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La Belle Dame Sans Merci

La Belle Dame Sans Merci


by John Keats

La Belle Dame Sans Merci Theme of Love

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is John Keats's version of a medieval romance. It's about a knight who falls in love with a beautiful fairy lady. We immediately know that love is going to be a major theme. But where does love take us in the world of "La Belle Dame"? Not to weddings and happily ever after, that's for sure. "Love," in this poem, could be synonymous with "obsession." It's not a pretty thing.

Questions About Love

  1. Was there a possible happy ending for the knight and the fairy lady, or was their romantic relationship doomed from the start?
  2. In the fairy world of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," is it possible to love someone without becoming totally obsessed? Why or why not?
  3. Does the disinterested compassion that the unnamed speaker feels for the knight provide a model for a positive love in this poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The relationship between the lady and the knight in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is doomed from the start because the two are from fundamentally different worlds.

Love fails in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" because it is one-sided: the lady "loves" in line 19, and confesses her love in line 28, while the knight only admires her beauty.

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