The Dark Hero In Matthew Lewis's 'Femme Fatale'

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MATILDA

Matthew Lewis succeeds in portraying Matilda in The Monk as the Dark Hero conventional prototype referred to as the femme fatale. The femme fatale is a hero type who uses her feminine wiles to seduce lovers, who subsequently find themselves in dangerous or difficult situations. Lewis’ creation of a masculine gothic novel contributes to the characterisation of Matilda and her fulfillment of the Dark Hero role. The masculine gothic novel provides that characters and readers witness terrors and spectacles. Lewis provides these spectacles through the manipulation of women or through feminine themes. The power of Matilda over Ambrosio is testament to this fact. The key occurrence that marks Matilda as a Dark Hero is her seduction of
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The philosophy of the Sublime and the Beautiful stems from philosopher Edmund Burke. Burke contrasts the two concepts, with the Sublime representing something that is of immense magnitude, or a character that causes admiration, terror, appearing determined – the embodiment of respect and submission. Matilda is a personification of the Sublime, as Ambrosio chastises her for plunging him into ‘an abyss of misery’ (p. 172) and continues to chastise himself, declaring what a ‘fool that I was, to trust myself to your [Matilda’s] seductions!’ (p.172). Matilda’s role as the Sublime Dark Hero is further evident through her progressively developed masculinity, as she goes from an ‘effeminate novice to voluptuous woman’, becoming a virago, as she uses her sexuality to doom Ambrosio to ‘endless perdition’ (p.206). Matilda’s dark nature is evident when contrasted to Antonia, who represents the Beautiful. The Beautiful encompasses the passion of love, and appearance of ‘delicacy, and even of fragility’. Antonia’s limbs, so ‘white, so soft, so delicate!’ and her ‘lips fraught with inexhaustible sweetness’ fit her characterisation as the Beautiful in The Monk (p.294). From this contrast between Matilda and Antonia, Matilda’s nature as a Dark Hero becomes abundantly …show more content…
Peter Grudin, a critic of The Monk interprets Matilda as ‘a witch of Satan’ or a demon. As Matilda begins as a young boy, the seduction that is a vital aspect of the femme fatale is not fulfilled. Therefore, Matilda’s seemingly honourable actions instead appear as a façade for her malicious, demonic intent to cause the downfall of a prestigious symbol of religion. This is illustrated through the possible involvement between Matilda and the serpent, an infamous symbol for Satan. As Matilda requests Ambrosio to pluck a flower for her, the serpent bites him, and Matilda is able to gain the devotion and love of Ambrosio through her act of heroism that is in fact a ploy of synchronicity to bring about his infatuation. This characterisation of Matilda suggests that she possesses darker traits than the tragic Faustus, as she is called a ‘subordinate but crafty spirit’ who is aware of the horrific fate that awaits Ambrosio (p.337). Faustus, however, suffers from a very human error, as he is enticed by the demon Mephistopheles, and ultimately laments his failure in witnessing the ‘seat of God, throne of the blessed, the kingdom of joy’ (5.2.47). Matilda, however, is the demon that entices Ambrosio to fragmentally soil his soul, as he deteriorates to the point where he is persuaded to summon a demon and to become a ‘superior Being’ (p.329). Upon this summoning,

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