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Rape of the Lock

            Alexander Pope began "The Rape of the Lock" in 1711 after an incident involving two families he knew. It was an attempt to calm tempers after a dispute which cropped up between two families when Lord Petre cut a lock of hair from Arabella Fermor as a prank. Mr Caryl, who was acquainted with Mr. Pope and with the two families involved in the dispute, suggested to Mr. Pope that he write a poem poking fun at the ridiculousness of the incident, satirising it in order to soothe tempers with humour. Over a period of a fortnight Mr. Pope put together the first version of The Rape of the Lock, which consisted of two cantos, and gave a copy of it to each of the two families involved. Arabella supposedly liked it so much that she gave out copies to her friends. This two-canto version was also published in a book of miscellany by Bernard Lintott, and it proved so popular that Mr. Pope decided to revise it, adding the sylphs and three more cantos in 1712. In 1714 he revised the fifth canto to add Clarissa's speech and published the finalised version under his own name. .
             Some of the language used in the poem might make it seem a bit odd to modern ears - words such as rape have a very different connotation now than they did in the 18th century. Rape then meant something more akin to taking, or stealing, definitely not the forcible sexual act we think of today when we hear the word. One must have something of an understanding of that period's language in order to fully understand the parody involved and get the most out of the intended humour.
             Mr. Pope had previous experience with epic poetry, having translated many classic Greek and Roman epics into English,. Some examples of poetry he translated were Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and Aenid. By the time Pope decided to write The Rape of the Lock he had plenty of experience with epic language from which to draw. One might draw comparisons from some of his translations directly to The Rape of the Lock; for instance, take Milton's description of Eve discovering and contemplating her reflection:.

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