Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Keats' Disproportionate Response

Thinking of the two versions of the story of "The Pot of Basil" in terms of the way in which the thematic differences we touched on briefly in class (in addition to the formal change to verse) affected the overall message of the poem, I was interested to think of it in terms of the way in which the relationship between crime and punishment is altered between the renderings. In my understanding, the first version of the story focuses much more on the crimes of the lovers, and the brothers clearly acting as judge and jury in the case, exacting retribution in accordance with a clear break of social norms. In Keats' version, however, it seems that this relationship between crime, judgement, and punishment is complicated. The crime itself is less clear in Keats' language -- the lovers do not seem out of bounds, and therefore the killing becomes a wanton act not based in justice. It becomes, then, the site of the crime itself. This shifting of initial punishment to the locus of the crime then complicates what the judgement for the new crime is in Keats' version, who acts as the judge, and how punishment is executed. This relationship between crime and punishment breaks down, in fact, as it is then Isabella's mind that suffers the punishment. And yet she is not responsible for the crime. What has happened in Keats' transference of the location of the crime in his rendering that breaks down this relationship and structure of proportionality?

1 comment:

  1. In a way i think Keats might just be representing life as it is.
    I think he changes the message from crime-punishment to a more complicated "bad things happen to everyone" sort of message.

    Yes, there's a crime, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the people who committed the crime must pay for it. Just an idea, but it might have something to do with Keats' unrequited love for Fanny he knows, love DOESNT overcome all obstacles. Sometimes there ISNT a happy ending.

    And maybe that's why the change occurred - because Keats didn't want to write about what is morally right or wrong. Maybe he wanted to write not about fairness of punishment, but instead about the utter injustice of life.