The Empress’s New Groove: An Analysis of Queen Victoria as a Vital Symbol of the British Empire Through the Royal Titles Act of 1876

While she reigned sixty-three years, the legacy and image of Queen Victoria are predominantly tied to the last twenty years of her reign. Victoria was able to become a mythic projection of Empire through assuming the title of Empress of India which unified the monarchy with the Second British Empire. Even though by 1876 she had reigned for nearly forty years, the Royal Titles Act created a spike in her popularity and unified the complex British Empire under one Crown. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli proposed the bill to continue his imperialistic campaign of British exceptionalism as well as bolster the public image of the widowed, grieving absentee queen. Her ceremonial title of Empress gave her an incentive to return to public life, becoming the mother of Empire. Upon her death twenty-five years after the Titles Act, Victoria was the most prominent English monarch to date. Lord Salisbury of the House of Lords stated after her death, “She had an extraordinary knowledge of what her people would think. It was extraordinary because it could not come from any personal intercourse. I have said for years that I had always felt that when I knew what the Queen thought, I knew pretty certainly what views her subjects would take, and especially the middle class of her subjects” . Through her unity with the imagination of Empire, the institution of the monarchy accrued value as a public relations medium between the government and the people. Under a constitutional monarchy, she had no direct political power, but she swayed public approval. Through Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s Royal Titles Act of 1876, Queen Victoria transformed into the unifying matriarch of the British Empire, regained popularity lost during public reclusion, and fulfilled Britain’s need for tradition and hierarchy.

When Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, public interest in the British monarchy increased. She was eighteen, young, and presented a fresh start in contrast to the short reigns of the middle-aged scandalous kings that preceded her. She quickly got married and had a large family who subsequently married other European royal houses. As a mother of nine children, Victoria became known as a doting mother and a loving wife. Her status as a mother of a large brood gave the impression of a monarch who deserved and demanded the love and respect of her subjects. The royal family was enjoying a renewal of interest in their private and public lives. The major satirist magazine, Punch was established three years after her coronation and made Victoria the subject of the majority of its political cartoons for her entire reign. The magazine revolutionized the political cartoon and became the voice for the British middle class. Punch, while criticizing contemporary events surrounding the Queen, portrayed Victoria often in a favorable light, while lampooning others such as her husband, the prime minister, or her children. In the early years of her reign, Victoria was drawn as a maternal figure, the “Bess of forty-one”, alluding to the famous Queen Elizabeth I. Just like Elizabeth, Victoria came to the throne at a young age, ready to mature along with the country. She had become Queen at a pivotal time, as she was the first photographed monarch of Britain. The publishing and photography industries were booming as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Pictures and stories of the royal family were printed by popular demand.  These prints further familiarized the British people with their monarch, creating a royalty culture market amongst the British media.

This image of Victoria as a mother of her children and her subjects began to translate into a mother of the Empire. In the nineteenth century, English society only understood and respected feminine authority in terms of motherhood. Victoria was not a mighty king with a military background but a young woman with a growing family. The British subjects did not see their loyalty as allegiance to a woman but the dutiful love and respect to a mother. Photos of her family allowed the British psyche to register her as a powerful female leader worthy of being heard. Victoria took an active role in foreign politics, making her viewpoints very known. She was quite conservative and believed in the importance of the Empire and British exceptionalism. Britain was experiencing the first half of its famed imperial century. Victoria, almost prophetically, had been born just after Napoleon’s defeat, an event that set the stage for Britain to rise economically without any international competitors. Britain had increased its hold over India by indirectly ruling through the East India Trading Company, building up the Company’s army, and implementing a Governor-General. The Industrial Revolution was changing the landscape of Britain and its imperial possessions with railroads and factories. A booming middle class was emerging in England due to the standard of living increasing from new technological innovations. An imperial mindset and pride emerged as Britain became the premier world power. Charles Dickens, the famed Victorian writer, urged Victoria in 1851 to rise to her full potential as the mother of most of the world. He wrote, “Think of it, Great Queen, and become the Royal Mother of them all!” . Victoria had the hearts of her people, and their love grew exponentially. The Sun often referred to her as “the Queen of Hearts” . By the 1850’s, Victoria had become a public relations medium between Empire and the British people. Twenty years into Victoria’s reign, however, two events shook the British psyche.

The first shock not only changed the way Britain organized the Empire but demonstrated how British society needed a figurehead in imperial affairs. In 1857, the Indian sepoys revolted against the British Company leading to the deaths of thousands of Indian rebels and citizens. The Sepoy Rebellion went on for a year until the British were able to quell the mutiny and come to an amnesty agreement. The Great Mutiny of 1857 led to the Parliament ending the Company’s charter and implementing the direct control of the Crown over India with the 1858 Government of India Act . Parliament reorganized the military and directly chose the  Viceroy, formerly known as the Governor-General of India. The British Raj emerged from the rebellion. At home, the British public was horrified and angered by violence, demanding retribution. During the revolt, Charles Dickens wrote, “I wish I were a Commander in Chief in India, I should do my best to exterminate the race upon whom the late cruelties rested”. Punch published a series of magazines dedicated to the Mutiny including a cartoon showing the British lion enacting revenge on the Bengal tiger and a letter written supposedly by a present English lady depicting the horrors: “We heard the doors broken in, and many, many shots, and at the moment my servant said they had been to bring away Mrs. Chambers, but had found her dead on the ground, cut horribly, and she on the eve of her confinement! Oh! night of horrors!” . The British public was particularly shocked by this notion of feminine rape and murder. British newspapers lamented stories of white English ladies and their infants killed and raped by Indian rebels, which were greatly exaggerated with racist undertones. When future Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli publically stated that the reasons behind rebellion might have been valid, Punch depicted him as a sepoy in that week’s cartoon . Meanwhile Punch simultaneously published a drawing where a devastated and gracious Victoria is comforting her fellow women and their children . The press saw her as a pacifist, a mother who would restore peace to her empire. To her subjects, she was the model white English woman who deserved justice. Punch published another cartoon depicting her looking sternly down at an Indian subject . Many of Victoria’s public concerns about the Mutiny translated into laws in the Government of India Act, specifically in regards to the military. She was declared superior to the Indian princes, though, not given a clear title over India. The Great Mutiny of 1857 was a surprise to Britain who truly believed their anglicization was welcome in India. While the British public’s tension and racial fear never subdued, their approach to India transformed. They were not going to try to anglicize the Indian population, but re-address the contrast in British-Indian hierarchy. It became clear that if they were going to admit their imperial ventures, they needed Victoria’s image to bolster British patriotism along the way.

Unfortunately, Queen Victoria would shy away from this emerging public identity of Empire shortly after the Mutiny. In 1861, Prince Albert, the Queen’s beloved husband, died prematurely at the age of forty-two. The Queen was devastated and receded into a life of reclusion. While Prince Albert had not been as widely popular as his wife, the nation mourned the loss of the consort and felt empathy for their Queen. Victoria, who married Albert two years after becoming Queen, realized how much Albert assisted her in her Queenly duties and lapsed into depression and loneliness. The two had frequently toured Britain together, attending ceremonies and exhibitions. As a widow, Victoria neglected all public appearances. In a letter to her daughter, she wrote: “What is to become of us all? Of the unhappy country, of Europe, of all?” . To the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, she refused to return to Westminster, “Business she can as yet hardly think of, for her whole soul, bruised and crushed as it is,” . As a year past, the nation grew restless with the Queen’s absence. While Parliament urged the Queen to attend functions, she declined every time, citing her poor nerves and health. In her mourning, Victoria refused to go to Westminster to open Parliament, opting to stay in her secluded residences, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle. She hesitantly opened Parliament in 1866, and rushed home soon after, declaring it had adverse effects on her nerves. Criticism of the Queen slowly started to trickle into the British press by the third year of her seclusion from public life. By 1863, she returned to her private duties as Queen but did not resume her public appearances. However, that did not appease the press and her subjects who had grown to expect Victoria’s public image in their day-to-day life.

While the Queen was aware of her growing unpopularity, she did not emerge to rectify the decaying public image. Instead, she adamantly defended herself and her status as a widow, writing to Lord Palmerston:

“She has no wish to shut herself up from her loyal people, and has and will at any time seize any occasion which might offer to appeal amongst them (painful as it ever is now), provided she could do so without the fatigue or exertion of any State ceremony entailing full dress.”

While Victoria cared a great deal about her image, she did not understand the British public’s need for pomp and circumstance. The theatrical and romantic presentation of the monarchy was tied to the British identity, an identity built upon hierarchy and tradition. When the Queen and her family were present at lavish celebrations and ceremonial functions, they fulfilled their subject’s concept of Britain. Ceremonies without the Queen were considerably less ostentatious, less appropriate for a prominent world power. While photographs of the Queen filled the newspapers before Albert’s death, there were rarely new photographs of the Queen released during her mourning. The Palace would only release  photographs of her family members and older photographs of the Queen with Albert in memoriam. As a constitutional monarchy, Britain needed its symbolic head of state to promote patriotism, filling glamor in the space between the people and their politics. Victoria’s absence contrasted against the superiority of the Second British Empire at the time, and her subjects uncomfortably resented it.

As Victoria’s synonymity with Empire diminished due to her absence, the public questioned the need for a monarchy. Victoria’s years of mourning had an effect on political ideology in Britain considering republicanism, and radical liberalism grew popular during the 1860’s. Republicans such as Sir Charles Dilke criticized her disappearance and argued for a peaceful abolishment of the monarchy, stating it had no practical place in the British Constitution. The British witnessed France becoming a Republic again, perpetuating a British “royalty question” . Some politicians asked what purpose Victoria served if she was not visible. The dowdy widow in black was not a reflection of the mighty British Empire. The media, who previously had portrayed her as an ethereal and immortal mother, treated Victoria with criticism. She had become oddly human to the press, no longer a celebrity but a woman who made mistakes. Nobody wanted a weak and diminished Queen. The London Review, a Republican publication subtly echoed this sentiment in 1864 stating, “If her Majesty is unable to accept the counsel of her advisers, but convinced by their honest earnestness, she should retire from a position which her private feelings made intolerable.” . In 1868, Victoria wrote to a friend, “She read the Article in the Globe tonight criticising the Queen’s continuing isolation, and her great anxiety therefore that similar Articles appearing in The Times and Daily Telegraph” . However, her excuses were not enough for the media anymore. Even Punch, the conservative satirical magazine which had never outwardly critiqued the Queen herself, published a cartoon, frustrated with her absence. In the 1865 drawing, the Lady Britannia urges the widowed Queen “It is time! Descend, be stone no more!”. Punch additionally added the rhyme, “Tis not that Punch as leal as wise/ Loves less his Queen by closer ties / Though she but rarely glads his eyes,” . Some newspapers were not as kind such as the Tomahawk, a Republican satirical magazine established during her self-induced exile. One cartoon from the publication portrayed the Queen having an affair with one of her servants while away from the public eye . In 1864, The Manchester Examiner perpetuated a rumor that a man hung signs on the Buckingham Palace gates stating, “These commanding premises to be let or sold, in consequence of the late occupant declining business” . This particular criticism of the Queen that resonated with the British public. The most famous attack at the Queen came in the form of a pamphlet titled, “What Does She Do With It?” referring to the money she receives in return for her duties as the monarch . Since Victoria did not display wealth or spend money on travel, Republicans and certain Liberals did not feel she deserved her allowance. The pamphlet declared the Queen was exploiting grief and illness to pocket large sums of wealth. Republican rallies took place in Hyde Park, and public criticism sounded whenever one of Victoria’s various children or grandchildren needed a dowry from Parliament . It appeared as if the Empire had declared Victoria was no longer imperial, questioning if it were best if Victoria lost her marriage to Parliament as well as Albert.

Despite the sharp rise of republican ideology, the sentiment was revealed just to be frustration mixed with a yearning for the earlier years of Victoria’s reign. Criticism receded when the Prince of Wales contracted typhoid fever ten years after his father had died of the same illness. While he recovered, the Queen received a flood of sympathetic letters from her people, the first time in ten years. Once again, Victoria was commended for being a mother. It was apparent that the majority of Britain did not want to get rid of their Queen, but rather, impatiently anticipated her return. Her absence had only made her previous role as the mother of the Empire more essential and demanded.

If anybody understood the importance of the mythical monarchy, it was Prime Minister Benjamin “Dizzy” Disraeli. The Prime Minister shared Victoria’s conservative views and held similar stances on foreign affairs. Disraeli believed the monarchy had a crucial role in the story of British exceptionalism. To the Prime Minister, the Queen possessed a duality of both leading her people as the Crown in public opinion and knowing prematurely the emotions of the nation. The press’s climb to a place of power during the Industrial Revolution had not gone unnoticed by him, especially considering the rise of republican and liberal ideology, which came at odds with his own party. He was the Prime Minister, an empire builder who would not settle for an empire but The Empire. That Empire needed an apt figurehead. In 1872, his speech at the Crystal Palace was determined to keep Empire as the center focus of British government, emphasizing the importance of imperial maintenance: “I find a rising opinion in the country sympathising with our tenets, and the people are prepared, I believe, if the opportunity offers, to uphold them until they prevail” . He claimed that his conservative party stood by British exceptionalism and imperial destiny. While he would command the political aspects of imperialism, Victoria’s presence would strengthen the social constructs of Empire as it had before 1861. Elected briefly in 1868 then again in 1874, the imperialist Disraeli knew how important it was to gain the Queen’s favor if he wanted to renew her icon status to that before Albert’s death.

Disraeli first employed flattery to rebuild the Queen’s confidence. When he became Prime Minister in 1874 Victoria wrote in her diary, “He knelt down and kissed hands, saying: ‘I plight my troth to the kindest of Mistresses’” . The gesture was rewarding considering she sent flowers to the Downing Street residence upon his victory. He was known for referring to her as a Fairy Queen, evoking the Shakespearean myths of Queen Elizabeth I. He thought of himself as the Walter Raleigh to Victoria’s Queen Elizabeth, creating an age of English royal excellence. Disraeli also made an effort to not only be her Prime Minister but her friend. The two bonded over the deaths of their spouses and the imperial destiny of Britain. Victoria was known for writing her Prime Ministers several times a day and urging them to travel from London to see her regularly. Disraeli happily visited the Queen and rarely rejected her. His habit of sending letters directly to her, rather than to her secretary, won the affection of the Queen. Benjamin Disraeli embraced the assertive Queen’s needs and became a close confidante of hers. Once Disraeli had the Queen’s trust and respect, he was able to repair her image.

Disraeli was careful in his public representation of the Queen, flattering her as if there was no separation between Victoria the person and Victoria the Imperial Mother. In his first years as Prime Minister, he was able to bring her into conversations on Empire. When Disraeli bought a stake in the Suez Canal to increase a British monopoly on Indian trade the following year, he announced, “It is settled, you have it, Madam” . Disraeli made sure Victoria was portrayed as the recipient of the Suez Canal. At Disraeli’s advice and with Victoria’s permission, the Prince of Wales went on a tour of the Suez as well as India, causing a media frenzy for photographs. He was able to convince Victoria to travel to London more than she had in the previous decade. As years went by, the Queen not only attended Buckingham Palace at Disraeli’s invitation but would stay longer in London. She began to surface in public more, no longer only reachable by correspondence. She even traveled to visit Disraeli, something she would rarely do for her extended family. People were beginning to notice the Widow leaving Windsor.

While he had used flattery to gain trust, Disraeli actually loved his Queen and was in awe of stature. He did not mind the Republicans and Liberals who mocked his flowery treatment of the Queen. He believed that adoration was the way royalty should be treated, to maintain that glossy layer of glamor and imagination for the betterment of one’s country. In the 1850’s, a young Disraeli had written The Young England trilogy, a romantic commentary on the importance of traditional aristocracy and the English monarch . In a way, the Queen’s persona of Empire inspired Disraeli’s aggressive foreign policy, especially with Indian affairs. Both the Prime Minister and the Queen were fascinated by India, the Jewel of the British Empire. Victoria loved reading about India from her son’s tours of the territory and even added a room to Osborne House dedicated to Indian art sent from the subcontinent . She was particularly struck by Albert’s account of seeing a sign in the Indian crowd proclaiming, “Welcome to our Future Emperor” . To Victoria, this confirmed her belief that India was not just British, but distinctly hers.

In 1876, Victoria shifted from absent queen due to a bill, crafted by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. This bill would ultimately bring Victoria back into the identity of British foreign policy. The bill was the Royal Titles Act of 1876, which would grant Victoria the title of “Empress of India” in addition to her standard title of “Queen of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” . This bill would position Victoria in front of the public eye and make her synonymous with Empire once more. It was an empty gesture since Britain already had control over India directly since the Great Mutiny of 1857. The title was a ceremonious attempt to tie the Crown to its imperial reaches as well as to rejuvenate an image the Queen herself had noticed was diminishing. Her eldest daughter, Vicky was marrying Emperor Frederick III and would claim the title of Empress. Victoria loathed the thought of being outranked by her daughter. She also noticed the national celebrations across the globe, such as the centennial commemoration of the United States and felt as if she deserved a celebration. The Queen, for years, had always thought of herself as Empress, often signing letters to her children with “Empress” as her title . The question of elevating Victoria’s title to Empress had been discussed, and dismissed due to the negative connotation attached to the title used by the French Empire and the German Empire. In 1876, Victoria was insistent, and Disraeli took the issue to Parliament. Disraeli, however, urged Victoria to settle for “Empress of India”, knowing there would be some backlash if she abandoned the title of “Queen” altogether. Disraeli saw the supplemental title as a natural progression since the Great Mutiny of 1857. It would neatly tie his conservative party to the Queen and Empire. Above all, it would declare to the world that British rule of India and the Queen’s magnificence were indisputable .

In 1876, Victoria, to the shock of politicians, went into Parliament and gave a speech in which she suggested the title of “Empress of India”, citing the lack of a distinct title since 1857 as well as the importance of her son’s trip to the British Raj . Disraeli argued that the title would act in accord to the contemporary system of the British Empire, and increase loyalty to the Queen in India, especially amongst the Indian princes they sought to unify under the Crown. It would place Victoria distinctly within Indian class structure as a replacement for a Mughal emperor. The Act would also be a clear message to other countries, such as Russia, to not encroach on Asia. He assured that it was only in name, and would be beneficial to both subjects in England and subjects in India. He defended, “Let the people of India feel that there is a sympathetic chord between us and them, and do not let Europe suppose for a moment that there are any in this House who are not deeply conscious of the importance of our Indian Empire” . Disraeli said to one cabinet member, “The Empress-Queen demands her Imperial Crown” . In his speech he proudly declared, “I am empowered, therefore, to say that the title would be ‘Empress,’and that Her Majesty would be ‘Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, and Empress of India” .  Disraeli’s speech, as well as her own, elevated the Widow of Windsor, determined to give her back her imperial identity.

Naturally, there was loud opposition to the Royal Titles Act of 1876 considering the rise of republicanism and the Liberal Party in the past decade. The Empress title was seen by some in Parliament as a step towards despotism, moving backward against progress. The Liberal Party argued that the title would confuse the recent evolution of the constitutional monarchy, where the Queen had little to no power. The question of elevating Victoria’s title to Empress had been discussed before and dismissed due to the negative connotation attached to the title used by the French Empire and the German Empire. The demise of the Roman Empire especially had given the title of “Emperor” a bitter aftertaste. Others in the House of Commons argued there was no point considering Britain’s might was already well known. In the media, there was conflict as well over the bill. While Punch was delighted with Victoria’s resurface to public life, the satirical magazine criticized the Royal Titles Bill. They published The Queen With Two Heads”, in which Disraeli was portrayed as a pub owner adding a second head to the Queen’s portrait above the bar. Punch was shown below crying, “No, No, Benjamin, It will never do; You can’t improve on the old!” . A second cartoon was published, depicting Disraeli as an Indian prince offering a new Indian crown to the Queen for her English crown . As always, Punch did not portray Victoria in a negative way, opting to blame Disraeli even though Victoria wanted the title more than Disraeli. Victoria was confused and frustrated by the opposition to the Royal Titles Bill, writing in her diary: “There was no difference whatever except officially adding after Queen of Great Britain, Empress of India, the name which is best understood in the East, but which Great Britain never has acknowledged to be higher than Queen!” . It seemed as if the Queen and Disraeli were facing the consequences of her long and resented absence.

However, Disraeli was correct in that imperialists would welcome the Royal Titles Bill. Members of Prime Minister Disraeli’s Conservative party agreed with his argument for a more unified British Raj, noting it would be a figurative way to bring India closer to Britain, without the perilous anglicization which had led to the Great Mutiny of 1857. The empty gesture had the duality of localization and expansion. British editorials echoed the conservative party’s points such as The Spectator. Their editorial noted the favorable response from Englishmen abroad in India, stating, “The Queen would be Empress of India BECAUSE she was Queen of England” . Public approval began to increase over the bill because of these editorials.

The Bill passed on April 27th, 1876 after much debate both in Parliament and in the press. It was passed on the understanding that Victoria would be Queen of Britain and then Empress of India. Victoria did not care about the semantics of the title, signing her diary and letters as “Victoria Regina & Imperatrix” . In gratitude, she awarded Benjamin Disraeli the title of Earl of Beaconsfield as well as a portrait of his Fairy Empress. While the Royal Titles Act affected his popularity and subsequent election, Benjamin Disraeli had done what no other Prime Minister had done: the restoration of Victoria’s public identity.

If the British missed the public spectacles of their royalty during Victoria’s mourning, the Proclamation held in Delhi did not disappoint on New Year’s Day 1877. The Spectator reported that Lord Lytton arrived in Delhi on a giant elephant followed by a parade of all the members of the British Raj government office as well as 15,000 troops . All Indian princes were invited to attend, while some Indian princes received honors and compensation at the event . With the help of Disraeli, Lord Lytton carefully styled the event to evoke memories of a Mughal Emperor in terms of decadence and location. The Court of Delhi was the traditional medieval meeting place for the ruler and the people, ultimately transposing the absence of an Indian king with Victoria. While the Queen was not in attendance, thousands of Indian subjects came to hear her telegram . It was so successful that it spurned a new British tradition, subsequent monarchs held royal proclamations in Delhi, similar in style. In Windsor, Victoria held a banquet to celebrate the Proclamation at Delhi, wearing Indian jewels and the finest garments, as “Dizzy” Disraeli toasted his “Imperial Majesty” . Victoria was no longer the absentee queen, but the mighty Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of Faith, Empress of India. There was no line separating her from Empire in England and across the world.

The Queen, at fifty-eight years old, was gaining back her people’s popularity as she emerged as the voice and face of the Empire. For example, her criticism of the Liberal Party often resonated with the liberal public, such as her reproach of Gladstone over the death of the national hero, General Charles Gordon at Khartoum in 1885 . Photographs in the press started to show an elderly Victoria with her many grandchildren, symbolizing her role as the Mother of not only Europe but the world. As she was becoming more beloved, Disraeli lost his re-election in 1880 to the Liberal Gladstone and passed away the following year. The Queen was devastated by the passing of Disraeli, but surprisingly did not return to private life. The Queen selected the funeral flowers based on Disraeli’s romantic notions of the Faery Queen and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Victoria then traveled to his grave, leaving another wreath of primroses, leading to a public increase in primrose sales . Disraeli would have been pleased that even in death, he was portraying the Queen in a favorable way.

As Empress of India, Victoria moved from a public imagination to geographical spaces in all corners of the Empire. The Royal Titles Act of 1876 instructed the minting of new coins throughout the Empire that included the imperial title . Her image and her name were everywhere. Landmarks, towns, buildings, and monuments were named after the Queen constantly. During her reign, the Empire saw the introduction of the six lakes, two capes, a harbor, a portion of the Nile, a bridge, an Australian colony, a Canadian city, and numerous villages in South Africa all named after Victoria . Streets were named for the Queen in all the major cities of the Empire from London to Sydney. The number of monuments erected in the Queen’s likeness goes well into the hundreds. The Queen’s birthday was celebrated throughout the world as an imperial holiday. British subjects could not escape the Queen’s influence even if they tried.

If the Royal Titles Act had catapulted Victoria back to divine status, her subsequent 1887 Golden Jubilee and 1897 Diamond Jubilee cemented it. The latter was not only one of the first public events to be filmed but the first time a monarch had reached a sixty year reign . In 1887, Victoria, in a royal carriage followed by a procession, toured London to the massive applause and adoration of her people. The attendance of her entire extended family highlighted how Victoria had become the “Mother of Europe”. Still thinking of Albert, the Queen chose a black gown, but it hardly mattered to the people anymore. The largest advertising campaigns ever seen in nineteenth century England were for the Jubilees, exciting the British population for weeks for the upcoming festivities. The Times had columns dedicated to figuring out the best place to stand during the procession . Department stores sold Jubilee souvenirs and products displaying the Queen’s likeness. Manufacturers would advertise their products, stating their goods were used by the Queen herself . Vanity Fair estimated an average of two million people lined the London street route for a glimpse to see their Queen . Celebrations were not confined to London, as the rest of the Empire held festivities in their respective cities. In 1897, Victoria sent a telegram around the world to all her imperial subjects, “From my heart I thank my beloved people. God bless them!” . It was evident from the worldwide celebration that Victoria’s image had created homogeneity in a vast and complicated Empire.

Queen Victoria died in 1901, considerably more beloved than she was even at her coronation. The publication, Advocate For Peace, wrote:

“Because of her long reign, her pure and noble womanhood, her power for righteousness in English and general public life, the wonderful progress of the world during her lifetime, and her influence for peace amongst nations, Queen Victoria’s death has made an impression upon the world such as that of no other sovereign has ever produced, or is likely to produce.”

The magazine, Punch, who had followed the Queen throughout her whole reign, published a solemn tribute upon her death. The cartoon depicts Lady Britannia holding a rose in mourning for the Queen . Victoria, at the time, was the longest reigning monarch Britain had ever seen. The Queen’s Empire had transformed in the sixty three years she had been its role model from a blossoming empire to the premiere world power, stretching from Africa to Canada.

The Royal Titles Act of 1876 demonstrated the necessity of the imperialization of the monarchy in order to keep the monarchy alive as well as to reinforce the imperial agenda for the people. When Prince Albert was alive, the British Empire was still growing, still very much in the periphery of the British psyche. After the Royal Titles Act, the Empire was considerably more cohesive, linked by tradition and hierarchy. Prior to Victoria, the monarchy was a dusty tradition, one that had lost its power as each generation passed. By Victoria’s death, the monarchy was considerably more important, more glamorous, and more imperial. The ceremonies and traditions set by Queen Victoria during her reign, specifically the second half, became the standard for her successors, not only in Britain, but the rest of Europe. The Empire, a complex entity connecting people, economy, and land, may have been ruled by Parliament but it was maintained through the marketing of a fashionable and patriotic authority figure. Victoria, through embodying Empire, connected the British Empire as a realm. Benjamin Disraeli had known the power behind her image as the built-in public relations for imperial pursuits. After all, the monarchy was the most recognizable feature of English culture and history. Modernity, which had taken away the monarchy’s governmental control, offered a new form of power to the Queen through the new media industry. Without Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, it could be argued that the monarchy would have been discarded through republican discourse. However, it could also be argued that the British Empire then would have lacked the sole element that gave it any semblance of congruity, potentially leading to instability. To the people, Victoria justified every British citizen, government office, and military service scattered across the globe. She was their role model, their mother, and their archetype of British excellence. The British projected English royal structure on the world, pining Victoria the Empress of India to the top of the hierarchy, reaffirming their international superiority.p0319t6s

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The Corrupt Clergy in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

The Corrupt Clergy in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

I must confess. I love Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales. The man was able to create social commentary while revolutionizing the English language. While English had been seen as a lower class language, Chaucer’s collection of witty tales elevated the language like never before. Chaucer was progressive too considering he wrote about church corruption and the mistreatment of women by society. The Father of the English Language was quite the genius, and was able to not only modernize medieval fables, but created dozens of narrators with their own complicated personalities. He even creates a fictionalized version of himself within the story, shedding light on his perception of himself. The amount of unreliable narrators would send Gone Girl running for the hills. In this post, I am going to straighten out Chaucer’s use of characters to shed light on exactly what the poet thought of the Catholic Church. The Canterbury Tales can be quite confusing considering it has multiple stories within stories within a main story. Leonardo Di Caprio in Inception would scratch his head over the intricacies of the plot. To top it all off, The Canterbury Tales was most likely never finished. Chaucer had plans to write even more backstories of narrators  but unfortunately he passed away without doing so. Nonetheless, Chaucer’s usage of clergy members to shed light on his opinions on the Church is perhaps the biggest takeaway from the classic work. Let’s get to it.

Throughout Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the poet conveys his opinions on the Catholic Church through his pilgrim characters and the tales they tell. In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer’s meanings behind his tales and pilgrims can be unclear. However, Chaucer makes his stance on his contemporary English Catholic Church fairly well known. He shows a tremendous amount of disdain towards members of the clergy and their actions. Chaucer sets a number of religious characters on the symbolic journey to Canterbury including the Prioress, the Friar, the Summoner, the Parson, and the Pardoner. Each character sheds light on what the stereotypes of those positions were during Chaucer’s time as well as has their own complex personality. Very few of these characters adhere to religious virtues and ideals, in fact, which becomes quickly apparent. The Prioress prefers courtly life to convent life. The Friar seduces women and pockets Church funds. His enemy, the Summoner, is very similar in that he accepts bribes, drinks to excess, and tries to seduce young women. The Pardoner differs from the rest because he is compliant and conscious of his sins, marking him outside of morality. The only true pillar of religious ideals is the Parson, who serves as a foil against all the corruption. On a surface level, the Canterbury Tales shows a group of religious figures taking part in a pilgrimage, however one must look more in-depth into their true motives in taking part in this journey. Their tales as well show completely ulterior motives that diverge from Gospel teachings. While the Canterbury Tales was left incomplete and many characters and backstories were not explained, Chaucer’s religious views were quite clear and his characters paint a vivid picture of what religious life was like at the time of his writing. Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims, especially the characters employed in the Church, give insight into Chaucer’s own opinions on the Catholic Church in fourteenth century England concerning corruption, anti-Semitism, and exploitment.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Prioress and her Tale bring to light a very specific commentary on Christianity in medieval England, specifically anti-Semitism. The Prioress is certainly not the typical nun, dressing lavishly and acting courtly with her mannerisms and language. She speaks improper French and is cautious at the dinner table, evoking the image of a woman straight out of finishing school rather than a convent. She “peyned hir to countrefete cheere of court, and been estatlich of manere, And to ben holden digne of reverence” revealing she tries exceptionally hard to come off as high class and of higher stature (Chaucer 139). What hypocrisy is shown in the General Prologue is magnified tenfold at the conclusion of her tale, a twist on a blood libel tale about a young Christian murdered by a Jewish community for singing “Alma Redemptoris Mater”. The young boy is kept alive by the Virgin Mary to continue the song until he is finally laid to rest. The Jewish people who knew of the murder were all killed because “yvele shal have that yvele wol deserve” (Chaucer line 633).  To completely understand the Prioress’s Tale and its implication, one must look at the time and place where Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales. The Jews were expelled from England in 1290 by the Edict of Expulsion which resulted in many Jewish families fleeing or converting (Krummel 35). Jewish persecution had been happening in England for years leading up to that decree (Krummel 35). The eviction of the Jewish people aided this popular myth of the evil Jew out for Christian blood. Not all were endorsing these claims, in fact the popes at the time including Gregory X at the time dismissed and discouraged blood libel tales (Krummel 141). Stories depicting miracles of the Virgin were also very popular at the time and would often depict her mercy intervening on behalf of Christians being persecuted by a pagan group. The most telling sign that Chaucer indeed, is trying to make a statement against the persecution of Jewish people is whom he gives the tale to: the Prioress. He may have written the anti-semitic tale however, he gives it to a specific narrator. Geoffrey Chaucer describes her in great detail in the General Prologue, shedding light into exactly what kind of person she is. The Prioress is a nun who skims the line between courtly love and religious love quite often with her extravagant apparel, false pretenses, and misguided mercy. Throughout the tale, she likens herself to the slain child which comes off as if she is garnering sympathy from her audience, the other pilgrims. The Prioress mentions the word “mercy” six times throughout her Tale yet this mercy is never given to the Jewish community. God’s mercy is only inflicted on the pilgrims and attributed to the Virgin. Chaucer, using the device of an unlikeable narrator, was calling attention to the hypocritical bigotry rampant in popular Christian myths.

Chaucer is very clear on his opinion of friars through his own Friar named Huberd and the friars mentioned in other pilgrim tales such as the Wife of Bath’s Tale and the Summoner’s Tale. The Friar, perhaps Chaucer’s least favorite character, is the worst offender because he goes against his vow of life of poverty, pocketing Church money and harassing women. “His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves and pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves”, meaning he would give out trinkets to pretty women in order to flirt with them (Chaucer 233). This is not to say the Friar is the only greedy pilgrim, however the Friar’s love for money comes across worse because of the vow of poverty and position rank in the clergy. The General Prologue goes into great detail into this particular friar, Huberd and discusses how he seduces women and then uses his position to marry them off to someone else to gain a profit and tie up a loose end. Huberd justifies his lifestyle saying, “many a man so hard is of his herte” meaning money is the only way for them to repent their horrid sins. This was a common stereotype during Chaucer’s day and one he seemed to hold to be true. Records of accusations from 13th century France detail Franciscan and Dominican friars profiting from exploiting confession (Havely 341). According to Chaucer scholars including Arnold Williams, Chaucer took a lot of his characterization of friars from these French denouncements considering this discussion on mendicants took place ten years prior to the writing of The Canterbury Tales (Williams 117). In addition, scholars have located some evidence from a 1321 account of a wanton friar named Geoffrey who had relations with a woman named Juliana resulting in two children but had not fulfilled promises of securing a suitable marriage and dowry for her (Kuhl 85). From these sources, it would appear that Chaucer drew on his contemporary social commentary to create his character of the Friar. The General Prologue is not the only place in the text that extols these character traits. The Wife of Bath’s Tale mentions friars at its onset, blaming them for the absence of fairies and rape of women despite the Tale itself being about a knight who rapes a woman. This could be a personal quip directed at Huberd by the Wife of Bath or it could be Chaucer reaffirming his belief in the truth of this stereotype. Nonetheless, the Wife of Bath equates friars with incubi, demons who sleep with women, an analogy that is hard to overlook. The Summoner’s Tale also echoes the reputation of evil money laundering friars and reaffirms corruption in the clergy. Chaucer’s opinion on friars is quite clear and perhaps the strongest criticism on Church corruption compared to his other religious travellers.

The Friar’s equal in moral corruption ironically is his most hostile enemy on the pilgrimage: the Summoner, a feared figure in medieval England. As Zietlow puts it, “the friar and the summoner are cut from the same cloth” (Zietlow 4). The Summoner is an unattractive, sick drunkard who delivers summons to those who must attend Church hearings and face charges. Unlike the Friar, he does not have to make vows however, he and his office use extortion and bribing in order to make money, making his occupation one of the most loathed. The Friar and the Summoner mirror each other in greed and in the fact that they justify their methods. The Summoner claims bribes keep people from being excommunicated from the Church, and he is particularly disdainful of the Church in some regard which Chaucer leads readers to believe is partially the cause of his corruption. “Purs is the ercedekenes helle, seyde he” meaning the Summoner believed the archdeacon’s hell was in their money purses (Chaucer 659). The immense disliking the Friar and the Summoner take to each other is interesting because they repeatedly declare the other one corrupt, pointing out stereotypical viewpoints of their respective position. It could be said that these characters are projecting their own corruptions on each other. The Summoner’s dislike of the Friar reveals a new aspect on the Church: antifraternalism. Summoners were not part of mendicant orders such as the Franciscans or Dominicans. In the middle ages, the summoning office of the Church was doomed to corruption because they were not paid particularly well and could be bribed easily. Summoners made money on a case-by-case basis so they oftentimes invested themselves in the gossip and business of the area to relay information to their authorities in order to make money as well (Fritze 113). Summoners developed this reputation as corrupt sheriffs and bullies through medieval England and Chaucer’s own Summoner does not dispute this reputation.

Chaucer’s Pardoner, unlike the Prioress, knows the extent of his moral corruption. The Pardoner gives out pardons to those who have sinned. Typically he gives out official Church letters and sells fake relics to these sinners but has no remorse because he has nothing but ill-will toward these greedy wrongdoers. He makes money off of this duplicity and knows full well it is hypocritical to what he preaches in his Tale. His relics are sold as bones belonging to saints but in actuality are animal bones. The Pardoner at the conclusion of his tale even attempts to sell the relics to the outraged pilgrims. “Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye than that the person gat in monthes tweye,” Chaucer states in the Prologue, meaning the Pardoner could collect much more money than a single one of his relicts could actually sell for in two months (Chaucer 704). Considering England at Chaucer’s time was still Roman Catholic, saintly relics and sacraments were largely important and popular. Chaucer employing the Pardoner as a fake relic seller is intriguing due to the fact the pilgrims are travelling to see the relics at Canterbury of Thomas Becket. In the middle ages, it was extremely difficult to tell whether a relic was real or not because there was no way at the time to determine the owner of the bones. Because of this and to prove authenticity, relics would be encapsulated in ornate structures or dipped in gold or silver (Malo 88). The Pardoner himself also decorated his “relics” by placing bits of common metal on them to resemble ornate gems. Relics were not easy to come into close quarters to so sinners would pay the Pardoner a great deal of money. Dishonest relic custodians were not unknown in Chaucer’s time. The Italian writer Boccacio, from whom Chaucer takes a lot of his source material from, wrote of a con artist who sold fake relics using fantastic stories and ornaments (Malo 90). Using the Pardoner, Geoffrey Chaucer is bringing attention to the hypocrisy of Church wealth and the common exploitment of saint legends. Giving the Pardoner a morally correct tale depicting the dangers of greed strengthens his theme throughout the Canterbury Tales of how greed is morally corrupting the Roman Catholic Church.

The Parson, Chaucer’s sole pillar of moral purity, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the clergy on this journey. Chaucer uses the Parson as a foil to the rest of the clergy to make their corruption even more alarming. It is also clever because any critic of Chaucer who claimed he was a heretic for his portrayals would have to be silent upon meeting this character. However, Chaucer was in a unique position because he was a government official and able to shed some type of criticism on the Church because of his social status. The Parson is the picture of religious goodness. The Parson is a priest in his local parish and speaks about the importance of being a wholly good example by only telling a tale that is virtuous and in accord with Church teachings. The Parson lives according to the Bible and takes his religious responsibility very seriously. When asked to tell a tale he replies, “Thou getest fable noon ytoold for me, For Paul, that writeth unto thymothee, repreveth hem that weyven soothfastnesse and tellen fables and swich wrecchednesse. Why sholde I sowen draf out of my fest, Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest? For which I seye, if that yow list to heere moralitee and vertuous mateere, and thanne that ye wol yeve me audience,” (Chaucer 31-39). The Parson says that he must set an example and tell a story that is not a lie because Paul the Apostle believed tales to be wretched. His tale is solemn one that discusses virtues and vices, seeming to be the only adequate tale to tell on a pilgrimage. This tale capitalizes on exactly how wayward the Church had become and draws further attention to the rest of the clergy travelling.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales certainly gives its readers a multitude of hypocritical clergy members who seem more focused on worldliness than the spiritual plane. These figures of the Prioress, the Friar, the Summoner, and the Pardoner demonstrate varying degrees of self-awareness of their crimes and flaws. They all seem to be under the impression that to some degree their status as a Church official exonerates them from their sins.  All of their flaws reflect a multitude of hypocrisies within the Church at that time period. Rather than just making incorrigible characters, Geoffrey Chaucer was trying to cleverly point out how the flawed Church affected medieval society. Christianity and the Church was at the direct center of everyday life in the Middle Ages. The Church’s problems directly made impacts on everyday life. Anti-semitism was related to the insular and bigoted viewpoint of the popular blood libel tales. Nunneries were acting more like finishing schools and were not producing saints but courtly ladies. There were instances of friars were going against oaths, stealing money, and disrespecting women. Because of the flawed set-up of church officials, many offices such as summoner offices were prone to corruption. Relics and wealth were upheld to the point where people honored them over penance. It is abundantly clear that Chaucer wanted the Catholic Church to reform from The Canterbury Tales. Through his distaste at his own creations, the theme of social reform emerges. By using the Parson, Chaucer shows directly that his problem does not lie with the teachings of Christianity, but the Church that acts as the leader of Christianity. Though his view on Church officials and their work is undoubtedly negative, the author was hopeful that his satirical narration would draw attention and cause social reform.

Work Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey, and Nevill Coghill. The Canterbury Tales. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Despres, Denise. Religion & Literature 43.2 (2011): 183–185. Web.

Fritze, Ronald H., and William Baxter Robison. Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272-1485. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002. Print.

Havely, N. R.. “Chaucer’s Friar and Merchant”. The Chaucer Review 13.4 (1979): 337–345. Web.

Krummel, Miriamne Ara. Crafting Jewishness in Medieval England: Legally Absent, Virtually Present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.

Kuhl, E. P.. “Chaucer and the Church”. Modern Language Notes 40.6 (1925): 321–338. Web.

Malo, Robyn. “The Pardoner’s Relics (and Why They Matter the Most)”. The Chaucer Review 43.1 (2008): 82–102. Web.

Pigg, Daniel F.. “Refiguring Martyrdom: Chaucer’s Prioress and Her Tale”. The Chaucer Review 29.1 (1994): 65–73. Web.

Young, Karl. “A Note on Chaucer’s Friar”. Modern Language Notes 50.2 (1935): 83–85. Web.

Williams, Arnold. “Two Notes on Chaucer’s Friars”. Modern Philology 54.2 (1956): 117–120. Web.

Zietlow, Paul N.. “In Defense of the Summoner”. The Chaucer Review 1.1 (1966): 4–19. Web.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Reaganomics: An Analysis of the Campbellian, Medieval, and Contemporary Themes in The Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Reaganomics: An Analysis of the Campbellian, Medieval, and Contemporary Themes in The Last Crusade

This post is going to be a bit different from the previous posts. Usually I focus on classic literature however, considering how literature has a close relationship to film, I decided to show literary theory, specifically the hero’s journey, in action on the silver screen.

The charming and intelligent archaeologist Indiana Jones, the protagonist of the titular film franchise, is known for his daring quests to ancient temples and faraway lands in search of truth. Harrison Ford, starring as the main character, mesmerizes movie audiences to this day with his daring escapes, witty comments, and historical knowledge. He is undoubtedly hailed as hero by Western culture. The reasons behind his heroic status, however, run much deeper than what action moviegoers see on the silver screen. The idea of heroism, for centuries, is tied to certain traits and even a paradigm, one made famous by Joseph Campbell in his acclaimed work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Campbell explores how characters society deems as protagonists often follow a similar broad template throughout their stories. Indiana Jones is no exception to Campbell’s archetype and the hero’s third adventure, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, neatly ties into Campbell’s monomyth. The movie blurs the differences between a modern hero and the mythic hero as certain elements of the film tie into the contemporary values at the film’s release. The film’s plot surrounding the Holy Grail evokes memories from classic heroic tales such as Arthurian legend and the Bible. The character’s own chivalry and faith play an important part in the film just as those traits do respectively for old English famous characters such as Sir Gawain of the Arthurian Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Roland from French Crusades epic poem, The Song of Roland. Filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas use these roots of classic heroism and link them to American values that were upheld especially at the time of release. While the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade pays homage to the classic hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell, Arthurian legend, and Biblical faith, its contemporary adaption of those classic sources and subsequent success suggest that the monomyth is timeless.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the audience is reunited with daring archaeologist, Indiana Jones who through a flashback is revealed to have a deep respect for history and a tenuous relationship with his historian father. Later in 1938, Indiana is approached by a businessman named Walter Donovan who reveals Indiana’s father, Henry Jones, has gone missing in search of the Holy Grail, the fabled cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.  The Grail in Arthurian legend possesses magical powers including healing and immortality. Henry Jones has spent his whole entire life researching the relic, so much so that he had neglected his family through Indiana’s upbringing. Through his father’s diary, Indiana maps out the journey leading him to Venice where mysterious groups dedicated to protecting the Grail reveal where his father is being held hostage by Nazis in Austria. Indiana travels to save his father but ultimately learns that Walter Donovan and his associates are working with the Nazis to find the Grail for the Third Reich. The diary unfortunately falls into the hands of the Nazis who are able to decipher the information. The Grail is revealed to be in Turkey. In typical Jones fashion, the father and son duo make a daring escape and get the diary back. With the help of their friends, Marcus and Sallah, they get to the location of the Grail at the same time as the Nazis. The cave, where it is hidden, is full of booby traps and a set of trials that visitors must survive in order to attain the Grail. Donovan shoots Henry Jones in order to give Indiana a motive to secure the Grail. Indiana leads the way through the trials of faith successfully despite his religious doubt. Indiana fills the Grail with Holy water to heal his father. The cave starts to collapse since nobody is allowed to take the Grail out of its temple. In the following chaos, the Holy Grail is lost but the Jones men survive along with their friends due to their love for each other. Together they ride into the sunset on horseback.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade draw a lot of the themes from medieval traditions such as Arthurian romance. The film takes the United States back to its own “Camelot era” when American patriotism and success were commonplace unlike the post-Vietnam era (Aronstein 14). The action-packed plot is driven by the Holy Grail, mentioned both by the Bible and Arthurian legend. The film places heavy emphasis on spiritual authority not unlike Arthurian tradition which places the Camelot court under God first and foremost. By the end of the film, Indiana Jones has been declared the last knight by an actual member of the Knights Templar sent to protect the Grail in the Temple. Our protagonist, just like Arthur’s knights, possesses a moral code of conduct not unlike the chivalric code.

Through the example of Sir Gawain from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Indiana’s embodiment of knighthood is more apparent. The Arthurian tale tells the story of King Arthur’s young nephew who steps up to take part in a quest so that King Arthur does not have to. A knight is subservient to two higher beings: God and the sovereign. Sir Gawain is initially reluctant to take part in the Green Knight’s game but upon hearing his king volunteer, he steps in. “I am the weakest of your knight, I know, and the dullest-minded, So my death would be the least loss, if truth should be told; Only because you are my uncle am I to be praised, No virtue I know in myself but your blood,” he appeals to Arthur to take on the quest (354 – 357).  Indiana has a similar call to adventure in which he is hesitant to accept a ridiculous quest until a father figure’s life is potentially at risk. Both the Green Knight and Walter Donovan are deceptive in explaining the nature of the quest. The Green Knight is revealed to be working with Arthur’s foe, Morgan le Fay, while Walter Donovan is revealed to be working for the Nazi Party. Our knights know fully well the quests seem strange and ridiculous; however, they are loyal to protecting their respective father figures despite any personal misgivings.

Sir Gawain and Indiana’s adherence to a moral code respectively is demonstrated in their young age. While Sir Gawain must adhere to the laws of King Arthur, Indy has a clear sense of right and wrong, valuing fairness and detesting greed. Sir Gawain is a relatively young knight at the time of his quest for the Green Knight. He is so distraught at lying about the girdle and going against the rules of hospitality, that he makes himself wear a girdle to remember his misstep. Like Sir Gawain, Indiana wears the hat of the man who managed to get away with the priceless artifact as a reminder. As a young Boy Scout, Indiana witnesses bandits finding a Spanish artifact who plan on selling it on the black market. “It belongs in a museum,” Indiana stubbornly declares despite putting his own life in danger by taking the artefact to the sheriff (Spielberg). Absolute truth in both these situations is upheld despite the hardship that comes with it. King Arthur’s court as well as the Green Knight were both sympathetic and understood why Gawain withheld the girdle. Nobody would have blamed Indiana if he left and did not intervene with the bandits. Outstanding members of societies such as knights hold truth so closely and rigidly that they undertake additional obstacles and appear to chastise themselves for any moral or physical slippage.

An obstacle that the Arthurian knight and Indiana Jones encounter is the difficulties of courtly love in relation to their intrinsic chivalric code. Arthurian knights were expected to be courteous and knowledgeable in the ways of courtly love. Sir Gawain is tempted thrice by Lady Bertilak, who constantly throws into question his status of a courteous knight in order to tempt him away from his quest. Similarly, Indiana is duped by Dr. Elsa Schneider, a charming archaeologist who works for the Nazis. Elsa seduces Indiana while complimenting his prowess, only to reveal she seduced both Indiana and his father to get information about the Grail. Because of his feelings and trust in Elsa, Indiana ends up held hostage in Nazi Germany temporarily. In Arthurian romances, typically a woman is tied to the quest’s means to an end (Biber 25). Elsa is tied to the Grail after seducing Indiana and losing the relic and her life in her greed. While Sir Gawain does not respond to her initial offering of love tokens, Lady Bertilak’s offer of the girdle ultimately changes the end result of the quest. The knights find themselves briefly torn between courteous love and chivalric duty, and allow themselves to be duped.

The film’s homage to the Christian knights also evokes memories of Crusade mythology such as Roland, the hero of The Song of Roland. Just like the French epic, God plays a significant role in the hero’s ultimate success in their journeys. Both the poem and the film end with the heroes relying solely on their Christian faith, abandoning all else in favor of God. Roland chooses to fight until his last moments while Indiana forgoes all his concrete facts and knowledge in the three trials and puts his life in the hands of God. Similarly, Roland and Indiana in the end accomplish their journey by becoming closer with the two authority figures. Roland answers to Charlemagne and God while Indiana reunites with his father and the Christian God. The two protagonists fight enemy groups who do not ally with the Christian God’s teachings. The Saracens do not worship the Christian God while the Nazis never show respect for God, only God’s power. Roland’s adversaries such as Ganelon who stray from God meet horrific demises while the Nazi sympathizers such as Walter Donovan do not pass the temple’s trials of faith successfully. Meanwhile Roland and Indiana realigning themselves with faith proves to help them reach their fullest potential. Roland becomes a Christian martyr who ascends to Heaven. Indiana has relinquished doubt for a better relationship with God and his father. Joseph Campbell takes note of this renewed spirituality from earlier texts in his work.. The hero’s journey resulting in spirituality and truth becomes the backbone of his paradigm.

The film neatly follows Joseph Campbell’s paradigm in his work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, due to the fact that its producers, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas used the work as inspiration on a number of their films (Crowson 18). Indiana may be an archaeologist during the 1930’s, but he is a white, middle class, handsome man, reminiscent of traditional Western protagonists. Indiana’s qualities of heroism are revealed to be inherited from his father or attempts to gain his father’s admiration. They are both skilled archaeologists and completely dedicate themselves to their work. Looking at the film’s examples of the Call to Adventure, the Supernatural Aid, and Atonement with the Father, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, pays homage to the classic hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell.

Joseph Campbell describes the “Call to Adventure” as initially misleading, explaining: “the adventure may begin as a mere blunder… or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man” (Campbell 48). The hero is in the Ordinary World when approached by a challenge that may go deeper than what they initially thought they were signing up for. Indiana Jones at the time of his “Call to Adventure” is a history professor, donating artifacts to museums. There is not a lot of time spent in the Ordinary World because Indiana has returned from a previous journey. Like Beowulf or King Arthur, he is an experienced hero. Indiana almost seems awkward in his own mundane life, preferring studying in the field to the office at the university. Professor Jones is approached by a man by the name of Walter Donovan, who talks of the timeless search for the Holy Grail. Dr. Jones laughs at Walter Donovan, firmly saying that he does not believe in “chasing bedtime stories”. Indiana adds, “You’ve got the wrong Jones, Mr. Donovan. Why don’t you try my father?” (Spielberg). This prompts Donovan to introduce the “ Call to Adventure”: Indiana’s father has gone missing looking for the Holy Grail. After the initial refusal, Indiana to accept the “Call to Adventure”, to find his estranged father. Campbell describes this adventure as a transferal from, “within the pale of society to a zone unknown” (Campbell 48). Jones is definitely leaving his realm of historical facts for biblical mythology in hopes of finding his father. The creators of the film reveal a lot about their hero in this moment because it shows that Indiana is practical in the artifacts he chooses, and cannot be swayed by greed. He, despite his fascination with myths, is not a spiritual man and does not have the faith initially needed to find the relic. However, the main difference between Indiana and Henry Jones is that his father has a lot of faith in theology. The Holy Grail is ultimately found while Indiana pursued his main quest: trying to keep his father safe. This “Call to Adventure” is answered because of love rather than glory.

Campbell describes the “Supernatural Aid” substage for the hero as  “one has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear” quite soon after the call has been accepted (Campbell 59).  Indiana’s aid appears instantly after he has agreed to find his father: a notebook written by his father mysteriously arrives in the mail, detailing the exact steps his father explored prior to his disappearance. The prodigal son is finally acknowledging the obsession that has kept his father at a distance. This does not mean Indiana Jones doubts his father’s journal. He knows his father is an intelligent historian and if anyone could find the Grail, it is his father, Henry Jones. Our hero is guided by this book to hidden places in Europe, ensuring his destiny of finding the Grail. All forces align with Indiana’s journey as he deciphers the notes in the journal. Indy’s father, in the form of this diary, has given him a talisman until later when his father himself acts as the aid. Henry Jones Sr., Indiana’s father fits the mold of Campbell’s “Supernatural Aid” considering he is older and wiser, having been searching for the Holy Grail his entire life to the dismay of our protagonist. His knowledge surpasses that of normal society considering he has found the secret pathway to the Holy Grail.  However, Sean Connery’s character acts as both the Supernatural Aid and Father figure in the film, due to the theme of mythic father-son reunion in the film.

One of the biggest themes of the film, fatherly acceptance,  come at the stage, “Atonement with the Father”. Towards the end of the film, Indiana risks his life trying to get the Holy Grail and uses it to cure his father’s gunshot wound. The Grail after this moment gets lost in the chaos of the Temple beginning to collapse. His father telling him to “let it go” is a tremendous moment for Indiana, who has grown estranged from his father due to his father’s obsession with the Holy Grail for decades. The film takes this stage, “Atonement with the Father” quite literally considering Campbell describes it for the protagonist as, “He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned” (115). Henry Jones understands that his family is more important than chasing a dream while Indiana finally sees what drove the obsession. Campbell describes the negative qualities of the father being a result of the protagonist’s own fears and flaws. Indiana disagreed with his father because he felt he could never adequately captivate his father’s attention and pride. Henry Jones dismissing the Holy Grail in favor of his son’s safety was all Indiana ever wanted, thus removing the animosity Indiana felt towards his father. By engaging in this quest, Indiana, like Campbell’s archetype, is opening himself up to his father after years and years of competing with him for status in their archaeology field. Campbell describes this as “the son against the father for the mastery of the universe” (Campbell 115). Indiana’s disgust at being called “Junior” by his father in this stage fades. Henry finally refers to his son as “Indiana”, the name he chose for himself. Atonement with the Father is not just a stage in Indiana’s specific journey, but the theme and the “Ultimate Boon”, the takeaway from the adventure. The Holy Grail being lost in the Return does not seem to negatively affect the Jones men who were searching for reconciliation all this time. Atonement also refers to Indiana’s newfound faith in Christianity by coming into contact with the Holy Grail’s miracles. The cup healing his father instills a spirituality that the audience did not see in the Call to Adventure. Indiana when saving and being saved by his father, reunites with the Christian God as well. The factual professor becomes his father’s son.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade takes Joseph Campbell’s monomyth at face value, our protagonist is almost a mythic hero on a quest for someone he loves and an elusive artifact. Generations of audiences enjoy this film and its predecessors for the very reason Campbell’s paradigm is still relevant. Our character is setting out on a quest that will ultimately shape him morally and spiritually. Campbell describes the journey as often leading to spiritual gain rather than monetary gain. Indiana Jones’ faith definitely waxes and wanes throughout the journey but ultimately is gained through his reconnecting with Henry, his father. He passes the three trials of faith and is declared a knight, symbolizing a transformation. The audience always believed Indiana to be dashing and daring, but he emerged from this adventure rejuvenated. Through his quest for his father, he finds out more about himself than about the mysterious Holy Grail. The traditional spiritual quest is set in motion with a modern day twist. The monsters are contemporary society’s villains: the Nazi Party. God and a father figure are strong figures, pulling our hero towards reconciling with both. The element of the supernatural is divine power and knowledge. Our hero risks death countless times, defeats the modern day monsters, and re-emerges a better version of himself. Indiana Jones is reborn with a newfound sense of faith and resolvement of childhood issues with his parent. Indiana Jones is a Campbellian hero reaching his fullest potential.

Campbell’s paradigm is broad in order to apply to heroes across decades and centuries. It is naturally true that certain values are upheld in different time periods. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is no exception and reflects moral ideals of the time it was released. The trilogy spanned Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and the final lap of the Cold War. The United States had lost the Vietnam War the prior decade, and tension with the Soviet Union seemed unrelenting. The Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979 had marked the beginning of the United States’ tension with the Middle East (Jeffords 27). Nostalgia for the past, such as the victory of World War II, permeated media and was promoted by President Ronald Reagan. The president campaigned on a popular platform that promised the re-establishment of American values such as patriotism, democracy, and the family (Aronstein 19). As a former actor himself, Reagan knew that media, even family-friendly films made impressions on the psyche of Americans at home. His rhetoric of the glory days became popular and began to permeate popular culture. Heroic adventure blockbusters such as Rambo and Star Wars were being quoted by the president in regards to relations with the Soviets. The film term “blockbuster” came from the World War Two slang referring to a bomb that knocks down everything surrounding it, and evolved into “the capturing of an audience’s attention and decimating individual consciousness to replace them with one that is universal” (Biber 68). Blockbuster movies are oftentimes more reflective of the audience’s thinking than the authors. The Indiana Jones trilogy was definitely a series of blockbusters especially with its director, Stephen Spielberg, an important producer of popular culture, whose success came partially from his ability to pick up on the contemporary American mindset (Crowson 19). The two stars of the film both had prior ties to patriotic films. Harrison Ford had starred as Han Solo, a hero fighting the fascist Galactic Empire in the Star Wars Trilogy. Sean Connery was recognizable as James Bond, a suave spy, though British, was constantly fighting the Soviet Union. This was not an accident considering these familiar faces were already synonymous with democracy and patriotism. The patriotic film does not remember the past, but reimagines the past to what the audience wants it to be so that they can imprint it onto their own present day.

Indiana Jones invited American audiences back into the safety net of the past, a time when the United States won wars and American exceptionalism was at an all time high. In times of political uncertainty such as the Cold War, films about American heroes were comforting and reaffirming patriotism. Indiana Jones reflects democratic values considering he typically works independently and fights against fascist groups such as the Nazis. The archaeologist is an upstanding American citizen in that he is educated and abides by laws however, he also demonstrates an American frontier ruggedness as well. He goes from an intelligent and well-dressed professor to a hypermasculine hero who evokes memories of the stereotypical cowboy, America’s first heroic identity. For example, the opening flashback depicts a young Indiana as a Boy Scout in the Wild West trying to stop a crime from being committed. These images of American conservatism strengthen Indiana as not only a hero, but a distinctly conventional American one. His adventure parallels the taming of the Wild West with images of his signature hat and ride horseback through unknown territories. When Indiana travels overseas, he is a grand presence that is able to quickly solve situations. For example, the Nazis have difficulty following the Grail trail in Italy unlike Indiana who is able to decipher the clues within 24 hours of being in Venice. The film’s hero as well as his father seem to be the only characters capable of solving these puzzles and problems overseas. European characters are often portrayed as villains or inept compared to Indiana, the true American. Marcus Brody, a British historian, comes off as clumsy and oblivious in the film so much so that Indiana must rescue him from the Nazis. Indiana, Henry, and Marcus are all scholars educated at traditional “old boy” universities. The Nazis, though educated, are presented as anti-intellectuals as the audience is shown a scene where Indiana sees Hitler at a book burning, signifying the destruction of knowledge. Middle Eastern characters such as the Brotherhood organization are shown to not be able to protect the Holy Grail as well as Indiana, evoking memories of “the white man’s burden” (Aronstein 10). The scenes in the United States are safe and comfortable while the scenes abroad always have a hint of danger, that something unusual is right around the corner. Though not a native of these faraway lands, the American hero always seems to know best.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade  also reaffirms the image of a hyper masculine hero. In the 1980’s, hyper masculine heroes were tremendously rampant and popular, for example, Rambo, John McClane of Die Hard, and Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry (Jeffords 23). Indiana is no exception considering his profession is exaggerated in order for him to possess these masculine features. While Indiana possesses knowledge such as fluency in ancient languages and symbology, his physical endurance is more memorable. The typical stereotype of a bookish intellectual is replaced with that of a historical superhero (McGeough 175). Unlike real archaeologists, Indiana Jones always seems to be on a mission for artifacts that are endangered rather than buried safely under time. Indy is seen destroying Venetian historical property in order to find secret passageways rather than preserving historical sites. He narrowly survives booby traps in temples and fights excellently in hand-to-hand combat. Even as a young boy, Indiana is shown to be able to outrun bandits and jump from car to car on a moving train. Indiana is tough and always neatly ends his successful adventure with winning the heart of the attractive female protagonist. The reimagination of the archaeologist’s profession turns history into a new type of frontier. The career plays a part in the background of the plot while Indiana’s physical strength dominates the silver screen.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were able to make the old new with the help of Joseph Campbell. The film grossed $122 million in its first four weeks at the box office and had a subsequent sequel decades later as well as a spin-off television show (Crowson 18). Its major success is evidence that Campbell’s blueprint still generates heroes and sheds insight into what people expect in them. In one of his last interviews, Joseph Campbell stated, “Myths are so intimately bound to the culture, time, and place that unless the symbols, the metaphors are kept alive by constant recreation through the arts, the life just slips away from them” (Crowson 19). The film proves Campbell’s point with its choice of an all- American hero in a revisal of a medieval quest. Robert Tideman, a critic, reviewed the film as, “Indiana Jones, an ordinary guy who can’t help being educated, compassionate, and brave, gets past our defenses, plucks away on the heartstrings and packs them in,” (Tideman 496). Audiences may not be aware of the historical paradigm’s roots, but are familiar and comfortable nonetheless with the film’s hero, who seems like an old friend.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade demonstrates that society wants the same story told over and over, with minor adjustments to contemporary times. The mysteriousness of the Holy Grail holds up just as it did a thousand years ago. The hero who battles for morality has and will always resonate with generations for the very reason that there will always be a need for a hero for different circumstances. Steven Spielberg described Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as, “a popcorn adventure with a lot of butter”, categorizing the movie as a mindless pleasure (Biber 69). However fantastic the movie may present itself to be, it is not simply a mindless pleasure but a culmination of centuries of tradition, myths, and insight into the human condition. The paradigm is not mindless and repetitive but is comfortable and familiar to audiences because it is predictable in that good triumphs over evil. Indiana Jones is Joseph Campbell’s paradigm on the silver screen, proving his hero theory with every move the archaeologist makes. Indiana Jones is one of the “thousand faces” that the quintessential hero puts on. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas adjusted Joseph Campbell’s paradigm and constructed a character, made up of more myth than reality, to resonate with the contemporary Western audience.

“As A Reed is Shaken in the Water” Charlotte Bronte & Symmetry As Seen in “Jane Eyre”

“As A Reed is Shaken in the Water” Charlotte Bronte & Symmetry As Seen in “Jane Eyre”

Who doesn’t love the romance and mystery of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? While the brooding Mr. Rochester, the secret wife, and the austere Thornfield are unforgettable, readers often forget the child abuse that Jane endures throughout the novel. Today, I am going to discuss the unconditional love Jane desires rather than the romantic love she harbors for Rochester. The eponymous orphan of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre finds herself often in the care of her maternal and paternal cousins’ households. Jane Eyre’s status as an orphan increases the influence her cousins hold over her. Jane grows up in the emotionally and physically abusive Reed household, the family of her deceased mother. As an adult, she finds herself sheltered in the Rivers home, the nieces and nephew of her dead father. Jane’s respective sides of the family starkly contrast in their treatment of her as well as her response to their differing levels of hospitality. While Jane grows up knowing the Reeds are her cousins, she never feels any family support. In contrast, Jane feels a familial bond to the Rivers long before she becomes aware of their blood relation. Upon further examination, the Reed and Rivers families prove to parallel one another in the ways they attempt to gain control over Jane’s life as well as their family make-up. This paper will argue that Jane Eyre’s Rivers cousins foil the Reed cousins, creating symmetry and closure for Jane Eyre after a traumatic childhood.

The wealthy and cold Reed cousins abuse Jane as a young girl, neglecting and torturing her. Their beratement not only leads Jane to the cruel Lowood School but leads to “some fearful pangs of mentally suffering” that Jane continues to feel even after she leaves their home of Gateshead (Bronte 20). In Christianity, the reed is an image of humiliation, linked to Christ’s Passion because the Roman soldiers use a reed to offer Christ vinegar wine while he hangs on the Cross. Reeds are thin and unable to give adequate support. The Reed Family humiliates Jane and causes further humiliation when they deem her a “liar,” a term that follows her to Lowood. However, the reed in Christianity can also be reminiscent of St. John the Baptist who baptized Christ in a river surrounded by reeds. St. John the Baptist links the Christian reed to the image of rivers, the surname of Jane’s paternal cousins. Rivers of water symbolize a purification leading to a transformation. They are also natural ways of transportation. The Rivers family take Jane in when she is sick and starving. At their home, she undergoes a transformation that helps her recover from trauma from her shocking engagement as well as her childhood.

Both sets of cousins are comprised of two sisters dominated by a strong patriarchal brother. Jane’s maternal male cousin, John Reed acts with incredible cruelty as he strives to show her that she is worthless. John, as a boy, beats Jane with a book she is reading, telling her: “You ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals as we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense” (Bronte 6). John Reed controls Jane’s fate the most out of the Reed children considering he indirectly traps Jane in the Red Room as well as off to Lowood School. He is excessive in his torture as Jane recalls he killed animals and destroyed plants at Gateshead. This excessiveness repeats when Jane discovers he gambled away his inheritance as a young man leading him to commit suicide. Eyre, as a child, was infuriated by John but also quite fearful of the boy, remarking she was “habitually obedient” (Bronte 5). She hid behind the curtain from his sadism, only fighting back when provoked.

John’s sisters, Georgiana and Eliza, stand in the background of John’s torture. They neglect Jane with their refusal to treat her as a sister. While Jane is strictly punished and ignored, Eliza and Georgiana are respected and indulged by the household. As adults, Jane remarks that the two sisters are not at all close. Their cold treatment toward Jane cheats her out of having close relationships with other women her age, an experience she does not have until she arrives at Lowood. The lack of sisterhood among the three girls at Gateshead robs Jane of real friendship.

The Reed children’s father, while deceased, is a presence in the first portion of the novel. His love for his sister’s child secures Jane a home at Gateshead in his will to the disappointment of his wife and children. Jane fears the ghost of her Uncle Reed, but instinctively knows he would disapprove of her torture at the hands of his family. She declares to her aunt, “My Uncle Reed is in heaven, and can see all you do and think, and so can papa and mama; they know how you shut me up all day long” (Bronte 31). His dying wishes create the circumstances for Reed children’s abuse of Jane, despite Uncle Reed’s good intentions. Jane removes herself from this torture, disavowing her family, and gives closure to her Aunt Reed on her deathbed. However, Jane’s closure over her childhood does not come until she meets the Rivers cousins.

St. John Rivers’s name is no coincidence considering his striking similarities to the forceful John Reed. He is the religious foil of John Reed, as his name alludes, working as a minister and later as a missionary. As John Reed enacted sins of greed and wrath, St. John rigorously studies the Bible. While John Reed is excessive in his power and greed, St. John Rivers is extreme in his Christian zeal, repressing his emotions. Although he creates shelter for Jane, he comes across quite cold because of his suppression of emotion. Both John and St. John are quite selfish in how they pursue what they want: total control. The two men’s quests for power culminate into two ultimate solutions: John Reed commits suicide to escape debt while St. John seeks to control non-Christians in India. Both men take an interest in Jane as an accessory to their desire. While John Reed wishes to control Jane as a submissive slave, St. John wants to mold Jane into the perfect wife to take on his missionary trip to India. Jane Eyre’s reaction to St. John parallels her actions as a child considering Jane once again uses concealment. Instead of a curtain, Jane uses the protection of an alias which like John Reed, St. John sees through. When St. John proposes marriage, Jane reacts negatively and speaks her mind as he attempts to make her know her place in this world. She is clear that she only sees Rivers as a brother and that she desires a husband that will make her happy rather than obedient.

While the male cousins mirror each other in name, desire, and control over Jane, it is important to note that their effects on the protagonist are vastly different. John’s control leads Jane to endure mental health complications as well as physical injuries. St. John’s attempted control over Jane leads her to the knowledge of what she wants in her life. John Reed weakens her body while St. John strengthens her health and her convictions. Jane admires St. John’s form of control, thinking him altruistic while believing John Reed’s excessive control to be evil. This difference leads Jane to think fondly of her paternal cousin despite his flawed similarities to John Reed.

The Rivers sisters, two girls who care very much about each other, seize the opportunity to nurse Jane. Diana and Mary urge Jane to stay at their home even though they do not have a lot of money. St. John comments on their generosity, “My sisters, you see, have a pleasure in keeping you as they would a pleasure in keeping and cherishing a half-frozen bird some wintry wind might”(Bronte 493). Diana and Mary fervently try to keep Jane as well as find out everything about her. This eagerness is confusing to Jane, considering Eliza and Georgiana did not care to ask her a single personal question upon returning to Gateshead. As the sisters open their home to Jane, she remarkably opens up, admitting “a kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over me”(Bronte 477). This feeling of love continues to steadily increase as Jane grows to respect them in a way she could not respect the Reed sisters. While Eliza and Georgiana were cold, passive figures in the background of Jane’s childhood, Diana and Mary are active roles in her happiness. Jane remarks upon her cousins, “I like Diana and Mary, and I will attach myself for life to Diana and Mary,”(Bronte 548). Jane, who has been a lone traveler her whole life, connects herself to her female cousins in this declaration.

The girls’ personalities stand in contrast to the Reed sisters. Diana teaches Mary and Jane to speak German, cultivating the girls’ love for learning. Both sisters work as governesses, showing their intelligence and compassion. The name, Diana evokes the images of the Greek goddess of wisdom and nurturing children while the name, Mary is a reminder of the Virgin Mary, characterized by her generosity and compassion. While the Rivers sisters have the names of generous female figures, the Reed sisters have names derived from English royalty, marking their wealth and superiority from Jane. The girls’ personalities are foreshadowed by their first names’ associations similarly to their last names.

Similar to the Reed children, the Rivers children have a paternal figure whose shadow and will are influential to their future existence. While Uncle Reed’s will secures Jane at Gateshead, Uncle John Eyre leaves his fortune to Jane Eyre instead of the Rivers children.  John also ensures Jane’s future status by preventing her wedding to a married Rochester. Both patriarchal ghosts show a deep concern for the orphan over the children they would be more inclined to protect. Similarly to the Reed children’s disappointment in their father’s wishes, the Rivers children are initially disappointment by Uncle John’s financial wishes. However, John does what Uncle Reed could not, unbeknownst to him: bring the children together. His death uncovers Jane’s relation to the Rivers. Jane splits the money evenly between her and her new adopted siblings, stating that it is very fair to split the money between her uncle’s four relations. Again, Jane instinctively knows what her deceased relations would approve of, despite never speaking to them.

Jane’s trauma, done by the Reeds, is undone by the Rivers family, their counterparts. Jane, starving for kinship, is, at last, resolved by the discovery of compassionate family members. She declares to her cousin, “You cannot at all imagine the craving I have for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never have brothers or sisters; I must and will have them now,” (Bronte 549). From Jane’s dismissal of the inheritance, it is clear that Jane measures wealth in love rather than money. This character trait shows that the Reed family’s abuse was even more detrimental than Jane previously explained, and that the Rivers’ acceptance of her means more to her than they could ever know. This love becomes physically: “I now clapped my hands in sudden joy —  my pulse bounded, my veins thrilled” (Bronte 546). Jane’s lack of love manifested in physical pain as a child. Her abundance of love manifests as excitement. Jane may have been close to love and acceptance in finding Mr. Rochester and forgiving her Aunt Reed, but it is at the emergence of the Rivers that she finds her sense of belonging.

The combination of stark contrasts as well as similarities creates the perfect remedy for Jane. As Northrop Frye, author of Word With Power, notes in literature, “A descent into a world below consciousness involves some annihilation of the previous conditions of existence, corresponding to falling asleep”(Frye 266). Jane, as a child, passes out cold in the Red Room and later as an adult, wakes up in Moor House after sleeping for days. Frye goes on to explain that in this unconscious world of literature, the theme of doubles is used to solve feelings of conflict within oneself, typically the good version versus the evil version. As noted previously, the etymology of names have foreshadowed the actions of Jane’s relatives. Jane’s own name is the feminine form of the name, John. The emergence of two influential Johns mark the conflicted sense of belonging within Jane. Jane Eyre destroys the Reeds’ damage with the healing of their doubles, the Rivers. The family foils come together to show how much Jane desires to belong and be loved.

“Frailty, Thy Name is Woman!” Will’s Rigid Madonna-Whore Complex

“Frailty, Thy Name is Woman!” Will’s Rigid Madonna-Whore Complex

For our first dive in literary criticism, I thought we would take a look at the Bard himself.
The women in William Shakespeare’s works are oftentimes the most intriguing characters due to the fact that through their status as supporting characters they shed light on feminine notions. In their famous work,
The Madwoman in the Attic, feminist theorists, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar lay the groundwork for what they find to be male preconceived notions of female characters. They note that male writers often employ the stereotypes of women either being angelic or rebellious monsters, or mad women. This paradigm can interestingly be seen in Shakespeare’s works with his female leads in the tragedies, Hamlet and Macbeth. The female characters seen in these plays struggle with these stereotypes and eventually fulfill one or the other. Shakespearean women typically are literary devices that propel the plot forward and remind the audience that the playwright was not a woman due to the conflicts that take place regarding these characters. William Shakespeare’s female characters in his famous works of Hamlet and Macbeth embody a dualism between being an angel, the patriarchy’s feminine ideal or a monster, rebellious to society’s ideal woman and usually suffering from hysteria.

Gilbert and Gubar describe the angel of male dominated literature as a descendant of the Virgin Mary (Gilbert and Gubar 598) . She is pure, beautiful and endlessly merciful. The “angel” does not have a detailed story of her own and exhibits gentleness. She works towards pleasing the men in her life and acts ladylike in terms of sexuality and intellect. The aesthetic of lady-like fragility plagues the angel in everything she says and does. The alternative is the female monster or madwoman, a female character who display decidedly unfeminine qualities and oftentimes masculine qualities. The madwoman is scheming, assertive, loud, and extremely sexual at times. Typically, she suffers from some bout of insanity during the story’s unfolding. An image of disobedient Eve in the Garden of Eden succumbing to Satan and bringing about her husband’s demise is brought for. This paradigm, Gilbert and Gubar point out, derives from men’s fear of female autonomy and sexuality (Gilbert and Gubar 607). Male authors express their anxiety with womanly mystique through these characters who are oftentimes classified as a lunatic or a whore. If a female character displays a confidence over her autonomy, male writers write her to be complete undesirable either in appearance, sanity, or both. The theorists also point out that male writers often expect the angel to at times become a madwoman. The angel comes across a foil in the story in the form of a madwoman, or the madwoman is actually a side of the angel that emerges as the plot continues. William Shakespeare conforms to this patriarchal classification of women in different ways throughout his plays such as Hamlet.

The character of Ophelia in Hamlet is a woman at the crossroads of Gilbert and Gubar’s madwoman-angel complex. She is hard to grasp due to lack of knowledge about her entire background, her innermost thoughts, and even her demise due to madness. She is treated as an object by her father, her brother, her intended lover, and even her creator. Her identity is torn between the stronger male roles that surround her such as Hamlet, Polonius, and Laertes who deem her either a virgin or a whore. The men in her family sing her praises for being the perfect model of woman: a virginal angel. Shakespeare uses her, in part, as a device to witness Hamlet’s perceptions of women that stem from his mother, Gertrude’s actions. Hamlet’s conversation with Ophelia show his notion that women ultimately succumb to becoming whores:

I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God’s creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on’t; it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages: those that are married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go” (Hamlet, Act III, Scene I, Line 144).

In this conversation with Ophelia, Hamlet is expressing how his anxiety over Ophelia’s feminine sexuality will prevent them from getting married. Hamlet’s sentiments echo the author’s own considering Ophelia, herself has trouble with the duality of the virgin-whore. She eventually succumbs to madness after her father’s death, singing songs about sex before supposedly killing herself. She feels a duty towards the powerful men in her life and ultimately chooses her father. Her self-doubt is echoed throughout the play. Her lines such as, “I do not know, my lord, what I should think” (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 113) and “ I shall obey my lord” (Act I, Scene 3, Line 145) shed light on how she is controlled by Polonius. A confused Ophelia acts as a pawn for her father as a test to find an explanation for Hamlet’s madness. Hamlet essentially uses her as an emotional punching bag for his own issues by leading her on and dismissing women as whores. Even in death, Ophelia is held up as a pillar of feminine goodness and obedience by her brother, Laertes and her beauty post mortem is morbidly commented on. She is defined by her sexuality in life and death. Ophelia drowned due to her characterization of “an angel” and her death a result of love and duty, which the patriarchy romanticizes. Ophelia collapses beneath the weight of the angel-madwoman paradigm, a fate that parallels other Shakespearean woman such as Lady Macbeth.

Macbeth’s Lady Macbeth is seen as the foil to the feminine ideal with her rebellious plots and her lack of motherly qualities. She is powerful and possesses a masculine strength at a time when her husband does not, ridiculing him for not seizing the opportunity immediately. Lady Macbeth is a dominant figure yet subordinate to her husband, a fact that clearly irks her. She rejects her femininity completely in Act I, Scene 5 where we first encounter her. Her most famous line rejects her potential maternity in order to show at what great lengths she would go to achieve success. She declares, “I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this.” Lady Macbeth shamelessly stating she would kill her own child for power is Shakespeare synonymizing womanly power with cold-blooded ruthlessness. Lady Macbeth initially grows frustrated with her femininity, seeing it as an obstacle in the way of power. She cannot empower her status as a woman at all and knows fully well that in her society, if she wants to be powerful she must be more masculine than feminine. In Act I, Scene 5, she cries out:

“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. Stop up the access and passage to remorse, that no compunctious visitings of nature shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between the effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts, and take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, wherever in your sightless substances you wait on nature’s mischief” (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 30-40).

The phrase, “unsex me here” is a blatant refusal to be lady-like, and Shakespeare pairing this outburst with “cruelty” and “murdering” complete Lady Macbeth’s status as a madwoman. Lady Macbeth is a force to be reckoned with considering she is the initial driving force of the play, pushing her husband to commit these atrocities until he is able to do so on his own. However, she unfortunately commits more “madwoman” stereotypes as the play continues. After the regicide of Duncan, she succumbs to guilt and to her femininity, unable to scrub the “blood” off her hands. She, as the rebellious madwoman, kills herself, leaving Macbeth isolated in his quest for power. The ambition seen in Lady Macbeth is meant to be seen as negative, especially when comparing her to her foil, Lady Macduff. The latter represents the patriarchy’s womanly ideal: the angel. Lady Macduff is steadfastly loyal to her husband and dies attempting to protect her children, exhibiting her mothering nature. Her scene with her son brings attention to how shocking Lady Macbeth’s refusal to be a mother is. Lady Macduff and her children die a heroic death, one that her husband avenges and restores peace to Scotland by doing so. Lady Macduff before she dies asks, “Do I put up that womanly defence, to say I have done no harm?” (Act 4, Scene 2, Line 73). Lady Macduff upholds feminine virtue even in a times of crisis by this statement. Interestingly enough, Lady Macbeth is often seen as worse than her husband for being ambitious and being the instigator even though Macbeth was the murderer of Scotland. Her lack of feminine virtue somehow makes her the villain of the tragedy while Macbeth is still given the title of tragic hero.

The witches of Macbeth fall the most into the category of the madwomen considering they are outcasts, symbolize evil, and live outside of noble society. The ideal angelic women is seen as a young  fair virgin while the witches themselves are often portrayed as being ugly and old. Shakespeare depicts them as having beards, in fact. Banquo exclaims, “You should be women, and yet your beards forbid me to interpret that you are so” (Act I, Scene 3, Line 47). The witch is the ultimate foil to patriarchal feminine ideals because she possesses power, rejects male dominance, and does not embody youth. While Lady Macbeth may be seen as an antagonist, the witches are definitely seen as the evil force behind the tragedy. They are completely beyond male control and because of that, they are villainous and misleading.

William Shakespeare’s woman in the works describe fit Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s paradigm quite rigidly and probably influenced their thinking on the matter. While the Shakespearean woman are complex, they are complex within their stereotype. Ophelia, who for the most part fulfills the requirements of the angel, dabbles with her inner madwoman when provoked by Hamlet’s actions. Lady Macbeth is an embodiment of early modern male writers’ fears with her assertiveness and ultimately is punished with becoming infamously a monster of the tragedy. Lady Macduff ultimately brings more attention Lady Macbeth’s flaws with her adherence to the angel schema, while the three witches are the “madwoman” incarnate. Their status as secondary literary devices as well as their lack of being fully formed characters cripple them. Ophelia and Lady Macbeth do not have the character background that their male counterparts have. They operate within their schema that their male author wrote them into.

Hello! Allow me to introduce myself

I believe there is nothing more powerful than words. As history and present day clearly illustrate, words are vital to story telling; story telling is vital to understanding; understanding is vital to bringing people together. As a senior at Fordham University, majoring in English and minoring in History, I’ve been able to fuel my passion for literature and theory and direct it into editing successful marketing campaigns for publishing and media companies. I believe books transport readers similarly to travel, building bridges between people thousands of miles apart. I grew up in New Jersey, in the shadow of New York City. I bounced between Manhattan and London, due to my maternal family living in the United Kingdom. I love to travel and I believe literary and media platforms provide a cheaper form of travel that is just as valuable. I created this space to publish some of my essays on literary theory, book reviews, and general musings.