Duality in Coleridge's Christabel

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Morality in Christabel

In “Christabel,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge addresses the issues of human nature and morality by portraying Christabel and Geraldine as both good and evil while at the same time never allowing one’s morals to outweigh or appear superior to the others. At first glance, it appears to the reader that Christabel is the picture of piety and that Geraldine is an evil, beautiful witch. However, upon further examination, the reader can see that neither Christabel nor Geraldine are purely good or evil and that there are traces of both in each character. By using similar language when building their characters, Coleridge attempts to force the reader to understand the similarities that exist between Geraldine and
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This greatly blurs the lines between the characters by calling into question Christabel’s morality and her potential to be the immoral character. Christabel is first presented as being the potentially immoral character when the narrator tells of her waiting for Geraldine to pray, undress, and get in bed. “Half-way from the bed she rose, / And on her elbow did recline / To look at the lady Geraldine” (lines 242-244). Because of these lines, the reader can no longer view Christabel as the completely innocent, religious girl she was thought to be. The narrator even continues on to say, “shield sweet Christabel,” because her sweetness seems to be what is at stake in this seduction (line 254). By attempting to entice Geraldine, Christabel proves that she is not the sweet, innocent girl she was made out to be. This scene also leads to build more character to Geraldine, as it shows she is not completely evil and immoral. She appears to be greatly upset by Christabel’s initiation of seduction when the narrator says, “a stricken look was hers” (line 256). Although Geraldine does “lay down by the maiden’s side! – / And in her arms the maid she took,” making her complicit in the actions, she does so “as one defied” (lines 260, 262-263). Even though Geraldine gives in to Christabel, she does so begrudgingly making the reader believe that this was not her intent when she came to the home of Sir Leonine and Christabel. Because of this exchange, it

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