Christabel by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Summary and Analysis

Christabel is an unfinished gothic ballad written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was finished in two years: first part in 1797 and second part in 1800 which was published in 1816 Christabel; Kubla Khan, A Vision; The Pains of Sleep. The story of Christabel is about a central female character of a young lady named Christabel and her encounter with a stranger called Geraldine. She claims to have been kidnaped from her home by a band of rough men.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge



Christabel is a lovely, innocent, young, and virtuous daughter of Sir Leoline. One night while praying in the woods for her fiancé, she was startled by another distress lady who called herself Geraldine. She further states that she was kidnapped by a gang and left to the jungle for an unknown reason. Geraldine says that she is the daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, once a friend of Sir Leoline. The two men quarreled, had not spoken for years. She brings Geraldine to share her bed. Once in the bedroom, she puts a spell on poor, innocent Christabel that makes it impossible for Christabel to tell anyone about what had happened that night in the bed.

In reality, however, she is a wicked paranormal woman disguised as Geraldine. Christabel later on finds about her deception, but is forced into silence by that black magic. When she finally breaks the spell and speaks about Geraldine’s deception, Sir Leoline rejects her entreaty, and the long narrative poem ends with Sir Leoline sending a message telling Lord Roland that his daughter is safe and offering reunion. Awkwardly, before any conformation on Geraldine' identity can be established or denied, the poem ends abruptly.

"Christabel" juxtaposes the theme of sin versus religiosity, evil versus devoutness, and sexuality versus purity. In this poem, the central character Christabel represents purity, religiosity and devoutness whereas Geraldine symbolizes evil, sin and sexuality. Christabel is often found praying throughout the poem and one of the most noticeable stuffs in her bedroom is the carving of an angel. In opposite to this, Geraldine says that she does not have the power to praise the Virgin Mary for being rescued by Christabel.

The theme of mysticism is also dominant in Christabel which is Coleridge’s most prominent features. Geraldine is controlled by a mysterious spell in the poem. She puts same spell on Christabel. Once Christabel tangibly recovers from the spell, she seems to change. Christabel’s compassion for Geraldine have vanished and she begs her father to cast Geraldine out of their home. Christabel goes from generous to selfish. The taint of spells upon Geraldine and Christabel suggests the destructive powers of mysticism.

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