Archetypes in John Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci: A Ballad

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Archetypes in John Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci: A Ballad"

During the Romantic Movement in literature, numerous writers fed off one another’s ideas; thus, creating various patterns which reoccur throughout literary works. According to “The Literature Network,” John Keats is “usually regarded as the archetype of the Romantic writer.” Therefore, Keats himself is thought to be the original model for the writer during the Romantic Era. In his poem, “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad,” Keats uses various archetypes which provide added meaning and depth to this work of literature.

The archetype may be defined as “the original model from which something is developed or made; in literary criticism, those images, figures,
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Therefore, archetypal criticism attempts to pinpoint various archetypes in literary works in order for human’s to catalog the archetypes with its significance in humanity’s collective unconscious; thus, drawing on the concept or idea for later reference.

Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad” features various archetypes. Frye proposed the existence of four types of plots, or “mythoi,” which make the four major genres. Each is associated with one of the four seasons: spring conveys comedy, summer is romance, fall shows tragedy, and winter yields satire (Murfin and Ray 28). “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad” is about a knight who meets an untimely demise due to his affiliation with a supernatural woman. The outlook of this poem is bleak because the knight perishes; therefore, this poem is a tragedy. Lines 3-4 show the reader that the season in which the incident occurs is fall: “The sedge has wither’d from the lake, / And no birds sing” (Keats 845). Keats further engrains the season of fall in the reader’s mind in lines 7-8: “The squirrel’s granary is full, / And the harvest’s done” (845). Therefore, Keats portrays the season as being fall within the first two stanzas, which, according to Frye’s ideas about the four basic types of plot, signifies the poem as being a tragedy. “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad” is indeed a tragedy because the knight, in the end, loses his

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