Fantomina’s Curiosity and Ambition
Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze” is written to illustrate a woman’s curiosity of love, affairs, and sexual satisfaction using deception, while trying to conceal her identity with fear of damaging her true self if she was not in full disguise. The title of the story tells us something about the perspective of story that describes the course of action. During the 18th century at the time of the short story, women’s rights were greatly limited socially. They could not socialize and be seen with people from different social classes. A man controlled every aspect of a woman’s life. Men were perceived to be the dominant figure and women as virgins, wives, or widows. The main character is an inexperienced noble woman, whose name is not revealed, who visits London. Up in the balcony with her wealthy class at a playhouse, she curiously realizes that prostitutes below at the main floor with the lower class are attracting and controlling men better than she is. Through disguising herself as a prostitute at a playhouse, she gains the newfound ability without restraint. She attracts men on the main floor and meets a man by the name of Beauplaisir who does not recognize her even though they have met before. While in disguise, she learns that the freedom of this disguise allows her to have power that she never had as a “Lady of distinguished Birth” (Haywood, 1).
Haywood’s protagonist engages in her newly found freedom of interacting and controlling, beginning her display of power over Beauplaisir. Of course, while Beauplaisir thoroughly enjoys his conversations with the beautiful young prostitute, he wants to have sex with her. Being a virgin, she puts off his request by telling him she will see him the next night, and will be better off avoiding the situation in the future, but she cannot resist the interaction with Beauplaisir. Haywood writes that "she almost dy’d for another Opportunity of conversing with...
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