Tennyson's Fallen Women: The Dynamic of the Mad, the Depraved and the Unfaithful

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Tennyson's Fallen Women: The Dynamic of the Mad, the Depraved and the Unfaithful
Hill, Rebecca
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Subjects / Keywords:
Adultery ( jstor )
Chivalry ( jstor )
Hair ( jstor )
Love ( jstor )
Men ( jstor )
Morality ( jstor )
Pastoral poetry ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Victorians ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Idylls of the King (Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, Baron)
Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, Baron, 1809-1892
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


In "King Arthur’s Laureate," John Phillip Eggers states that for Tennyson, “woman symbolizes all that civilization means, but paradoxically the ideal civilization fails because of a woman” (145). When Tennyson set out to write "Idylls of the King," he inadvertently created something that not only exemplified one of the most complex romance stories in English literature, but he also called the woman’s motives behind the story into question. Through the women in the Idylls, Tennyson revises his medieval sources to make adultery the central unifying element. This is especially true when it comes to the first three published sections of the "Idylls," “Merlin and Vivian,” “Lancelot and Elaine” and finally, “Guinevere.” While many current studies point to a distinct trend blaming these women for the problems in the Idylls, in actuality, the fall of the kingdom within the poem was not related to Guinevere’s adultery, as Tennyson would like the reader to believe. In actuality, Tennyson’s Camelot was empty and unable to independently sustain itself from the start, and this added to the many misguided and selfish decisions mainly made by King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, led directly to its collapse. ( en )
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Awarded Bachelor of Arts; Graduated May 3, 2011 summa cum laude. Major: English
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College/School: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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Advisor: Pamela Gilbert

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Rebecca Hill. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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The Dynamic of the Mad, the Depraved and the Unfaithful Rebecca Hill English University of Florida 2011 A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements to graduate with highest honors in English from the University of Florida. Approved by: ______________________ ______________ Primary Reader/Adviser: Prof essor Pamela Gilbert Approved by: ______________________ ______________ Secondary Read er/Adviser: Professor Judith Page


Hill 1 Copyright Rebecca M. Hill 2011


Hill 2 Acknowledgements I would first like to thank Dr. Pamela Gilbert, who served as the primary reader and adviser of this thesis. Working with her has been a pleasure and a privilege. The wealth of advice and encouragement I received from her while shaping this thesis contri buted greatly to its formulation and I am tremendously grateful for this. I would also like to thank Dr. Judith Page, the secondary reader and adviser of this thesis, who gladly came on board in the middle of the final semester I was working on this proje ct. You are both helping me to accomplish something that I have wanted to do since my first year as an English major. Thank you. I would also like to extend my thoughts to Dr. James Paxson. Despite the fact that he is no longer here, his teaching and k nowledge of literature helped plant the seed that sprouted into this project. Foundations are incredibly important when it comes to thesis of this sort, and through Dr. Paxson I found a firm foundation upon which to base my research and my work as an Engl ish major. I only hope that I can become the exceptional scholar he believed every one of his students had the potential to be. I would also like to thank my fellow English majors and friends for their encouragement, thoughtful comments, and humor on thos e late nights I spent working on this project, especially Mead Bowen, Marilu Franco, Liz Escariz, Emmanuel Ercole and Melissa Klatzkow. Also, a big thank you goes out to Ivy Mead, who is, and remains one of the best friends I have ever had. Thank you for the warm thoughts and your fabulous knitted socks from hundreds of miles away! Finally I would like to thank my family, primarily my mother and my father, who encouraged me to write from the moment I decided to pick up a pen. I would also like to thank my sister, my uncles and my aunts for serving as the audience for my early stories and essays. Even though some of you are no longer here, your encouragement and love continues to mould who I am to this day.


Hill 3 Introduction In his book Laureate J ohn Phillip Eggers states that for Tennyson, doxically the ideal civilization fa ils 145). When Tennyson set out to write the Idylls of the King he inadvertently created something that not only exemplified one of the most complex romance stories in English literature, but he also called the woma to question. Through the women in the Idylls Tennyso n revises his medieval sources to make adultery the central unifying element. This is especially true when it comes to the first three published sections of the Idylls and finally, the pure and innocent virgin, Vivian the false harlot and Guinevere the adulterous wife All three women defy traditional authority in ways not found in Tenn inciple sources. sweet maid en who dies from lack of love. Instead, her sexual willfulness turns into monomania; she chooses death and controls her family through this unfortunate avenue. By seizing powerful knowledge that had previously belonged only to males, Vivien defies the name of harlot and becomes something much more dynamic. Current critic s readings of Guinevere tend to focus complexities of the Idylls to bipolar contrasts. And while many current studies point to a d is tinct trend blaming these women for the problems in t he Idylls in actuality, the fall of the kingdom within the poem was not related to as Tennyson would like the reader to


Hill 4 from the start, and this added to the many mis guided and selfish decisions mainly made by Arthur and Lancelot led directly to its collapse inspired many male writers, Tennyson complete of the works produced in the early late nineteenth century. Idylls of the King is made up of twelve different idylls, five of these idylls focus primarily upon the women within the epic. (form er in context with the conce pt of chivalric love between men. Throughout the nineteenth century, a rather interesting form of chivalry existed that in ng the 1820s and 1830s and encouraged by the Romantic movement (Girouard 216 217). However, later on in the nineteenth think more and more in terms of c and dons or masters, could be seen in terms of knights and squires or alternatively of young knight exaltation of women in mediaeval chivalry was essentially bound up with the nee d to procreate; (Girouard 217 218). The conception behind New Chivalry has been explored by prominent


Hill 5 scholars such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Richard Dellamora, in many different ways. However, there has yet to be a study directly linking the concept of New Chivalry to the downfall of Camelot in Idylls of the King The goal of this paper will be to explore the downfall of Camelot, showing that not onl y did the concept of chivalry in the nineteenth century serve as a retarding effect upon women, it was also gave men the license to use women as scapegoats for the effects of their own personal means and desire. Arthurian women. Tennyson depicts Vivien as a woman who uses her wits and her unbridl ed sexuality to defeat the wisest man in the kingdom, thereby embodying two mid Victorian threats: imary source (Malory) in order poet changes Vivien from the perused to the pursuer, adds imagery that directly links her both to the pas t a nd to mid Victorian England, inventing the background of magic spell so that Vivien seizes what had heretofore been used for the male domination of women. Above all, Vivien is a calculating, self controlled woman who observes closely, plans care fully and achieves greatly. The story of Vivien changed greatly after its init ial publication in 1859. Now titled and spying. Vivien goes from a woman who uses her sexual wiles to bring herself knowledge and empowerment to a woman who is the vengeance seeking product of her circumstances and upbringing. She is


Hill 6 gifted with a certain level of passion, like Elaine and Guinevere. However, the root of this and her passion merely has the side effect of calamity upon men. Many critics make the mistake of simplifying this char acter as only representing the errors of lust in the Idylls Gerard Joseph, Tennysonian Love 169). In a and good wife figures in the sexual scenario. They are complemented by Elaine and Guinevere as pure virgin and remorseful adulteress. The world of the Idylls is highly schematic and the four is neither a trivial nor a simply allegorical figure of nineteenth century female characteristics. She is a shrewd observer of hum an behavior who makes her plans carefully. After she achieves what she wants, she disappears, a newly empowered and knowing female of mythical proportion. from the standard nineteenth century depiction of the fallen woman either as greatly reformed or merely powerless in the face of her fa te. Vivien is neither of these; she successfully gains the power that she wants and experiences no regrets Always lurking in dark corners spying upon Guinevere and Lancelot, trying to beguile Gawain, and associated with snake imagery, Vivien is definitely a change from the characte rs of Elaine and Guinevere. However, this imagery associated with Vivien calls to mind not only the fallen Eve, but also the deadly Lamia and the fearsome Medusa. With image of the gold snake that on of Merlin scene, Tennyson


Hill 7 simultaneously suggest the fallen Eve, Mary Magdalene and Medusa. Free flowing hair in mid Victorian literature frequently denotes loosened self control over sexual impulses in the nineteenth century and has a direct connectio 100). The correlation between the image of Vivien as an evil conniving harlot and a viper is further emphasized by Tennyson in the following pa ssage describing her actions and appearance: She played about with slight and sprightly talk; And vivid smiles, and faintly Of slander, glancing here and gazing there; And yielding to his kindlier moods, the Seer 173). with a poisonous snake and underscoring the deadly potential of slander. The suggestion of poisonous slander adds a new dimension to the explicit association between Vivien and a snake. Tennyson also adds further descriptions of Vivien as a snake that is closely linked to her loosened hair: she hung her head, The snake of gold slid from her hair, the braid And the dark wood frew darker toward the storm 889).


Hill 8 The snake of gold and the suggestiv sexuality produce the coming st The image of Vivien as a powerful mythological figure had a distinct effect upon Victorian painters such as Edward Burne where the artist gives Vivien the same headdress of snakes Victorian literature such as the Idylls point to a distinct fear regarding the deleteri ous or fatal effects that being in love with a powerful woman can have upon a man. Tennyson adds biblical allusions and imagery that tie her unmistakably to Mary Magdal ene. This allusion speaks to the Victorian stereotyping that divided women into the bipolar categories of virgin and harlot, Mary and Mary Magdalene. It was common for fallen women to be referred to as Magdalenes. Even shelters set up to help fallen wom en were called Magdalene Houses. The similarity between the names Mary and Mary Magdalene suggest that every virgin has the potential to become a whore once she has sexual knowledge, something that directly relates back to Elaine. This blurred dichotomy leads to the sort of fixated yet muddy thinking that made it acceptable for Arthur to compare Guinevere, formerly a noble lady, with a prostitute. By alluding Tennyson reinforces the loose nature of Vivie and she never repents. Mary Magdalene is usually portrayed with her hair hang ing to her knees, feet with her hair. In a / /


Hill 9 itself, s 887). Tennyson also writes Vivien into a rather sexually explicit passage which brings to mind the repentant prostitute, who gives Christ a cup of wate p, Except indeed to drink: no cup had we: And made a pretty cup of both my hands 274) bait used to beguile Merlin into giv ing her the knowledge she so desperately seeks. As the quest for the Grail distracts Arthur and his knights from the real core issues in the kingdom, so does At the end of Viv Idylls of the King and is never heard from again, disappearing into the wilds of the world. What she will do with the new power that she has wrested from male control and the cons equences the incident will have remains unanswered. Tennyson does suggest however, that Vivien will use her newly gained g assertiveness. Vivien is self


Hill 10 disciplined and without passion for anything except her carefully planned seduction of Merlin. She is frightening and dangerous because she combines two Victorian masculine ideals, will and self control, but uses them in t he service of her 162). 164). Her repeated attempts to lea rn the charm attest to a need to seize from Merlin the control that men had used for centuries to control women. man to another is finally broken, symbolizing yet another disruption to the firmly established male order in the Idylls Lust is not the motivator; it is ease of heart that Merlin actually craves, a need that Vivien 389). In her song a clear dichotomy between fait h and unfaith, and what is true and false Through her singing Vivien establishes the shape of the discourse to follow, namely her examples of court gossip. At first, Merlin disproves each of her slanders heartily and persuasively. However, when it c To fet ch her, and she took him for the King ; /


Hill 11 775). He does not deny the adultery committed by Lancelot and Guinevere, as e against the charge Then Merlin to his own heart, loathing, said: O selfless man and stainless gentleman, witness fain Have all men true and leal, all women pure; 792). Here, Merlin, like Vivien, accuses Arthur of seeing yet saying nothing, but contin ues to find Arthur blameless, so that he is now in the position of having to defend both Arthur and and that she has yields to yet another need: that of an old man hoping to feel young again. Vivien excites this need within Merlin and exploits it through physical affection: [She] c ight, The pale blood of the wizard at her touch 948).


Hill 12 n symbolizes the repeated assaults on grayer youth, / For one so o 927). The visually perfect image of an opal, warmed by human touch and emitting the palest sparks of fire contrasts with the sparkling clarity of the diamonds and blood e 926). because of her wily feminine ways, but through telling him the unsavory truth about court life, truth that he had already recognized but from which he had fled. Tennyson leaves the reader with a rather unsettling picture of a Merlin who has lost everything use, nam e, and fame his knowledge and its power. There is much both to admire and fear in this newly empowered woman. Vivien, unlike Guinevere and Elaine, has not Indeed, women such as Vivien, who ... [ and] clinically mad, by many Victorians, for whom female hysteria was one symptom of madness. Vivien is excused from suffering punishme nt like that of Guinevere and Elaine because in for realizing her sexuality, generating instead an incredibly vitality that, while ruinous (or castrating) to While Vivien may be excused from exhibiting her sexuality to such an extreme degree, she is definitely not characterized as human. To put it plainly, she is an element, a force of


Hill 13 destruction She is excused from any responsibility regarding her actions because she is not a part of the idealized order of the Table Round. While others are expected to harness their desires and maintain a certain level of moral chastity, she is like a natural d isaster, wrecking all that crosses her path. Vivien represents the purest form of feminine sexuality that Tennyson can conjure for his readers. After she seduces Merlin, she is written out of the Idylls, and noth ing more is said regarding the future of t his enigmatic character, leaving entirely upon her course of destruction and its results upon Merlin and Camelot. Only one character trumps Vivien in her role leading to the downfall of Camelot: Guinevere. Madness of Love Idylls to be issues of willfulness and will, passion and excess, especially as they reflect upon the perception of the Victorian woman. For many mid Victorians, excessive passion meant dangerous loss of was especially crucial. Exertion o willfulness could imply selfishness rather than the desirable trait of empathy for others in a woman. In fact, some nineteenth century theorists in the budding field of psychology believed that madnes s in a woman not only resulted from a loss of self control but also could be cured if sufficient self control were exerted. As Elaine Showalter notes in her book The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830 1980 men had similar symptoms of mental disorder, psychiatry differentiated between an English malady, associated with the intellectual and economic pressures on highly civilized men, and the female


Hill 14 malady associated with the sexuality and essential nature of w Traditionally, Elaine is ofte n read by critics as the idealized mid Victorian female, a woman both pure and passionate, a woman whose love literally faithful to death contrasts yson does something much mor e complicated and intricate in ful love is darkened by madness and her girlish willfulness begins manipulate and contr ol those around her. Reviews of this section of the Idylls were mixed. Some, such as the nineteenth century literary critic John Nicol, believed that Tennyson Vivien and Guinevere. Nicol wrote in the Octo Westminster Review times, or the manners of a formed society, but as a child of nature in an age which has been invested by the imagination with many of the feature of childhood, the lily maid is one of the sweetest of all ideal creatur unrequited love made up to follow Lancelot without the benefit of mar 932 (845 846 855). These subtle lines uct regarding men and women, but through her association with Eve, she also shows a certain likeness to Vivien as a seductress.


Hill 15 consequences that might ensue. As John Rose nburg notes, white as purity, red as passion this means that first glance a personification of Virgin Innocence; but her drea ms are insistently sexual both pure and passionate, sexual and innocent, embodying the same intense conjunction of contrary elements that draws her instantly and fat ally to Lancelot (24 25). Rosenburg also suggests that Tennyson uses the color red to link spiritual passion with sexual passion, pointing out that, obsession. Tennyson suggest s a possible connection between the two: the color red, which throughout the Idylls symbolizes sexuality, is also associated with the Grail itself, Galahad There is also a distinct correlation between purity and passion in the dep iction of the Holy Grail e organ: Down the long beam stole the Holy Gail, Rose red with beatings in it, as if alive Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed With rosy colors leaping on the wall And then the music faded and the Grail Pas 123).


Hill 16 the light beam as a penetrating male, the c viewer as female. The vision commences with music as of a silver horn and climaxes with the Lancelot her red sleeve as a favor in the diamond joust, symbolizing something much more intimate and delicate then a simple blot of cloth. Tenny son rarely strays from the blue print set down by Malory several hundred years earlier in his composition of Elain old Romance into nineteenth century England. It is true that the pearl embroidered red sleeve symbolizes the purity that overlays a nd e nhances the passionate and rich color of red But just as Tennyson makes Enid both the ideally obedient and yet dangero usly assertive wife, he gives the reader an Elaine whose seemingly admirable blend of puri ty and passion breaks the boundaries of so ciety Elaine represents ideal young woman and potentially ideal wife, but also the disastrous results of what was then characterized as willfulness and unmastered passion. Desirable exercise of self control crosses the bounda ry into willfulness; passion moves into the realm of excess which was categorized by many mid Victorians as a kind of madness. Elaine recognizes this danger within h erself as well and sees as the key descripti Victorian ideological tangle of will/willfulness and passion/excess. She is no longer the simply pathetic maiden who dies of misplaced and unrequited love. Tennyson is able to reta


Hill 17 yet another Victorian fear: that excessive passion co uld result in insanity. The fear of insanity was widespread; the fear of passion induced ins anity was particularly troublesome because Victorian society, proper exercise of the will, especially in the realm of self control was incredibly important first words about his daughter, Elaine, include the word er to free will or defiance but rather to a pleasurably innocent and childish tyranny over the male member of the household. The remark also bears the distinc t mark of loving banter that the powerful sometimes use to denigrate the powerless. And indeed, Elaine is powerless, both to her feelings for Lancelot and to the effects permission to find and nurse the wounded Lancelot: Is yours who let me have my will, and now, 747). In these three distinct lines, linked to the nuanced connections between will, willfulness and possible insanity. Elaine believes she is willful because her father has been too indulgent regarding her wishes, but she also sugges ts that unless he allows her to continue he r course, she will go mad. This interchange betw een Elaine and her father implies that father actually holds the power to let her go mad. Elaine recognizes her passion to be capable of driving her mad unless she takes caution to make sure that she is not the victim of unrequited love.


Hill 18 icate a misdirected use of will. From the opening lines of the idyll, Tennyson illustrates not only in and serve as a fantastic After using the most general of fixation: Lancelot. Ironically, the lily flower, usually a ssociated with the Virgin Mary, is gazing at a naked object that she can never actually obtain (13, 27). 259). Tennyson demonstrates this but as misdirected will. Thou gh it is impossible not to empathize with the heartbreak and death of a beautiful young girl, and a strong feeling that, read in the light of nineteenth cen tury psychological theory, Elaine makes poor choices that have devastating consequences. I n her life of fantasy and willed self destruction, Elaine withdraws herself from the world outside her obsessive attachment to Lancelot. In doing so, Tennyson sugges ts that Elaine is a romantically self involved figure and not an effective participant in the world. Her will has become willfulness; her passion, excess.


Hill 19 Lancel 245). But, however much love that Lancelot might bear for Arthur, or Arthur for Gu love is barren and leads nowhere. eternal co the y both bear a love for Lancelot that is passionate and powerful, but not enough to overcome the bond of brotherhood that bind s the Order of the Table Round together. Des pite her underlying willfulness, Elaine seems to represent the perfect vessel of worship for a knight. Guinevere, but the reason this love is unrequited is th d a remarkable change beings to occur. In their search for the Grail, the er, nor 611). However, this love is contrary to nature and nothing comes of it; it is barren. The fact that Sir Galahad is the only knight who is actually able to see the Grail, while all the other knights see noth ing, cites a grave inconsistency within poem. Only, Galahad in his chaste love can truly see the Grail, the Galahad who seems to be entirely lacking in any sort of desire for the opposite sex. Thus, this homosocial love that the brethren share is also fa


Hill 20 Table Round and the Holy Grail (Adams 16). Because, as long as men such as Lancelot and the other members of the Grail, and this allows for there to be a sort o Such Victorian communiti es were formed on the mutual bond of brotherhood that originated satisfying to young men looking for new forms of authority in a world of religious, political, and and willfulness, she is therefore deemed to be an unsuitable substitute for the brotherly bonds of the Round Table. In fact, her love results in death, just as passionlessness upon which h e founds Camelot and the Round Table (Showalter 176). Because of this trait, Elaine cannot be joined with Lancelot, as she shows the same potential to disrupt Camelot as Guinevere does. Because of the depth and complexity in her character, Queen Guinevere is considered to Maynadier 432) She is also the only one notes in Alfred Lord Tennyson


Hill 21 Victorians linked the health of the state directly with the moral stature of women. Shaw takes n ote of this in her 553), Arthur seems to speak of a n (Alfred Lord Tennyson, 122). Obviously, the societal expectations regarding both men and women of the day, the results show that and just as the Indian Mutiny of 1857, which was perceived in violent and raciest terms as a lence when epistemological uncertainties of an imperial nation located between the cultural dominants of Romanticism and Modernism, and the socio economic phase s of industrialism and 397). In other words, the 1859 version of the Idylls was (Sinfield 164). A great many people living under E Idylls of the King may have proved an acceptable substitute a comparable variation from what wa s considered to have been moral and just, she is shown as deliberately casting aside the cloak of moral health of both home and country. Such an empowered woman


Hill 22 could only be cited as a threat to traditional male authority. ter, Tennyson looks at a different sort of controlled passion, namely adultery, which mid Victorians greatly feared as a sign of contagious social disorder. Guinevere central to the downfall of Camelot. Tennyson also maintains a distinct love triangle between Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere, emphasizing the mid Victorian view that adultery was ral structure of the family and the nation. However, Tennyson seems to be uneasy about the blanket condemnation of adultery and instead depicts a much more complex situation. He instead chooses to individualize the act instead of judging Guinevere solely by law. In this way, the situation context. This might be seen as the difficulty in determining justice. But upon further underlying questions regarding sexuality and companionship between Lancelot and Arthur. one who is blamed for the downfall of an idealistic male based society. One might think that Guinevere and his remarkably liberal thinking. Instead the evidence sheds a much different light upon th e situation. Through Arthur, Tennyson is able to blame Guinevere for the breakdown of the entire kingdom. Arthur is readier to blame the female more than the male adulterer, as seen by his continued cordiality towards Lancelot and his ever present feelin gs of betrayal towards Guinevere: Yet I must leave thee, woman, to thy shame


Hill 23 I hold that man the worst of public foes To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife Whom he knows false, abide and rule the house She like a new disease, unknown to men Creeps, no precaution used, among the crowd, Makes wicked lightening of her eyes, and saps The fealty of our friends, and stirs the pulse 519). Thus Guinevere is reduced to a personifi cation, a deadly sexual disease which is spread by the cowardice of her husband. As seen by th e aforementioned lines, Arthur struggles to keep the indiscretion Arthur is able to maintain his dignity, as from adulteress to prostitute, as many mid Victorians believed that once a woma n had slipped from the path of virtue, they would inevitably become a fallen woman. As Amanda Anderson notes in her study Tainted Souls and Painted Faces oss class lines and signifies a complex linked to the act of will, b ut with a certain stipulation that disallowed women to transcend the


Hill 24 diseases, such as syphilis, which was believed to be an inevitable fate once a woman had taken no grey area when it comes to her indiscretion, she is instead seen as disease in the house of the righteous. And yet, Arthur is still moved to forgive Guinevere, first speaking in the rhetoric of a 542). Then his mood switches, and he again becomes u niversally human in his anguished realization that the lips he wants to kiss have never dream but that I love thee 556). However there is no passion in his speech, no real feeling. Arthur is mainly concerned with worshiping his wife, and now, much to his dismay, she has fallen from the pedestal. E lliot Gilbert note s in century feminine Guine femininity; it is his abstract view regarding those of the female sex. Indeed Arthur champions a worl d where women are worshiped, but they are also placed upon high as an ideal, not as human beings. He also encourages his knights to in turn treat their la dies in the same way: To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,


Hill 25 To love one maiden only, c leave to her, And worship her by years of noble deeds Unil they won her; for indeed I knew Of no more subtle master under heaven Then is the maiden passion for a maid (471 476). These ideals are all well and good, but they also point to a certain objectification which places objectify everything around them besides their fellow man, creating an order that is exclusive to men. This allows the men to not only have something to worship, but it also gives them a ged. These close bonds of friendship, deeply linked within the ideals of New Chivalry, served to mare in which he equates her destructive influence with the dynamic image of a light extinguishing solar eclipse: On some vast plain before a setting sun, And from the sun there swiftly made at her A ghastly something, and its shadow flew -When lo! Her own, that broadening from her feet Far cities burnt (75 82).


Hill 26 Because of her adultery, her passion, her humanity, Guinevere becomes the vessel of doom that will eventually extinguish the sun that is Arthur and his Order. And despite her own self removal to the nunnery of Almesbury, she still manages to taint the liv es of the knights. During the order: Red ruin, and breaking up of laws, The craft of kindred and the Godless hosts 425). Not only does he deliberately point to her barren state, but he also cites violence and destruction as the only products that she can possibly produce. and his knights will die shortly after the king departs from Guinevere at Almesbury. Deceptive as the circumstances may be, Guinevere is still positioned here as the instigator in the destruction of a manly order. There is a fear associated with Guinevere, as one might fear an apocalypse. Tennysonian critics such as Leonee Ormond suggest that Tennyson places the responsibility for the downfall of Camelot upon Guineve re. Ormond writes: was wife, 119). The judgment is confirmed speech to his fallen wife, a passage which Tennyson loved to read aloud (143). Other well relationship. In of the King John


Hill 27 fragmentation of the kingdom and to the temper of spiritual desperation that inspires the Grail nd view regarding Guinevere and again places most of with the ques rots from the outside in, and not the inside out. Because of the on going search for the Grail, the kingdom begins to spread itself in different directions instead of foc using upon the issues at its core Looking deeper into the poem, the order created by the Table Round and their Quest is yet another impossible standard. As the male community decides to venerate women and hold them to a higher standard, the male commun ity also fails to realize impossibility of their Quest. The Quest is centered on Sir Percival and Sir Galahad, one who has left the court of Camelot to become a monk, and the other who revels in chaste purity of character. The entire Quest and Order with in Camelot is comprised of unfruitful beings and impossible circumstances. unusually strong interest i n li minal times and terminal Guinevere and Lancelot fits with w Deceit, Desire, and the Novel wherein Girard traces distinct triangles between two males who are rivals for a female.


Hill 28 inescapably inscribed in the structure even of relationships that seem to exclude women even Guinevere stands between Arthur and Lancelot, not as a woman, but as an instrument, a demonstration of what can happen if a husband should let his wife come between him and his fellow with Lancelot stands in stark contrast to her passionless and sparse communication with Arthur. But who can gaze upon the Sun in he aven? He never spake a work of reproach to me, He never had a glimpse of mine untruth He cares not for me (121 126). sentence answers to h 79 has fallen in love with the 603). She Lancelot, Tennyson changes his s that it persists despite all her desperate dutiful efforts to forget him. Going back several hundred abbey after she has taken holy orders, thereby reducing considerably any temptation to flee with him. several times), the queen is already in a safe haven, and Ma


Hill 29 undiminished passion for each other: Passion pale they met And greeted. Hands in hands, and eye to ey e, Low on the border of her couch they sat Stammering and staring. It was their last hour, Of madness of farewells. And then they rode to the divided way, 1 02, 121 124). The ruptures within the iambic lines replicated their emotional torment and final division, 1370). The true victim in th is fabled erotic triangle is neither Arthur nor Lancelot. It is Guinevere. S he struggles, juxtaposed between two men, fighting her passions on one hand and ignoring them on the other, all the while balancing the unrealistic expectations placed upon her by the code of chivalry. Through the Idylls ood women as inspire of the chivalrous impulse in men and the guardians of male purity in the carrying out of come between these bonds of male companionship. Thus, the concept of mid to late nineteenth century New Chivalry not only propagated an idea of homosocial bonds, but it also placed completely unrealistic expectations upon women. As Judith Rowbotham notes in her book Good


Hill 30 Girls Make Good Wives, Guidance for Girls in Victorian Fiction difficult if not impossible, for most men to retain dignity and self confidence in behavior and beliefs motivated by such rules. It was, by the 1850s, agreed by conventional middle class society that chivalrous, or gentlemanly, behavior on the part of the individuals was one of the foundations on which coll ective English greatness rested (170 171). Thus, the Victorian woman like Guinevere, was placed upon a pedestal by a man who wished to worship her in an entirely passionless manner, reserving any real feelings of companionship for his fellow man Epilogue in the Idylls the chivalric ideals touted by the poem were still valid models for the nineteenth century male reader. Chivalry was a potent source of values for mid Victorian men, as Mark Girouard demonstrates so conclusively in The Return to Camelot d of adultery serves a two fold purpose. Even though Guinevere and Lancelot have committed adultery and the Order However, this possibility is never explored by Tennyson. Thus it is easier to see Guinevere as a fallen woman whose immoral example has brought down the kingdom. However, the real responsibility rests with the ruler of Camelot, the originator of the T able Round. To many he might be the golden king, but those who are set up to take the blame for his


Hill 31 t because those in Camelot fail to live up to the unnatural expectations placed upon them, but because the order itself is founded upon select class of Victorian men in order to: [P] roduce a new model for the ruling classes, to train, in fact, an elite. They had undertaken this aim in conscious reaction to certain features of their own age which they disliked, especially the increase of democracy, and what they saw as the worship of hoped that this property owning class would acquire sufficient of the right moral qualities to make them good rulers, but property, not moral qualitie s was the basis of their rule (260 261). was] devised for an upper class elite and designed to make those who adopted it think of more than their own self by its romantic associations, which clothed gentlemen in metaphorical armor and mounted them lf As Evelyn Green Everett states in her romanticized tale In the Days of Chivalry rise upon the ashes of what had gone before, and lead men to higher s favourite 119 120 ). By imposing a hi gher moral, almost sexless, standar d upon women Victorian society moved into the realm of the homos ocial. And as in any male dominated homosocial society:


Hill 32 [T] here is a special relationship between male homosocial (included homosexual ) desire and the structures for maintaining and transmitting patriarchal power : a relationship relationship may take the form of ideological homophobia, ideological homosexuality, or some highly conflicted but intensively st ructured combination of the two (Sedgwick 25 ). homosocial bonds he has built within the kingdom, particularity with Lancelot. Guinevere, Elaine and Vivien are expected to be just as passionless as their male counterparts; however, this is definitely not the case. Each of these women ignore the moral of sexual self restraint placed upon Camelot, and while the effects of their passion are not exactly positive, the root of the problem lies with the chaste a nd sexually de maintaining their station. In the awe inspiring perfection of its knights the poem creates a wo rld might seem ideal in its context, when the dust settl es and Arthur is gone, no progeny has sprung up to carry on leaving the idea of the Order in itself, barren. Thus, one is left to conclude that while a society might be ideal in the mind, this certainly does not mean that it has any realistic potential.


Hill 33 Works Cited Adams, James Eli. Dandies and Desert Saints Ithaca, New York: Cornell Unive rsity Press, 1995. Idylls Studies in Philology Vol. 101 (Winter, 2004): 88 112. Anderson, Amanda. Tainted Souls and Painted Faces New York, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1 993. Dellamora, Richard. Masculine Desire, The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990. Eggers, John Philip. Idylls of the King York, New York: New York University Press, 1971. Gerhard Joseph. Tennysonian Love: The Strange Diagonal Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. Girard, Rene. Deceit, Desire, and the Novel Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976. Girouard, Mark. The Return to Camelot, Chivalry and the English Gentleman New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981. Green, Evelyn Everett. In the Days of Chivalry: A Tale of the Times of the Black Prince London: T. Nelson and Sons 1893. Linley, Margaret Idylls of the King Victorian Poetry 30 (Autumn Winter 1992): 365 86.


Hill 34 Maynadier, Howard. The Arthur of the English Poets New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1907. pire in Idylls of the King Victorian Poetry Vol. 30, No. 3/4, Centennial of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: 1809 1892 (Autumn Winter, 1992): 387 400. Michie, Helena. New York: Oxford University Press, 1 987. Morgan, Thais E. Victorian Sages and Cultural Discourse, Renegotiating Gender and Power Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1990. 26. Ormond, Leonee. Alfred Tennyson: A Liter ary Life Rosenburg, John D. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Harvard University Press, 1973 Rowbotham, Judith. Good Girls Make Good Wives, Guidance for Girls in Victori an Fiction Oxford, United Kingdom: Basil Blackwell Inc, 1989. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire New York: Colombia University Press, 1985. Shaw, Marion. Alfred Lord Tennyson New York: Harvester Weatse af, 1988. Showalter Elaine, ed. Speaking of Gender New York, New York: Rutledge, 1989.


Hill 35 --, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830 1980 New York: Pantheon, 1985. Sinfield, Alan. Alfred Tennyson Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986. Stott, Rebecca ed. Tennyson London, United Kingdom: Addison Wesley Longman Limited, 1996. Tennyson, Alfred Lord. Idylls of the King New York, New York: Penguin Group, 1996.

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