Apr 5, 2011

Beautiful Tyrant

Epistle to a Lady of the Characters of Women is a moral essay written by Alexander Pope to the Lady Martha Blount between the years 1732-4 and was published in 1735. In this essay, Pope uses the Heroic Meter of rhymed iambic pentameter consisting of a variety of Heroic Couplets, which he was famous for mastering. He is replying to a conversation he had with Martha about the characters of women in particular to her remark, “Most women have no characters at all” (line 2).

In his witty reply, Pope artfully weaves a pen portrait of the entire female gender. The passage I cover in this close reading begins at line 207 and ends with line 230. It is here the reader finds the core of Pope’s satire by artfully arguing the ruling passions of a woman’s heart. He uses a pen portrait of the characters of women to communicate with his life-long female friend, Martha who, in Pope’s eyes, is the opposite of the stereotypical woman. Not only was she a prominent figure in fashionable society, she was also closely connected to Pope’s family. The two were so close, in fact, after the Blount family went bankrupt, Pope supported both Martha and her sister financially. Even in death, Pope provided for Martha securing her place in fashionable society. I do not believe he created this poem purely as misogyny toward women, as some critics would claim, but to flatter a young Martha. The final lines of the poem embrace Pope’s affection for the Lady as he claims that “God” gave her “Beauty. . .. Sense, Good-humour,” and HIM (lines 287-91)!
To read this analysis click Beautiful Tyrant.

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