Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina discusses an unidentified woman that uses disguises to reintroduce herself to the man who took her virginity. When she played as Fantomina, the lady played as a prostitute, and as Celia, a maid. While the end results are the same, external variables such as her class and presentation change her approach, and the lady herself also changes as she begins to understand the nature of her actions and her desires. The lady goes from loss of her honour and wracked, to yielding to the pleasure she can express while giving up her reputation as a typical woman.
Fantomina’s first role and desire were rather unknown, and almost sociopathic. By the time she is asked to go home with Beauplasir, little to no meaningful conversation between them happens, and she eventually becomes lost as Beauplasir thrusts his desires onto her. While this may seem like a tragedy, the author doesn’t portray it that way. Instead, the lady quickly covers her tracks, and lets these events continue under her alias. When Beauplasir grows tired of her, she might be first taken aback by his lack of loyalty and motivation, and it could be seen that her transformation to Celia is a method to track his intent. However, she also now understands her desires. This is seen as “She loved Beauplasir; it was only he whose solicitations could give her pleasure; and had she seen the whole species despairing, dying for her sake, it might, perhaps, have been satisfaction to her pride, but none to her more tender inclination” (P5, S8). Upon realizing the love she possesses, the lady wishes for nothing more than to relive the feeling of being with Beauplasir. This type of motivation and change is untypical of how woman are meant to perceive their desires and reputation, but this break away is seen as freeing of the social code that women at the time follow.
Celia’s disguise has several changes to both the lady herself and the method in which she approaches Beauplasir. Her disguise as a maid is a rise in class as compared to the prostitute, and thus she is allowed to interact with Beauplasir as such, and also review how Beauplasir treats her under this change in class. More questions and meaningful talk between them occurs. This change is illustrated in the fact that Beauplasir introduces himself and seduces her. He has to now follow more social rules and rituals than simply thrusting himself upon her. However, the lady also changes, and seen in “her half-yielding, half-reluctant body” (P6, S17). Her reluctance as Fantomina has begun to break down, and she allows more freedom in enjoying herself, which is certainly not characteristic to women at this time. This change is an allude to Beauplasir himself, who is not bound by the social controversies of losing his reputation while expressing pleasure. While the lady has begun to lose her reputation, this allows her the freedom she desires to follow her own desires. This only grows as she moves into other roles to continue to approach Beauplasir.