Mock-Heroic Elements in “The Rape of the Lock”

The Rape of the Lock parodies the traditional epic in numerous ways.  Below are some standard features of the epic, each followed by the place in the poem where Pope uses a similar mock-heroic element.  Pope used an alternative model of gods and goddesses to the traditional Greek ones.  He based his “machinery” instead on tiny Rosicrucian beings.

A dream message from the gods             Canto I         

(Ariel sends a dream warning to Belinda)

Belinda still your downy Pillow press,

While I, your Guardian Sylph prolong the balmy Rest.      

Fairest of Mortals, thou distinguish'd Care           

Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air!

Arming the heroes                                             Canto I

(Belinda  puts on her cosmetics for the day)

And now, unveil'd, the Toilette stands display'd,     

Each Silver Vase in mystic Order laid.          

Unnumber'd Treasures open at once, and here      

The various Off'rings of the World appear;     

From each she nicely culls with curious Toil,     

And decks the goddess with the glitt'ring Spoil  

Epic journey                                                  Canto II         

(Belinda travels to Hampton Court by barge on the Thames)

Not with more Glories, in th'Etherial Plain,     

The Sun first rises o'er the purpled Main,          

Than issuing forth, the Rival of his Beams            

Launch'd on the Bosom of the Silver Thames  

Exhortation to the troops                                 Canto II     

(Ariel summons his legions to protect Belinda)

I'll summon strait my Denizens of Air;     

O lucid Squadrons round the Sails repair!     

Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your Chief give Ear,

Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Daemons  hear!     

This Day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair     

That e'er deserv'd a watchful  Spirit's Care;

Single combat                                                Canto III     

(Belinda challenges Plume and Baron to a game of Ombre)

Behold, four Kings  in Majesty rever'd,     

With hoary Whiskers and a forky Beard;     

And four fair Queens  whose hands sustain a Flow'r,

Th'expressive Emblem of their softer Pow'r;

Intervention of the gods                               Canto III     

(The three Sylphs try to prevent the rape)

So when to Mischief Mortals bend their Will,            

How soon they find fit Instruments of Ill

Ah cease rash Youth!  desist                     

Epic feast                                                       Canto IV

(Clarissa invites all to have coffee.)  

For lo!  the Board with Cups and Spoons is crown'd,

The Berries crackle, and the Mill turns round.     

From silver Spouts the grateful Liquors glide,

While China's Earth receives the smoking Tyde  

Journey to the underworld                              Canto IV     

(The Cave of Spleen)

No cheerful Breeze this sullen Region knows,     

The dreadful East is all the Wind that blows.          

Here, in a Grotto, sheltred close from Air,

And screen'd in Shades from Day's detested Glare,

They sigh for ever on their pensive Beds,

Pain  at their Side, and Megrim at their Head     

Sacrifice to the gods                                       Canto IV

(The Baron invokes the gods to help him acquire the Lock)

This morning, Ere Phoebus rose, Lord Petre had implor'd

Propitious Heav'n, and ev'ry Pow'r ador'd,              

But chiefly Love  to Love  an Altar built,

Of twelve vast French  Romances, neatly gilt    

General combat                                          Canto V

(The Battle of the Sexes: a series of flirtations, snubs and worse)

Gods! shall the Ravisher display your Hair,     

While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare!     

Apotheosis                                                   Canto V

(The Lock becomes a new star)

With such a Prize no Mortal must be blest,          

So Heav'n decrees! with Heav'n who can contest?     

A sudden Star, it shoots through liquid Air,     

And draws behind a radiant Trail of Hair.     

This the Beau-monde shall from the Mall  survey,     

And hail with Musick its propitious Ray.



Alexander Pope's

The Rape of the Lock

The Toilette Scene

In the Toilette Scene, Belinda's guardian sylphs fool around before being caught by the Chief Sylph, Ariel as they prepare The Toilette where Belinda will "arm herself" for the coming battles. The rich display of cosmetics become icons of the far reaches of the entire globe. In Pope's masterful confusion of opposites, the heights of epic and exalted masterpieces that have come before us are mingled and blurred with our trivial, common lives, so we too can inhabit the hazy, enchanting world of art he creates. Performed for a class at Manhattan School of Music.