Porphyry as the poem’s hero, some see him as no more than a seducer. How do you respond to his character and his role in the poem? By Imagining The idea that Porphyry has the role of a seducer in The Eve of Saint Agnes’ can be interpreted through many sections of the poem, predominantly through the lengths he’s seen to go to in order to win Madeline.
After he enters the castle, Porphyry Instantly emotionally blackmails the first person he meets, Angela, by soothing her “here in this armchair sit”, and then making her feel guilty with the line “believe me y these tears” , allowing him to win her over so that he can get shown the way to Madeline chamber. This effective emotional blackmail could show to the reader that Porphyry is greatly skilled in getting what he wants, which in this case is an answer to his question “now tell me where Is Madeline”.
The way this blackmail Is the first the reader hears of Porphyry, perhaps further Intensifies this idea that he Is a deeply persuasive character. When Porphyry Is In Madeline chamber later In the poem, the character’s seductive nature is highlighted again when he is described as having from forth the closet brought a heap of candied apple” perhaps showing his need to impress Madeline through the use of extravagant food, and therefore implying he will go to great lengths to win her over: he’s greatly seducing her.
However, others have regarded Porphyry’s great lengths to impress Madeline as Just another quality of his romantic hero character. Readers can firstly Infer this Idea In the poem when understanding the character’s name has connotations with the color purple, a color suggesting passion and love, and maybe even fire that mirrors his “heart on ire for Madeline”, and thus painting him as a romantic character.
This role could be mirrored by suggestions of how Porphyry feels towards Madeline: it could be argued that he feels nothing but adoration for Madeline, as he puts her on a pedestal through religious language for example “my love, my seraph fair… My heaven”, therefore he has great romantic feelings and Is skilled In expressing his love. Porphyry describes himself as a “pilgrim” further suggesting to some readers that he has the role of a romantic hero, as endures a harsh pilgrimage to win over Madeline, such like a romantic hero would go endure any form of pain in order to win over a maiden.
Contrasting to this point, many readers have argued that Porphyry cannot be a romantic hero, as he feels no romantic love towards Madeline, only lust. The suggestion that Porphyry Is driven by his sexual attraction towards Madeline rather than anything else could be shown through the way he hides In her closet and watches her undress, as It causes some readers to believe he would rather privately enjoy the view of her body than be with her and enjoy her personality.
Porphyry becomes “entranced” as he “gazed upon her empty dress” perhaps implying that he is strongly enticed by the idea of Madeline naked body, further showing some that his feelings towards her, and thus his character, are based on sexual desire. Doesn’t care for her life of reality. From the start of the poem, this idea is suggested when there is an extravagant party and feast at the castle “but she [Madeline] saw not: her heart was otherwise” perhaps showing the reader how much she desires an alternate more exiting life.
Therefore, when Porphyry steals into the castle and demands “now tell me where is Madeline”, the reader could start to regard Porphyry as a savior or hero type of character as he seems to be coming to take Madeline away from her grim reality. This idea could be heightened when Madeline desire “Oh leave me not in this eternal woe” is fulfilled by Porphyry, who takes her away into an implied fantasy state of “phantoms”, further suggesting Porphyry’s role is to act as Madeline hero who saves her from a life of harsh reality.
Although, a strongly accepted interpretation of Porphyry’s character is one that suggests he does not save Madeline, he in fact traps her in a devilish manor. Keats strongly implies in the poem that Porphyry, after stealing into her chamber, consummates his love for Madeline, as he is “flushed and like a throbbing star”, which due to their unmarried status would have been seen as spoiling Madeline purity and taking away all her innocence. Therefore, many believe Porphyry traps Madeline, and denies her of any independence now that she is forever marked by him.
Some believe that Porphyry’s laying of the “ancient ditty La Belle Dame”, a poem that favors sexual desire, further supports this idea, as it could show Porphyry’s own desires to sexually mark Madeline. Porphyry’s overall seductive character, shown through his persuasive skills and need to impress, along with this entrapment of Madeline, could be likened to The Bible in which Eve is seduced by Satin’s powers and is forced to live in eternal sin. Therefore many believe Porphyry could represent the role of the devil, abusing Madeline vulnerability and spoiling her purity forever.