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Discuss the game of Ombre in The Rape of the Lock

The game of Ombre takes place in Canto III in the mock-epic poem ‘The Rape of the Lock’. This episode however, didn’t take place in the original version of the poem. The poem was enlarged by adding different mock-epic elements, like this episode. When the original version of the poem was written, it was too short to resemble the qualities of an epic. One of the basic features of epics written by Homer, Milton etc was wars. Great wars were fought between great heroes that added more warmth to the stories. However, such a grandeur battle was not possible to be added in this poem. Therefore, Pope added the episode of the game of Ombre to resemble a battle between the two central characters Belinda and the Baron.

Ombre is a seventeenth century card game that was invented in Spain. The name of the game is derived from the Spanish word ‘Hombre’ which translates to ‘The Man’ in English. Ombre is considered as the most successful card game ever invented. It is believed that this game requires long practice and close attention. Pope used the game of Ombre to trigger a war between those two characters that ultimately resulted in the ‘rape’ of Belinda’s locks. The war is fought between both the sexes. This is a war between the masculine and the feminine genders.

Ombre - Wikipedia

The game of Ombre can be played between 2-4 players, but generally played among 3 players. Alexander Pope creates a metaphoric war where The Baron and Belinda are the two captains fighting against each other with an army of the cards. Pope personifies the cards to compare them with human beings fighting the war.

"Behold, four kings in Majesty rever'd,
With hoary whiskers and a forky beard;
And four fair Queens whose Hands sustain a Flow'r
Th' expressive Emblem of their softer Pow'r."

With the help of the sylphs, Belinda gets the four highest cards in the game. At the end, Belinda achieves victory as she is saved by her ‘King of Hearts’. The Baron feels humiliated at his loss in the hands of a woman. This card game scene plays a very important role in the story. The rape scene where The Baron chops off one of Belinda’s locks can be termed as the aftermath of this game.

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The event is a mockery to the great battles that were fought with a purpose. The game of Ombre, however had no definite purpose and its importance is irrelevant in life. It is pictured as a great battle which Pope beautifully creates using only a deck of cards. Therefore, Alexander Pope is often referred as the most accurate poet of English literature.

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