La Belle Dame Sans Merci Analysis for IGCSE

A full analysis of La Belle Dame Sans Merci (IGCSE English Literature) for the 30 mark poetry comparison question.

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  • La Belle Dame Sans Merci
    • Plot
      • A passer-by sees a knight sat alone and wonders what is wrong with him.
        • The knight responds after a while and tells him that he met a woman and tried to seduce her.
          • She took control from him and took him to her 'grot' where it is inferred she poisoned him and he had a nightmare warning him of the woman
    • Language
      • Antiquated Language
        • To fit the ballad form. It also is to make it seem like a medieval fantasy epic.
      • Semantic field of magic
        • There are references to her being a "faery". This is ambiguous as it could just be referring to her looks. The idea of magic starts off sexual and ends up as some horrible thing.
      • Pronouns
        • For the early stanzas, the pronouns beginning them are "I", showing that the knight is in control. Then it switches the "She", showing that the control has shifted.
      • Anaphora
        • When the passer-by first sees the knight he comments on how he is pale. When the knight has his dream later on, the kings and princes are described as pale many times. This establishes a parallel
      • Nature
        • In the early stanzas, nature is used to reflect how the knight is looking (pathetic fallacy)
    • Structure
      • Control
        • It is the idea of control that helps the narrative flow. At the start we see the knight taking ownership of a woman he finds attractive. He gives her circular objects, which symbolises entrapment. However, this is turned around on the knight.
      • Narration
        • There are 12 stanzas, the first three are from a unknown source, but the rest is a narrative account from the knight.
      • Unreliable Narrator
        • The knight is unreliable, but the reader is not fully aware of this until his tale is complete. This is a key structural device because we gradually trust the narrator less.
    • Form
      • Ballad
        • 12 stanzas
        • ABCB rhyme scheme
        • Has roman numerals to sound archaic
        • Supposed to be performed rather than read.
    • Imagery
      • Nature
        • At the start the knight's sadness is said to be making nature upset (shows the natural order has been disrupted by La Belle Dame. Then it says that the harvest is done, which shows they are prepared for winter.
      • Entrapment
        • The garlands and bracelets are all circular which is symbolic of entrapment
      • Magic
        • There are occasional, subtle references to the woman being a faerie. This builds a pleasant image of the woman while also alerting the reader to a supernatural element of the lady.
    • Effects
      • Ambiguity
        • The narrator is not reliable. Keats gets this across with his narrative account (1st person). The reader does not automatically trust the knight.
      • Archetypal Characters
        • Untitled

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