Paradise Lost

The Corruption of Christabel: Coleridge, Milton, and Portrayals of Fallen Femininity College

In his poem Christabel (1816), Samuel Taylor Coleridge revises John Milton’s Paradise Lost to create a version of the fall of humanity that is wholly feminine. Coleridge represents Eve though the character Christabel, an innocent young maiden whose naiveté makes her easily corruptible. Geraldine, a beautiful and manipulative seductress, represents Satan and her sexuality is the source of corruption that leads to Christabel’s loss of innocence. Coleridge’s version of the fall unambiguously targets the feminine trait of sexuality as the cause of the fall and emphasizes Christabel’s naiveté and Geraldine’s deceptive nature to paint woman as wholly culpable for the fall therefore placing the blame for all of the human suffering that comes from the fall onto women.

Coleridge’s version of Eve emphasizes the corruptibility of woman and places part of the blame for the fall onto Christabel because she’s naïve and falls for Geraldine’s charms. From the outset of the poem, Coleridge emphasizes Christabel’s naiveté through the way she makes herself vulnerable to dangerous situations. Christabel ventures into the woods when “the night is chill, the cloud is grey,” creating an eerie setting that leaves the reader on edge in anticipation for...

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