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The Eve of St. Agnes

The Eve of St. Agnes


by John Keats

The Eve of St. Agnes Theme of Imagination

Come on, this is Keats—you thought you'd get out of this without talking about the imagination? As if. Some people argue that this poem is a glorification of romantic love, others that it celebrates the human senses. We think that "The Eve of St. Agnes" can also be read as an investigation of the processes and mechanisms of the imagination. As you track Porphyro and, especially, Madeline through the poem, you see them go through the various stages of wishing, dreaming, envisioning—even "hoodwinking," in the case of Madeline.

Questions About Imagination

  1. What's the relationship between dreams and imagination in this poem? What parts of the poem lead you to an answer?
    Who imagines what?
  2. At what point, if ever, does Madeline actually wake up? If she wakes up, does that mean that she's no longer imagining Porphyro? Why do you think so? 
  3. What is Madeline's "wakeful swoon"? When would you say she goes in and out of that swoon? 
  4. What is Madeline's dream, and how does Porphyro melt into it (320)?

Chew on This

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

Dreamland: population Madeline. She never truly awakens, and her imagination-dream governs everything that happens in the poem.

Madeline's imagination is exactly what makes her powerless—it cuts her off from what's going on around her and tricks her into thinking she's witnessed a miracle. Madeline's essentially drugged by her own imagination.

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