So, how does Keats build the characters of Lycius and Apollonius?
We've already seen that the fluctuation in the perspective of the speaker changes our understanding of Lamia. (If you haven't read this or don't know it, ensure that you - look at the previous post.) Does our understanding of Lycius and Apollonius change with Lamia? As we begin to favour Lamia do we in turn disapprove of Lycius?
Compare the characterisation of Lamia at the time we meet Lycius. It might be useful to do a character 'mood' chart here to see how our perceptions change.
The first description we have of Lycius is of a man with 'calm, uneager face'. He is 'thoughtless' and this empty headedness contrasts with the 'sciential brain' of Lamia. Lamia calls Lycius 'bright' and this echoes the speaker's earlier description of herself.
Lycius' thoughtlessness changes suddenly on his meeting with Lamia. His language is full of exclamation and becomes fervent and obsessive. The exclamation creates disrupts the speech so that it seems broken and disjointed; this heightens the intensity of Lycius' reaction to Lamia. Lamia, in response, toys with him to such an extent he faints! It's essential that you consider the impact on the reader with this characterisation. How do we respond to the characters as Lycius is 'tangled in her mesh' in a 'trance'? How does this compare with La Belle Dame Sans Merci?
'While, like breath, the stars drew in their panting fires' is alexandrine. This is an intentional manipulation of the structure. As we discussed in the revision session, Keats was limited with how much he could convey with the iambic pentameter so any change in structure is significant. Here, it could make it seem spell like. What do you think?
The speaker then moves the narration to indirect speech: 'she whisper'd' and 'she said' whilst Lycius make 'eloquent reply'. We then get the bias of reported speech from the speaker. Do we then question the objectivity of the speaker? Does this make it seem as if the speaker is lying?
It is clear that the impact of Lamia's upon Lycius is striking. As he 'from death awoke into amaze' he is characterised as the victim and Lamia is clearly reducing him to a 'woman's part'.
This bias changes in Part II. They are both lost in the spell of love! (I realise that that is super cheesy!) They are so in love they can't even close their eyes (alexandrine - line 25). The 'purple lined palace of sweet sin' is a sexual metaphor. This may have shocked some audiences, but wouldn't have been too shocking for Keats' Romantic audience.
The lovers are returned to reality with a trumpet call. With the turn to reality, Lamia becomes reduced to playing the 'woman's part' that Lycius was earlier as she becomes insecure and desperate. The danger of the return to reality can be found in the diction, which becomes sinister (lines 50-55). The control is turned as Lycius' human arrogance is shown when he wants to show Lamia off so other can be 'confounded and abashed' by her beauty. Lamia is now at the mercy of Lycius' pride.
Lamia trembles, cries 'a rain' and is 'pale and meek'. She kneels and begs they do not have a public wedding feast. How does this compare with the presentation of her in Part I? What about Lycius? What's his response to her sorrows? How does our understanding of him change? He takes 'delight' and his face is 'fierce and sanguineous'. How does this compare with the initial 'calm and uneager' Lycius?
The tone changes and the speaker becomes ironic with 'Ha, the serpent! certes, she was none'. Lamia has now metamorphosed into a feeble, weak woman. The snake has gone. She loves the 'tyranny'.
We learn much about Lycius in this part of the poem. Keats uses monosyllabic words when he asks Lamia if she has 'some sweet name'. The reader is drawn to the fact that they have been lovers, but he has not asked her name. The monosyllables of the question enhances the implication of Lycius being simple (as in, a bit thick!). It is a combination of his stupidity and arrogance that lead to him having the wedding feast.
The reader's sympathies oscillate as the roles of abuser and victim fluctuate.
More on the conclusion and Apollonius to follow...