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The Eve of St. Agnes

The Eve of St. Agnes


by John Keats

The Eve of St. Agnes Theme of Lies and Deceit

Yeah, you probably weren't expecting a section for Lies and Deceit for "The Eve of St. Agnes," but hear us out. The main plot of this poem is that you have our girl Madeleine, with her own preconceptions, thinking that her night's going to go a certain way, and who is secretly arranging to go through with this ritual. Then her boyfriend Porphyro, totally unbeknownst to her, sneaks his way into the castle, figures out her plan, and then makes his own plan around it. There are so many contesting levels of understanding about what's actually going on that even the reader has a tough time figuring out what the heck is happening. (So don't feel too bad if you get lost somewhere along the way.)

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Why do you think Angela gets mad at Porphyro?
  2. Does Porphyro trick Madeline into thinking that the St. Agnes' Eve ritual has worked? How do you know? 
  3. Madeline's repeatedly described as being "deceived" by her own imagination—does the fact that she imagines something (or envisions it) mean that she's being tricked? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

Cancel your fan club subscriptions, gang. Porphyro isn't actually a good guy—he devises a "stratagem" to trick his girlfriend into thinking he's a vision delivered by an ancient Christian ritual.

Actually, give the guy a break. In allowing her imagination free reign and "conjuring" its creations into her world, Madeline is more deceived by her own imagination than by Porphyro.

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