Through the three texts ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, ‘Lamia’ and ‘The lady of Shalott’ by John Keats and Alfred Tennyson respectively, we see the different representations of women; ranging from Keats’ hostile and misogynistic representation of women to Tennyson’s sympathetic yet somewhat limited representation of women.
In ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, as indicated by the title, Keats instantly casts women as unremorseful and without compassion. As soon as the first three lines, we can quickly ascertain that something is askew; a knight – symbolic of power, valour and gallantry – is “palely loitering” where “...no birds sing”. We soon discover that the knight’s pale state of weakness is brought about by ‘La Belle Dame’ and this is where Keats first introduces the image of women as temptresses; he labels her “a faery’s child with ‘wild wild eyes’ which may insinuate madness. Upon meeting ‘La Belle Dame’, the knight is quick to make her the sole object of his affection, adorning her with garlands and bracelets; she in turn returns his affection with “sweet moans” and looks of love.
Women are also portrayed as seductive and treacherous as ‘La Belle Dame’ takes the knight to her “elfin grot” only to lull him to sleep and disappear. This image of women as cruel temptresses is further intensified throughout the rest of the poem, especially in stanza ten which details the enthralling and devastating power of women as “kings and princes too” – men of power - have been ruined by ‘La Belle Dame’ and left forlorn with starv’d lips which crave her love much like the knight himself.
‘Lamia’ does nothing to dispel the negative representations of women, as with ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’; Keats’ also makes use of femme fatal in ‘Lamia’. In the poem, women are portrayed as the serpent ‘Lamia’ - symbolically representing evil, temptation and deceit. Lamia hates her grotesque form and