Written by Samuel Coleridge in 1797, the union of Christabel and Geraldine, two women, was something uncommon to write about in the eighteenth century. By applying a gothic setting in his poem “Christabel”, it allowed Coleridge to explore the darker themes of sensuality, producing a distancing device to render the power of sexual and sinful actions. Christabel is also a reflection of Coleridge as he tried to seek a companionship and a relationship with someone who would give him a purpose in his writing.
Coleridge’s Christabel revises the notion of the masculinized sublime. Christabel can be seen as the male partner in the ensuing relationship that develops, whereas Geraldine takes on the traditional female role. In this poem, he constructs a heroine that is both feminine in character and appearance and productive of the sublime as much as the beautiful, challenging the gendered aesthetic dichotomy that other 18th century writers put forth:
“And Christabel with might and main 130
Lifted her up, a weary weight,
Over the threshold of the gate:
Then the lady rose again,
And moved, as she were not in pain” (lines 130-134)
She even goes as far as carrying Geraldine over the threshold of her home, resembling a bride and bridegroom on their wedding night. The evidence for the prospering lesbian relationship that develops in the story can be seen by the actions of the two main characters and the roles that they assume.
Geraldine is calculated to induce terror. Although she is beautiful, there is also something distinctly threating about her character as construed throughout the poem. Coleridge frames her as a threating figure. When Christabel looks at her, after observing her beauty, she finds that “’twas frightful there to see/ A lady so richly clad as she” (lines 66-67). However, it isn’t just Christabel that finds Geraldine potentially menacing. The omniscient narrator cries out “shield her! Shield sweet Christabel!” (line 254), presenting Geraldine as dangerous. However, her serpent eyes are perhaps the most potent feature of her body that produces terror. In most of 18th century gothic, the gothic villain’s eyes are regular describing as something malicious or evil, nesting uncanny power behind them. This evokes a feeling of the supernatural.
Although Geraldine may appear powerless, we see distinct hints that she has profound power over the people that she encounters. There is a suggestion that the power is linked to the supernatural because of Geraldine’s ability is able to bend Christabel at her will, similar to a “vampiric” figure. There is the actual scene of both physical and mental seduction. Christabel is intrigued with Geraldine as she undresses. Christabel first undresses herself and lies on the bed, “And on her elbow did recline/ To look at the lady Geraldine” (line 455). Geraldine then lies in bed beside Christabel and seduces her: “And see! The lady Christabel/ Gathers herself from out her trance; Her limbs relax”...