The Rise and Fall of Power in Fantomina

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Throughout Haywood’s Fantomina, the rise and fall of a young woman’s power is satirized. Her ability to trick Beauplaisir four times throughout the story exemplifies her power over him. She was able to put on any disguise and Beauplaisir would deem himself her “everlasting slave” (2580). Her power over Beauplaisir developed throughout the story; however, it came crashing down as quickly as it developed.

The young woman in the story initially disguised herself as a prostitute in order to satisfy her innocent curiosity. She was never able to conduct herself in this manner due to her upper class status; thus, she was in high demand when she ventured to the floor of the playhouse. Although her intentions were not to sell her favors, when she saw Beauplaisir, she could not resist. She knew Beauplaisir before this act; however, this time, he spoke to her with a different freedom. This interaction began her display of power over Beauplaisir. Beauplaisir ultimately had sex with Fantomina and although it may not have been consensual, she still loved him. Once Beauplaisir fulfilled his desires, he became tired of Fantomina and as a result she decided to create another disguise.

Her disguise as Celia, a young country girl, exemplifies, once again, her power over Beauplaisir. First, he didn’t recognize her as the sophisticated upper class woman when he encountered Fantomina. Then, he couldn’t recognize her as Fantomina when she disguised herself as Celia. After he got tired of Celia, her next disguise was the Widow Bloomer. She was able to make Beauplaisir love her even though she just lost her husband and she was devastated. Not only did she trick Beauplaisir again, but she made him love her in a situation that most men would not.

Her final disguise was her most impressive display of power. Under the name Incognita, she had a letter delivered to Beauplaisir telling him that she loved him but would not reveal her face. He said that he would love to meet her. At this point, she was completely aware of her control over Beauplaisir. This is shown when it is stated that “she could not forbear laughing heartily to think of the tricks she had played him, and applauding her own strength of genius and force of resolution, which by such unthought-of ways could triumph over her lover’s inconstancy” (2580). She was aware of how ridiculous he was to not realize that she was the same person. Her power and control over him didn’t last forever though.

Although she was able to control Beauplaisir with her many disguises, she lost her power when suddenly the four women Beauplaisir was seeing, became pregnant. There was no way to hide this obvious similarity amongst Fantomina, Celia, the Widow Bloomer, and Incognita. Her power came crashing down and she was ultimately sent off to a monastery in France. This abrupt loss of power is Haywood’s object of satire. She was able to get whatever she wanted until one thing went wrong and her power unraveled.

Throughout Fantomina, Haywood satirizes the woman’s rise and fall of power. She is able to completely control Beauplaisir without him questioning any of her disguises. Her power is lost, however, when she becomes pregnant and her disguises are foiled. Her power developed throughout the story; however, her power was lost even quicker than it was gained.

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One Response to “The Rise and Fall of Power in Fantomina”

  1. William Belt Says:

    This makes sense. Fantomina’s power does rise and fall. But throughout the story, Fantomina lacks certain types of pwer even when she is at her most powerful. When she first conquers Beauplaisir, he rapes her and shows how little power she actually has physically. The entire time, she is the daughter of a rich family and relies on her parents’ money to live. So she is under their power as well. At the end, her mother sends her off to a monastery, but she never gains power over her mother, and she never has superior physical strength over Beauplaisir. Fantomina has power and lacks power at the same time depending on the type of power you are talking about.

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