Belinda - Belinda is based on the historical Arabella Fermor, a member of Pope’s circle of prominent Roman Catholics. Robert, Lord Petre (the Baron in the poem) had precipitated a rift between their two families by snipping off a lock of her hair. The Baron - This is the pseudonym for the historical Robert, Lord Petre, the young gentleman in Pope’s social circle who offended Arabella Fermor and her family by cutting off a lock of her hair. In the poem’s version of events, Arabella is known as Belinda. Caryl - The historical basis for the Caryl character is John Caryll, a friend of Pope and of the two families that had become estranged over the incident the poem relates. It was Caryll who suggested that Pope encourage a reconciliation by writing a humorous poem. Goddess - The muse who, according to classical convention, inspires poets to write their verses Shock - Belinda’s lapdog
Ariel - Belinda’s guardian sylph, who oversees an army of invisible protective deities Umbriel - The chief gnome, who travels to the Cave of Spleen and returns with bundles of sighs and tears to aggravate Belinda’s vexation Brillante - The sylph who is assigned to guard Belinda’s earrings Momentilla - The sylph who is assigned to guard Belinda’s watch Crispissa - The sylph who is assigned to guard Belinda’s “fav’rite Lock” Clarissa - A woman in attendance at the Hampton Court party. She lends the Baron the pair of scissors with which he cuts Belinda’s hair, and later delivers a moralizing lecture. Thalestris - Belinda’s friend, named for the Queen of the Amazons and representing the historical Gertrude Morley, a friend of Pope’s and the wife of Sir George Browne (rendered as her “beau,” Sir Plume, in the poem). She eggs Belinda on in her anger and demands that the lock be returned. Sir Plume - Thalestris’s “beau,” who makes an ineffectual challenge to the Baron. He represents the historical Sir George Browne, a member of Pope’s social circle.
Belinda arises to prepare for the day’s social activities after sleeping late. Her guardian sylph, Ariel, warned her in a dream that some disaster will befall her, and promises to protect her to the best of his abilities. Belinda takes little notice of this oracle, however. After an elaborate ritual of dressing and primping, she travels on the Thames River to Hampton Court Palace, an ancient royal residence outside of London, where a group of wealthy young socialites are gathering for a party. Among them is the Baron, who has already made up his mind to steal a lock of Belinda’s hair. He has risen early to perform and elaborate set of prayers and sacrifices to promote success in this enterprise. When the partygoers arrive at the palace, they enjoy a tense game of cards, which Pope describes in mock-heroic terms as a battle. This is followed by a round of coffee. Then the Baron takes up a pair of scissors and manages, on the third try, to cut off the coveted lock of Belinda’s hair. Belinda is furious. Umbriel, a mischievous gnome, journeys down to the Cave of Spleen to procure a sack of sighs and a flask of tears which he then bestows on the heroine to fan the flames of her ire. Clarissa, who had aided the Baron in his crime, now urges Belinda to give up her anger in favor of good humor and good sense, moral qualities which will outlast her vanities. But Clarissa’s moralizing falls on deaf ears, and Belinda initiates a scuffle between the ladies and the gentlemen, in which she attempts to recover the severed curl. The lock is lost in the confusion of this mock battle, however; the poet consoles the bereft Belinda with the suggestion that it has been taken up into the heavens and immortalized as a constellation.
Canto 1 Summary
The Rape of the Lock begins with a passage outlining the subject of the poem and invoking the aid of the muse. Then the sun (“Sol”) appears...