The Rape of The Lock: Canto 3 - Summary & Analysis

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      The party of Belinda enters Hampton court (L. 291-308). Landing from the barge, the party of Belinda entered the royal palace known as Hampton Court where Britain's statesmen discussed foreign politics and Queen Anne had residence. It was customary at the time for the nobility and aristocracy to pass their leisure there in the midst of the rich surroundings. Belinda's party passed a few hours in discussing scandals, in singing, laughing, and ogling.

      Belinda plays Ombre with Baron and another male friend (L. 309-394). The day was declining towards its close when Belinda sat to play at cards with her two male friends - the Baron and another gentleman. It was the game known as Ombre, played among three, one of whom undertakes to win the other two. According to the rules of the game, nine cards were dealt to each; Belinda examined her hand and offered to win the other two. She declared spades as trumps. The game was pursed in the spirit of a battle between Belinda's force and those of her opponents, and the green velvet table was like the field of battle, the cards being individual soldiers, Belinda happened to hold the three Matadores, the highest trump cards in the game, the Spadille or ace of spades the Manille or two of spades, and the Basto or ace of clubs; she played these one after another and won three tricks; then she played the king of spades which was the fourth highest trump card and won that trick also. Then Belinda having no more trump cards, played the king of clubs which was at once trumped by the Baron's queen of spades. The fifth trick, therefore, went to the Baron. Now the Baron had the lead. He played one after another the king, the queen, the knave of diamonds which were the highest cards in that non-trump suit and won the three tricks. He then played his ace of hearts; if he won that (i.e. the fifth and last) trick, Belinda must lose Codille, i.e. face the penalty of losing the game. But fortunately, she had the king of hearts; being superior to the ace she brought it down with a triumphant crash and won the fifth trick. She cried out in exultant triumph. But alas soon her joy was destined to be drowned in bitter sorrow for losing her lock of hair.

      The Baron cuts off Belinda's lock and triumphs arrogantly (L. 395-468). The party then sat to coffee. The ladies roasted berries of coffee and ground them in the mills. The rich sweet-smelling liquid was poured in porcelain cups and each drank several cups. As Belinda sat drinking, the sylphs cooled the hot coffee or guarded her rich dress. The fumes of coffee rose into the brain of the Baron and made him devise means for possessing himself of the coveted lock. A lady named Clarissa supplied him with a pair of scissors with which he stood behind Belinda's back. The sylphs tried to warn her as best as they could but Ariel, looking deep into the secrets of her heart, saw an image of an earthly lover there; so he had to leave her to her fate. The Baron now cut off the lock, though a sylph tried to prevent the disaster by putting his aerial body between her lock and the scissors. Belinda; seized with deep anger, flashed her eyes and sent forth piteous screams of distress. But the Baron vaunted his glorious prize and said that his name would live forever as a successful gallant who had luck to possess what he desired most. Steel could batter down monuments and citadels; no wonder that Belinda's hair should fall a victim to the "force of unresisted steel."

Critical Analysis

      The scene now shifts to the Hampton court, a place where Queen Anne held important functions. Young gallants and beautiful ladies used to come to this place like many other personalities. Here card sessions and parties were held. Belinda came to this place and engaged two of her lovers in the game of Ombre. The lovers, on account of chivalry, made Belinda win the game and she felt quite triumphant. There is satire on the coffee clubs. The fumes of coffee sharpened the wits of the politicians. In spite of Ariel's precaution, the Baron was hopeful of his conquest. He borrowed a pair of scissors from Clarissa. Ariel discovered that Belinda was not quite keen on preserving her virtue and therefore she withdrew from the scene. There is a satire on Belinda's pretended purity. She screams as if she had lost her husband. There is an element of comic pathos in the situation because she is in the heart of hearts a willing victim but outwardly she protests too much. The Baron feels triumphant and thinks that he will be immortal, on account of his conquests. The poet describes the wonders of steel which destroys empires and the arts of the young ladies.

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