, to all she smiles extends.
Oft she rejects, but never she offends.

But despite all their flirtations and the disdain they showed for their lovers, these ladies of the court did secretly pine for love as Ariel, the guardian sylph, discovered about Belinda:

An earthly lover lurking at her heart.

          They secretly harboured ambition to get married to lords and dukes, or men holding some high titles. And dreaming of their rich prospects women like Belinda sleep late and are used to rising late from their beds.

Now lap dogs give themselves the rousing shake,
And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake.

          When Belinda awakes, she is engaged immediately with her toilet which takes up a large part of her time. The beauty of Belinda and the elaborate details of her toilet are all set forth with matchless grace, but behind all this fascinating description, there is a pervading sense of vanity and emptiness.

Their hearts are toy-shops
They reverse the relative importance of things
The little with them is great and the great little.

Places Of London

                  In Canto III, Pope gives a detailed description of the scene where Belinda’s beautiful lock of hair is to be raped. There is Hampton Court, the palace of the English Queen beautifully situated on the banks of the river Thames, where

Britain’s statesmen oft the fall foredoom,
Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home.

          The poet in a very subtle manner satirizes the activities of the palace. The Queen’s consultations with her ministers and her taking tea with the luminaries of her regime are equated. The serious and the frivolous have been mentioned in one breath, as if taking counsel is as routine and frivolous a matter as taking tea. The intrigues of the court are also laid bare.

Hollowness Of The Gentlemen Of The Day

            Not ladies only, but the gentlemen of the smart set are equally frivolous. Lord Petre and his fellows are the representatives of the fashionable society of the time. They are all idle, empty minded folk, and seem to have nothing else to do but making love to or flirting with ladies. The battle between the ladies and gentlemen shows emptiness and futility of their lives. They visit clubs and coffee-houses, and there they indulge in empty scandalous talks. ‘At every word a reputation dies’.
          Pope describes the card-game in detail, because card-games seemed to occupy an important place in the daily activities of fashionable ladies and gentlemen of the period. Sir plume is another fashionable gentleman, exceeding all others in his vanity and utter emptiness. When he is requested by his lady love Thalestris to persuade Lord Petre to surrender the precious hairs of Belinda, he utters words which are unsurpassed in their emptiness.

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