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A Commentary La Belle Dame Sans Merci By John Keats.

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A Commentary La Belle Dame Sans Merci By John Keats John Keats' poem, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, presents a knight on his horse who meets a fairy lady but develops this clich� scenario into an exploration of the relationship between, the presumed male superiority and female innocence. It is a ballad that evokes medieval times. However, if one is expecting a stereotypical glorification of these, Keats rather has an interestingly critical approach to the archetypes of medieval romance and romantic medievalism. The identity of the titular female character is kept a mystery. We only know about her through the male's interpretation of her. An essential point in this poem since it leads to the implicit meaning by the author. La Belle Sans Merci is a perfect example of how well-worn aspects as love such as sexual desire and unknown identity can be used to present a striking theme in a simple manner. These aspects are combined in a medieval set. The medieval setting is reinforced for the reader through the poem's form. It is a ballad, which is full of fittingly old-fashioned diction and syntax. ...read more.


Nevertheless, no doubt is left when one examines the diction that the knight has a distinct sexual desire for her: "She look'd at me as she did love, And made sweet moan." (L.19-20) The knight interprets her "sweet moan" as sexual and romantic interest even though he has no reason whatsoever to believe that the fairy is essentially interested: "And sure in language strange she said - "I love thee true!" " (L. 27-28) It is rather his own presumption that makes him imagine this. Thus a still more surreal dream scenario arises within an already surreal world of fairies etc. This way of thinking leads the knight into a form of blind obsession. It is this ecstasy that leads him to his misery. From stanza five where he makes a garland and bracelets for the fairy until stanza eight where she takes him to her "elfin grot", he presents himself is in charge of virtually everything. "I set her on my pacing steed," (L. 21) "She found me roots of relish sweet" (L. 25) These are clear examples that indicate that either the knight acts upon the fairy or the fairy acts for him in keeping with conservative sexual roles. ...read more.


Instead he is utterly unmanned by the extremely sexy feminine fantasy character, whose identity remains a mystery throughout the poem, while his psyche is bared. The mysterious identity of the fairy and the ambiguity as to whether she did anything at all to the knight other than leave him is central to Keats' message. If we knew more about her, it would no longer be a mystery to the reader whether she did entrance him or whether he has just fantasized all those "Pale warriors, Death pale were they all; They cried - "La Belle dame sans Merci, Hath thee in thrall!"". Assuming the fairy was human, she could most probably speak and not only make "sweet moan". Just one statement from the fairy could lead to a clarification of the real causes of knight's apparently miserable situation and that would kill the point of the poem. In conclusion, Keats succeeds in revitalizing the medieval ballad form and romance themes by inverting their clich�s. He thereby succeeds to a high degree in questioning male assumptions of sexual dominance and the reader is left with a lot to think about after reading the poem. Emil Sierczynski Page 1 08/05/2007 ...read more.

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