Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Pervasive Nature of Loneliness
Christabel, the poem's protagonist, has lost her loved ones. Her mother has been long dead, and her bridegroom has gone on a long journey. Her dreams help us to understand the life of her inner self. Her perception of the outward world becomes illusory. We first find her retiring to the nearby woods at night to pray. Coleridge creates a mystical atmosphere of the Gothic in the poem, which intensifies the sense of the abandonment that Christabel experiences. Even the beautiful Geraldine, whom the lonely Christabel meets in the woods and sympathizes with, turns out to be an evil monster. Christabel's loneliness is seen all the more clearly at the poem's end, when she, bound by the evil spell, is unable to communicate her anxiety to her father, the baron.
The Archetype of Wicked Womanhood
The evil character of the poem's antagonist, Geraldine, has its roots in folklore. She can be compared to a vampire, a witch, or Melusine (a female spirit who is a snake or a fish from her waist down). The good Christabel gives shelter to the snake-like woman. Geraldine creeps into the quiet abode of piety, courtesy, and love. Evil enters this innocent and naive world, this stylized and even medieval idyll. When Geraldine enters the castle, all sorts of disorder and confusion begin. She casts a spell on Christabel herself and enchants Christabel's father, the baron. Christabel loses the ability to explain in what way Geraldine's presence has affected her, and her words are lost on her father, who is totally fascinated with this mysterious woman. The reader can guess that, in the end, Geraldine becomes the real owner and ruler of the castle.
Links Between Evil and Women's Sexuality
Coleridge explicitly links Geraldine's evil actions to her eroticism. Sexuality permeates the descriptions of her physical beauty from the very first scene of the meeting in the woods. Christabel carries Geraldine in her own hands over the moat into the castle because Geraldine suddenly feels weak, which suggests that Christabel plays the part that a knight would play in relation to the feminine Geraldine. As Geraldine undresses in the bedroom, Christabel observes the perfection of her body. Coleridge emphasizes both the extraordinary beauty of the guest and its deadly character:
Behold! her bosom and half her side—
A sight to dream of, not to tell!
O shield her! shield sweet Christabel!
Finally, Geraldine lies down beside Christabel and embraces her. Geraldine's beauty turns out to be an instrument of her evil, which destroys the idealized world of piety, faithfulness, and nobility in the castle.