Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Commentary on Marriage

Matthew Lewis's "Alonzo the Brave, and Fair Imogene" seems to be making a commentary on marriage. Lewis himself was the product of a broken home, the effects of which echo throughout his life and work. His attitude towards marriage (and perhaps his sexuality) kept him a single man throughout his life. This piece, in addition to being in line with the melodrama that was popular during his era, reveals an ambivalence to marriage. Imogene's character suggests that love is fickle and fading and rarely a truly enduring force. Likewise, the depiction of Alonzo as a terrifying ghost speaks to the horror of promises kept. Inevitably the two end up in a torturous dance for all eternity where the man torments the woman for her slights against him. This dance speaks of the hell that is marriage (at least as Lewis sees it). There's a feel good Valentine's Day poem if there ever was one. haha


  1. I agree, this poem definitely has something to say about marriage and how marriage is "hell" as you put it. I absolutely loved this poem because it had an enjoyable spookiness to it. Also, it included almost all the elements of a Gothic poem that we discussed in class: the supernatural, truth vs. lies, death, etc. Zack and I will be presenting on this poem, but I will say that this poem illustrates some institutional tension with regards to marriage.

  2. This interpretation of the poem is certainly reinforced by Burger's Lenora, with the couple racing to their bridal bed, which turns out to be the grave. I actually felt like Lewis was more interested in the making and breaking of promises than the institution of marriage itself. Lewis might be criticizing hasty, emotional vows, but not necessarily marriage itself. Lenora was much more a deliberate portrayal of marriage, with the abundant references to the wedding and bridal bed. Regardless, I certainly agree that the author had reservations about the nature of love that may have emerged from his childhood.

  3. I feel like Sam and I made this point clear in our presentation earlier this week, but to sort of clarify our position I wanted to comment here. I think that a strong argument can be made that "Alonzo the Brave, and Fair Imogene" does actually go beyond criticizing the particular faults of Alonzo and Imogene's relationship to actually take a stab at the institution of marriage itself. While "the breaking of promises," as Peter puts it, is an obvious representation of the truth vs. lies aspect of the Gothic that we discussed in class, I think that Lewis is making a larger statement than "Be true to your husband" in his poem. The idea that Imogene was the object of another suitor's advances - "His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain / Soon made her untrue to her vows" - instead of the active initiator of the new relationship suggests that woman sort of lose their independence when they accept a husband. Indeed, Sam and I saw Lewis' description of Imogene being dragged to the grave as meant to underscore the notion of all marriage as "death" for women. Once they have promised themselves over to a man, they give up the independence they had as single women. Outside of the poem itself, I agree with Nathaniel that Lewis' life itself serves as a strong testament to this interpretation.