La Belle Dame sans Merci Characters

La Belle Dame sans Merci Character List

The speaker

He is the one who starts the poem. We don’t find much about him except that he is the one who finds the knight wounded.

The knight

He is the one who tells the story. He is a typical knight, who falls in love with a fairy and who tries to woe her. He is inexperienced and lets himself be carried away by his emotions. The knight is a typical romantic character that John Keats uses in his poem.

The knight is someone who is hell-bent on discrediting the female protagonist of the poem- la belle dame. The knight is a deeply unreliable narrator. He portrays the lady in a very unsympathetic manner. There is no one else that can give credence to his version of events. He views himself as a victim of a brutal abandonment by a fairy-like lady. He tries to impress on the audience that this woman is an unearthly creature who has robbed him of his masculinity and vital energy.

Because the author of this poem- John Keats, is a man known for his misogynist prejudices, he has allowed a male speaker, in the form of a knight, to dominate the narration of the poem. As a woman, la belle dame is entirely denied of a voice in the narration. Even if the knight was a dissembler who intends on slandering la belle dame, the lady in question can not come forth to explain herself.

The knight seems to be a forceful suitor who is determined to get his way. He accosts a beautiful woman and forcefully initiates her into a relationship. He is not a victim of female sorcery, he is an active participant in the romance. It is he who accosts the lady, it is he who makes the tokens of courtship for her, it is he who puts her onto his horse and it is he first makes physical advances by kissing her. He is someone who seems to be deeply impressionable to feminine charms. He sees a beautiful lady and forgets all about his duties as a knight. Instead of fulfilling his obligations as a knight, he wastes away his time courting women.

The knight is a self-complacent person who likes to interpret events to his likings. Although he does not understand the lady’s language, he interprets her words as the words of love. However, her words may well have been uttered as a protestation against his forceful and unwanted advances. The knight’s self-complacent interpretation of the lady’s language shows that he is someone who likes to have his way in life, often with little regards to the feelings of other people.

The knight is also blame-shifter who refuses to acknowledge his own share of responsibility in this debacle. He lays all the blames at the door of la belle dame. He blames her for his emotional suffering and his sickly countenance, even though he was the forceful instigator of their doomed relationship. He has refused to consult the wishes of the lady in the first place, and therefore he can not blame the lady for running away.

The knight is not a faithful lover. He has been transformed from la belle dame’s devoted worshipper into her virulent detractor. If his feelings for her were genuine, then he would not try to discredit her in anyway. There is little justification to label her as “la belle dame sans merci” because she had never injured him in anyway.

The fairy

She is another character that appears in the poem but not directly. She seduces the knight and then takes him to her cave. Through a prophetic dream the knight had, we find that the fairy is actually dangerous and that she killed all the other who she seduced.

There is little description about the physical attributes of “la belle dame”. From the knight’s description, this lady has long hair, light foot and wild eyes. There is no description of her facial features. There is an unearthly element about her appearance which contributes to her fairy-like identity. There is a wild expression in her eyes, which indicates that she is not some common mortal woman. She also seems to reject the civilized lifestyle by living in a cave and eating wild food. In addition, she also speaks strange language which the knight can not identify. All of these elements contribute to her supernatural identity.

La belle dame has no voice in this poem because the story is told entirely from the knight’s perspective. The knight describes her as a heartless woman. However, there is no evidence which could suggest that she is a woman without pity. She did not seem to have seduced the knight in any way. It is the knight who accosted her and initiated their brief relationship. It is the knight who courted her and putted her onto his horse. In this relationship, it is impossible for the knight to obtain consent from la belle dame because they do not speak the same language, and therefore it is impossible for the knight to become privy of the lady’s thoughts.

There is some evidence which suggest that “la belle dame” is unhappy with this relationship. When she is with the knight, she weeps, sighs and moans. All of these behavior are indication of her unhappiness. Some feminist critics suggest that “la belle dame” is a victim of the knight’s harassment. There is no indication that this lady enjoys the knight’s company. In fact, her efforts of putting the knight to sleep can be interpreted as an attempt to flee from his forceful embrace.

La belle dame’s desertion of the knight further indicates that she finds no pleasure in his company and is eager to be rid of him. The readers can never be privy to la belle dame’s true character, because the knight provides us with little details. However, from the details he provided, there is little evidence which suggests that la belle dame is an unscrupulous woman without human sympathy. Since the knight is such an unreliable narrator, la belle dame could well have been a mortal woman who has thwarted him in love. In order to punish and discredit this woman, the knight deliberately portrays her in an unsympathetic light, as a cold-blooded, unearthly sorceress to be hated and reviled.

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