Gothic Elements In Coleridges Christabel English Literature Essay

September 30, 2017 English Literature

During the epoch in which Romantic literature thrived, society was conflicted by the age of ground. England in peculiar was plagued with economical and social prostration. As a consequence, many authors attempted to get away their problems by composing about antic, supernatural, and unaccountable narratives.Though Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a Romantic author, he participated in the Gothic genre. His verse form “ Christabel ” is a premier illustration of his supernatural work. It contains quintessential Gothic features, such as dark scenery, demoiselles in hurt, and a intimation of the supernatural. These Gothic elements make “ Christabel ” a Gothic verse form hidden beneath a Romantic mask.

In order to nail the Gothic features of “ Christabel, ” it is critical to understand what Gothic literature is. Gothic scenes normally include dark and bare countries, such as obsessed palaces, unknown parts, and the deferrals of the human head. These scenes are frequently accompanied by baleful sounds, such as whining animate beings, clicking noises, and other specific sound effects. “ Christabel ” uses many of these tactics. Scenes take topographic point in darkened countries, while readers imagine the sounds of whining bird of Minerva, ululating Canis familiariss, and clicking redstem storksbills.

Gothic secret plans by and large entail robbed artlessness for the intent of money, lecherousness, or power.These secret plans are often expanded upon by manner of dreams.This is common in Gothic fiction, as the subconscious frequently knows more than the witting. Dreams are effectual in traveling action frontward because their significances depend on their reading. In the instance of “ Christabel, ” Saith Bracy ‘s ( the bard ) dream could hold ended Geraldine ‘s clasp over Christabel, had Sir Leoline interpreted it decently. Since he did non, the dream serves no intent other than to rise the tenseness and do Christabel look more powerless.

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Many Gothic scoundrels have a piercing oculus that holds people under its enchantment.Gothic scoundrels are besides normally unexplained. Though it may be obvious that supernatural elements are at work, readers can non specify the exact immorality. This is surely the instance for Geraldine. Coleridge implies that she may be a enchantress, or possibly a lamia. Enchantresss are known for projecting enchantments and commanding other people. Vampires normally require invitations before come ining a private topographic point, and they normally have the ability to keep people under their bondage. All of these features apply to Geraldine, so it is impossible to cognize who or what she is.

The Gothic nature of “ Christabel ” is apparent throughout the verse form. Gothic undertones are foremost noted as the verse form begins with, “ Tis the center of dark by the palace clock, / And the bird of Minervas have awakened the gloating prick ” ( portion 1, 1-2 ) . These lines prepare the reader for the negative things that are to come. The baleful tone of the verse form continues while Coleridge writes of dark clouds, a full Moon, and chilly air. The negative intension of these descriptions makes the reader feel uneasy. The feeling of apprehension additions while Coleridge describes Christabel ‘s reaction to the noise she heard. He writes, “ Hush, crushing bosom of Christabel! / Jesu, Maria, shield her well! ” ( 54-53 ) . At this point, the reader expects the worst. Thus it is surprising to see that the panic came from Geraldine, the “ demoiselle bright ” who was “ dressed in a satiny robe of white ” . The contrast of the darkness of the forests and the light artlessness of Geraldine makes the reader think she must be pure.

The patterned advance of the verse form indicates that Geraldine is non what she foremost appeared to be. Though she gives away light, she is the dark component for whom the reader waited in the forests. Her words are contradictory, and she acts as a demoiselle in hurt to dissemble who she truly is. Geraldine is foremost introduced as a victim who was kidnapped by five work forces. Once Christabel offers her aid, Geraldine acts queerly. When they get to the gate, Geraldine “ sank, belike through hurting ” . Christabel physically drags her over the threshold. Upon first reading the verse form, Geraldine ‘s inability to come in on her ain may look inexperienced person. She has already informed the reader that she is tired, so it may non be noticeable that her weariness merely sets in at convenient minutes. As the verse form progresses, it becomes obvious that evil requires the aid of artlessness to derive entry into any country, including the human head.

When the two ladies get to Christabel ‘s room, Geraldine learns that Christabel ‘s female parent is dead. Geraldine first agrees that she wishes Christabel ‘s female parent was at that place. However, her sentiment quickly alterations. Geraldine says:

‘Off, rolling female parent! Extremum

and pine!

I have the power to offer thee flee. ‘

Alas what ails hapless Geraldine?

Why stares she with unsettled oculus?

Can she the bodiless dead espy?

And why with hollow voice calls she,

‘Off, adult female, away! This hr is mine –

Though thou her guardian spirit be,

Off, adult female, away! ‘T is given to me ‘ . ( 205-213 )

Once Geraldine rids the room of the female parent ‘s spirit, she is free to take over Christabel ; so long as Christabel allows it. Geraldine ‘s inability to originate immorality is evident once more when she warns Christabel of the effects of her actions. Geraldine warns, “ ‘In the touch of this bosom at that place worketh a enchantment, / Which is Godhead of thy vocalization, Christabel! “ ( 267-268 ) .Unaware of the truth in Geraldine ‘s words, Christabel heeds her warning. As a consequence, she is unable to warn her male parent of Geraldine ‘s immorality. Alternatively, she must sit by and watch the evil Geraldine win over her male parent. By the clip Christabel interruptions free of her enchantment, it is excessively late. Her male parent is already smitten by Geraldine, and he chooses her in favour of his lone girl.

The events of “ Christabel ” are tragic and chilling, but they are even more atrocious because Coleridge does non explicate them. There is no manner to find if Geraldine is an evil being, or if she is merely influenced by an evil being. As Coleridge ne’er finished his verse form, there is no manner to be certain. Supernatural powers are surely involved, but there is no manner to cognize their full extent. It is this component of the unknown that makes “ Christabel, ” and Gothic literature in general, so dismaying.


1. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, The Major writers, Sixth Edition.

2. English Romantic Poets, Edited by M.H. Abrams.

3. Dictionary of Literary Footings and Literary Theory, J.A. Cuddon.

4. The Short Oxford History of English Literature, Andrew Sanders, Second Edition.

5. The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Edited by Margaret Drabble, Revised.

6. A Glossary of Literary Footings, M.H. Abrams, Eighth Edition.

7. Romantic Hagiographas, Edited by Stephen Bygrave.


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