Fantomina’s Power

by

During the 18th century, the rights of women were greatly limited. One way women’s rights were limited was socially. Women could not could socialize and be seen with people from different social classes. In Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze a young upper class lady breaks the social rules and constraints by disguising herself as a prostitute. Originally, she disguises herself as a prostitute just out of curiosity because it will allow her to socialize with lower classes. However, she meets a man by the name of Beauplaisir who does not recognize her even though they have met before. Her love for him only exists because of the power she has over him.

She eventually gives her name under her prostitute disguise as Fantomina. They begin to see each other more and more frequently until he feels that his love for her has disappeared and he decides to take a trip without her to Bath.  She could not resist not being in control of him. It gave her satisfaction, satisfaction that fueled her until he found out that she had been deceiving him all along. “She loved Beauplaisir; it was only he whose solicitations could give her pleasure; and had she seen the whole species despairing, dying for her sake, it might, perhaps, have been a satisfaction to her pride, but none to her more tender inclination. (2572)” She follows Beauplaisir to Bath because she cannot stand being in control of him. She disguises herself as a maid named Celia and works for the house that Beauplaisir is staying at for a month.

Over the course of his stay, they spend time a good amount of time together, but Beauplaisir does not realize that Celia and Fantomina are one in the same. When Beauplaisir leaves Bath, she disguises herself again but this time as a widow named Bloomer. She catches a ride with him in his carriage back to London and again he does not recognize her. Once in London, she disguises herself again as a woman named Incognita. Her power over Beauplaisir was so great that it blinded him from seeing that Fantomina, Celia, Widow Bloomer, and Incognita were all her.

Haywood’s Fantomina mocks the male sex in that a man could be blinded by “love” and the “power” of a woman. This idea is the opposite of how women were viewed during the 18th century. Women were viewed with fewer rights than men and not as educated as men. When Haywood wrote a novella that demonstrated that a women could fool a man by being four different people, she mocked the intelligence of the male sex.

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One Response to “Fantomina’s Power”

  1. vaughanw10 Says:

    I think you did a good job of tying in what we discussed in class into your essay. Also the point you made about satisfaction, and how it was the driving force behind the novella supported your main idea well.

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