Can you be unaware yet in control?

The manipulations of “the lady” in Fantomina and her repeated successes, leave a reader feeling as though she is in control of her relationship with Beauplaisir; however, a closer look calls this perspective into question. Though “the lady” succeeded in her seductions each time, Bonplaisir could have refused at any point and ended the game – he simply didn’t. He may not have been aware of the power he held over this woman, but that does not make him any less in control. By definition, control is to “exercise direction over”, and though Bonplaisir may not have given commands, his choices and responses directed the choices and responses of “the lady”. No matter what she did, he was still the man, and his refusal would mean the end of the relationship. This is shown in the way his decisions determined “the lady’s” location throughout the story. She goes to the theater because of him. She traveled to Bath when he did, and she “remained privately in the town till she heard he was on his return.” Though Bonplaisir was unaware of any of these choices, “the lady” always had to follow his steps before she could attempt to guide his next ones.

Bonplaisir is also responsible for each change in character because of his change in feelings, which we see when the narrator tells us that ‘the lady’ “provided herself another disguise…once more to renew his twice-decayed ardors.” His inconsistency contrasted with her constancy, and although this virtue may have maintained ultimate power over the woman, Bonplaisir was the object of that constancy and that gave him control. “The lady” gave in to his every whim, and whatever his latest request, she always obliged and “obediently kept her word.”

If it were not for Bonplaisir and his vacillating desires, “the lady” would have had no reason to scheme. The façade of her control was permanently unveiled when the baby came early and her secret was revealed. She could not control every piece of her ploy, and it took this extreme circumstance for Bonplaisir to finally exercise the power he had all along to say no. As soon as he does, the game ends.

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