Study Guide

The Eve of St. Agnes Summary

By John Keats

The Eve of St. Agnes Summary

We start out in the freezing chapel outside a medieval castle, where a Beadsman is praying. (What's a Beadsman? Check out our "Detailed Summary" for the… um, details.) Soon we get to go inside the castle where we meet the young and virginal Madeline, who's stuck at her family's party and anticipating when she can go to sleep. Why so eager to get to bed? Because tonight is the Eve of St. Agnes, and there's a legend that if she follows a certain set of rules she'll receive a vision of her beloved.

Speaking of her beloved, here he comes: Porphyro is Madeline's secret boyfriend and a member of the family that has a blood feud with her own. This fight is no dream, so he sneaks into the castle and creepily hides in her closet until she comes to bed. That's when he sees his chance, telling her that they have to get up and get moving. His plan is to get Madeline to run away with him so he can marry her and live with her in his house across the moors.

Madeline, half-asleep, is pretty out of it, but she eventually agrees. The couple escape the castle and disappear into the storm that's been cooking outside. It's not clear what happens to them, but we find out that both Angela and the Beadsman died that night—bummer for those two, at least.