Christable by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Written by Samuel Coleridge in 1797, the union of Christabel and Geraldine, two women, was something uncommon to write about in the eighteenth century. By applying a gothic setting in his poem “Christabel”, it allowed Coleridge to explore the darker themes of sensuality, producing a distancing device to render the power of sexual and sinful actions. Christabel is also a reflection of Coleridge as he tried to seek a companionship and a relationship with someone who would give him a purpose in his writing. Coleridge’s Christabel revises the notion of the masculinized sublime. Christabel can be seen as the male partner in the ensuing relationship that develops, whereas Geraldine takes on the traditional female role. In this poem, he constructs a heroine that is both feminine in character and appearance and productive of the sublime as much as the beautiful, challenging the gendered aesthetic dichotomy that other 18th century writers put forth: “And Christabel with might and main 130 Lifted her up, a weary weight, Over the threshold of the gate: Then the lady rose again, And moved, as she were not in pain” (lines 130-134) She even goes as far as carrying Geraldine over the threshold of her home, resembling a bride and bridegroom on their wedding night. The evidence for the prospering lesbian relationship that develops in the story can be seen by the actions of the two main characters and the roles that they assume. Geraldine is calculated to induce terror. Although she is beautiful, there is also something distinctly threating about her character as construed throughout the poem. Coleridge frames her as a threating figure. When Christabel looks at her, after observing her beauty, she finds that “’twas frightful there... ... middle of paper ... ...haps Coleridge couldn’t have distanced himself from that topic much further than by dressing it up as a horror story, taking place between two beautiful women in an appropriately gothic setting. Supernatural powers are certainly involved, but there is no way to know their full extent. It is this element of the unknown that makes “Christabel,” and Gothic literature in general, so horrifying. Christabel delicately balanced on the cusp of adulthood, trying to understand her position in society. Samuel Coleridge dramatized the problem of sexual maturation by focusing on Christabel, threatened by her own sexuality. Geraldine, the projection of those impulses, is the woman she yearns and fears to become. Like Christabel and Geraldine, Wordsworth and Coleridge's momentous friendship and its pitiful conclusion has always had the dramatic intensity of a love story.

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