Could There Be More Similarities Between Fantomina and Celia Than We Think?

There are obvious differences in the personas of Fantomina and Celia; however, the subtle, but important, similarity in the way Beauplaisir approaches and communicates with each persona helps additionally understand Fantomina and Celia.

Fantomina is characterized with the determination to “[practice], as much as she had observed… the behavior of [the] woman” at the beginning: “a young lady of distinguished birth, beauty, wit, and spirit,” someone who all the men desire (pg. 2566-2567). She achieves this quite magnificently. Fantomina is “naturally vain, and [receives] no small pleasure in hearing” “she [is] the most lovely woman in the world” (pg. 2567). All the compliments, attention, and adoration from the men do not even affect her to any extent; she is used to it. In contrast, Celia is humble. She takes Beauplaisir’s gift “with humble curtsy” and is “very [obedient]” (pg. 2573). In my opinion, Celia’s most defining quality in this second persona is her innocence. I believe her persona of innocence doesn’t necessarily translate into her wanting Beauplaisir to think she is sexually innocent prior to meeting him, no not at all. When conversing with Beauplaisir for the first time, he asks her lots of personal, and very pointed, questions, “all which she answered with such seeming innocence” (pg. 2573). She wants Beauplaisir to think she is vulnerable and she accomplishes this through the passivity in which she answers his demanding questions. She presents herself to Beauplaisir as an innocent maid; a stark contrast to the directness and confidence in which Fantomina presents herself to the men.

There is an interesting parallel in Beauplaisir’s approach with both women. With both Fantomina and Celia, he is direct and abrasive, to an extent, regardless of their obvious differences in character. My natural inclination would be to think that a man would approach each woman differently, seeing that they are almost complete opposites: one radiates confidence and the other encompasses innocence and passivity. Yet, Beauplaisir doesn’t approach them much differently. His approach with Fantomina and Celia is clearly distinct from the very tactful and patient approach he uses with the third persona. This made me wonder if there were maybe more similarities between Fantomina and Celia than I initially thought.

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