chapter  4
17 Pages

Phantoms of Sexual Repression in The Eve of St Agnes

WithRachel Schulkins

The sensual description of Madeline and Porphyro's sexual union, Keats brings out sex from the private realm of dreams and thought, taking the issue of sex from private discussions to a public one. The poem conveys mere pictorial descriptions of its characters, where each character, Madeline, the Beadsman and the revellers, appears to be frozen in a certain state of mind that removes him/her from social connectivity. However, St Agnes does not simply reject dreams over reality, mind over body, achieved through the lovers' sexual union. Sperry argues that Porphyro's endeavours do not aim to awaken Madeline, which according to him he must not do, but rather to 'create himself within her dream'. While Stillinger sees the sexual union in the poem as rape, the fact that Madeline answers Porphyro while she refuses to see and hear any of the suitors at the party, points more at a mutual consent than anything else.