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The Lady's Dressing Room
Transcript of The Lady's Dressing Room
- Poem written by Johnathan Swift, first published in 1732
-The first of Swift's scatological poems.
-Swift was slammed by literary critics after publishing for its grotesque treatment of bodily functions of women and he was psychoanalysed for suffering from "the excremental vision".
"When he beheld and smelled the towels,
Begummed, bemattered, and beslimed
With dirt, and sweat, and earwax grimed." (44-46)
- Believed to be attributed to his anger and disappointment over his beloved Stella's death in January 1728. (2346)
The poem begins with ideal image of what Strephon thinks Celia (his lovers) dressing room would be like, only to find contents that repulse him. It is a continuous rhyming description of the dirty clothes and various odors he comes across.
"Thus finishing his grand survey,
Disgusted Strephon stole away
Repeating in his amorous fits,
Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!" (115-118)
He is dumbfounded by the fact his beautiful lover could be partake in such disgusting, yet natural, human routines.
-Swift's poem is a satire of women's vanity to meet an ideal image while portraying the men's expectation of women and the illusion behind their beauty.
-It also pokes fun at women's beauty routine and the lengthy time they take in order to be ready.
"Five hours, (and who can do it less in?)
By haughty Celia spent in dressing; " (1-2)
-He plays up the beauty routine with vulgar activities such as having to squeeze a worm out of her nose or jars of spit on her counter from scraping her teeth.
-Swift is saying that if young men can ignore the stench and "painted illusion" then they can enjoy the "charms of womanhood"
In comparison to Pope's,
The Rape of the Lock
-Similarly to "The Lady's Dressing Room," Pope's poem is also a satire of the exaggeration of women's vanity in their beauty routine.
- The exaggeration is exemplified through Belinda's elaborate ritual of dressing and primping to her extreme concern of Baron cutting off a lock of her hair.
-Both poems fabricate the idea that women during this period were essentially decorative rather than rational, so the loss of her beauty was a serious matter. It was believed as though without beauty they would be without attention and respect. Much like, Strephon being unable to view women the same way he did previously.
-Do you see any additional similarities or differences presented in these two texts?
-Do you think these ideals of women are still present in society today?
- Damrosch, David, et. al. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Volume 1C: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. 4th edition. Longman, 2010.