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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Poor Knight

After leaving Rogozhin's house, Myshkin, while waiting to meet Kolya at a nearby hotel, is attacked and nearly killed by Rogozhin, only saved by an epileptic fit.  Myshkin is transported to Pavlovsk and is reunited with the cast of characters from Part I.  The Epanchins visit him at Lebedyev's house and while there, Koyla brings up Pushkin's poem The Poor Knight and the visitors implicitly compare the poem's quixotic  protagonist to Myshkin.  Aglaia begins to sympathize with Myshkin and declares that she loves the idealistic knight and recites the poem for everyone.

The poem describes a "poor and simple" knight who has a vision of the virgin Mary and, as a result, gives up all fleshly desires and devotes himself fully to the cause of the Church by fighting against infidels.  Afterwards he returns to his home and dies alone and "bereft of reason."

While the other characters laugh at the poor knight, Aglaia begins to defends him as "a man who having once set an ideal before him has faith in it, and having faith in it gives up his life blindly to it."  His vision of "some image of pure beauty" caused him to become completely dedicated to her and "if she became a thief afterwards, he would still be bound to believe in her."  Aglaia makes it very clear to whom she is referring during her recitation of the poem when she substitutes N.F.B. for the letter A.M.D. (Ave, Mater Dei).  N.F.B. are Natasya's initials and the poor knight is Myshkin.  Upon seeing a picture of Natasya, Myshkin took her outer beauty to be indicative of her inner beauty and becomes devoted to saving her from the terror of Rogozhin.  Aglaia believes that Myshkin's cause is noble.  Is Myshkin willing to die for his cause?

The above painting is The Faithful Knight (1900-1905) by Frederick Marriott.

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