Ambiguity In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Christabel'

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Upon approaching the title character’s quarters in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “Christabel,” both Christabel and Geraldine intrinsically understand the risk of their flowering tryst. “[Stealing] their way from stair to stair” in the dead of the night, the two women “pass [by] the Baron’s room,/As still as death, with stifled breath,” seemingly aware of the repercussions that will surely follow if they are caught (168-71). Knowing this, it is not too far of a stretch to posit that Christabel and Geraldine’s implicit understanding of a need for secrecy indicates they live in a frequently surveilled society. In fact, it seems the entirety of Coleridge’s poem revolves around what can and should be withheld or shared, both by the text’s…show more content…
First, it must be remembered that to expound on the notion of stealth within “Christabel” does not mean to dig past Geraldine’s ambiguities to unveil truths; to understand the relevance of stealth within the text, one must objectively look at what our subject determines as appropriate in the private and public spheres of life, as well as what this may say about the society they live in. Therefore, our analysis will begin by contrasting Geraldine’s portrayal of non-normative sexuality and disability in her private and public dealings, starting with the prior. Geraldine’s mere entrance unsettles the display of heterosexuality “Christabel” begins with. In fact, Christabel’s fervent prayers for her “own bethròthed knight” are explicitly interrupted by Geraldine’s momentous arrival (28). Thus, from the start of the poem, Coleridge places Geraldine and heterosexual romance in opposition. Fantasies about such a male, romantic figure cease to exist upon her entry. This trend lingers as the poem continues, the aforementioned knight not rearing his head throughout Christabel and Geraldine’s entire private encounter. In fact, much of their interactions are steeped in intimations of same-sex desire. Christabel insistence that Geraldine “share[s] the couch with her” acts as an innocent phrase that later takes on a much more sensual meaning (122). It is as Christabel’s finally undresses (at Geraldine’s

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