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Alexander Pope: 1688-1744. Born in London - family relocates to comply with anti-Catholic statute. Period of intense anti-Catholic sentiment in England forces Pope’s family to move to Berkshire. Teaches himself Greek and Latin. Biography cont’d.

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alexander pope 1688 1744
Alexander Pope: 1688-1744
  • Born in London - family relocates to comply with anti-Catholic statute.
  • Period of intense anti-Catholic sentiment in England forces Pope’s family to move to Berkshire.
  • Teaches himself Greek and Latin.
biography cont d
Biography cont’d.
  • At 12, develops TB of the spine – causes dwarfism and hunched back; is only 4ft. 6ins. tall.
  • Affliction of the spine caused him physical deformity, as Sir Joshua Reynolds described him as "very humpbacked and deformed."
  • Was said that Pope was "afflicted with constant headaches, sometimes so severe that he could barely see the paper he wrote upon, frequent violent pain at bone and muscle joints...shortness of breath, increasing inability to ride horseback or even walk for exercise...."
biography cont d1
Biography cont’d.
  • Early literary allies were John Gay, Swift, Lord Bolingbroke – Sec. of State who suggested “Essay on Man”
  • Died at his villa in Twickenham
alexander pope major works
Alexander Pope: Major Works
  • 1711 An Essay on Criticism
  • 1712 The Rape of the Lock
  • 1713 Windsor Forest
  • 1715 Homer's Iliad
  • 1717 Poems on Several Occasions
  • 1725 The Works of Shakespeare Collated and Corrected
  • 1726 Homer's Odyssey
  • 1728 The Dunciad: An Heroic Poem (1743)
  • 1733-34 An Essay on Man
  • 1735 An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot
  • 1738 Imitations of Horace
background rape of the lock
Background – “Rape of the Lock”
  • Focused on feud between three families – Fermors, Petres and Carylls – prominent members of great intermarried Roman Catholic families owning land and personal friends of the Pope
  • Around March 21, 1712, Lord Petre had cut off a lock of Arabella Fermor’s hair
  • John Caryll suggested to Pope that he should write a poem to heal the estrangement between the two families
poem s background cont d
Poem’s Background cont’d.
  • Poem states that the event occurred at Hampton Court – improbable but not impossible
  • Was Belinda to marry the Baron as the poem hints? Arabella may well have been considered the possible bride for Lord Petre.
  • By the time Pope revised the poem in 1717, the feud between the families was no longer particularly relevant.
poem s format
Poem’s Format
  • Written in five cantos
  • Is a mock epic – written in the grand epic style of Iliad or Odyssey
  • Is a long, humorous poem written in mock-heroic style; a parody (treats a minor subject seriously) of the epic form in poetry
poem s format cont d
Poem’s Format cont’d.
  • Recalls parallel situations of tragic or heroic importance in famous epic poems BUT trivializes the subject (satire – type?)
  • Uses technique of ridicule: inflates triviality by elevating it to grandeur
  • Pope maintains just the right degree of sympathy with his characters while at the same time poking fun at them and the event
poem s background cont d1
Poem’s Background cont’d.
  • CANTO I – opens with formal statement of the theme – “what mighty contests rise from trivial things” – invokes the Muse to inspire the poet.
  • Belinda, heroine of the poem, is visited by the sylph Ariel, who warns her that some dread fate hangs over her head.
  • CANTO II – Belinda, in a pleasure boat on the Thames, is being conducted with other young fashionables to the palace of Hampton Court.
poem s background cont d2
Poem’s Background cont’d.
  • CANTO II cont’d. - An adventurous baron, admiring two of Belinda’s curls, is determined to obtain them.
  • Belinda’s protecting sylph Ariel exhorts a host of other airy beings to come to Belinda’s defense.
literary style poetic form
Literary Style – Poetic Form
  • The Heroic Couplet
    • The heroic couplet’s rhyme scheme was ordinarily closed, rhymed couplets.
    • The meter was Iambic Pentameter.
    • The couplets often contrasted opposing ideas in an epigrammatic manner.

“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;

The proper study of mankind is man.” (93)

additional info analysis
Additional Info./Analysis
  • According to Swift, Pope’s special gift was the ability to use the balanced structure of the rhymed couplet to convey a rich complexity of meaning
  • Pope joins the important with the trivial to suggest that statecraft (government) and interior decoration are equally important to his somewhat frivolous characters
additional info analysis cont d
Additional Info./Analysis cont’d.
  • Pope imitates Homer’s poetic way of stating the time of day as connected to a specific job
  • Pope commands a range of diction
  • Pope uses idioms - an expression, word, or phrase whose sense means something different from what the words literally imply such as kick the bucket  or hang one's head
  • Contemporaries admired him above all else because he knew how to capture the entire range of experience in the formal structure of the heroic couplet