In the novels of De Stael and Constant, women are used as a foil to their male counterparts. Corrine and Ellenore as the main female characters can be seen to be muses but in different circumstances. Corrine’s portrayal of muse is closer to classical mythology whilst Ellenore’s muse seems to be darker and closer to a femme fatale figure. This can be explored in the descriptions of Corrine and Ellenore, their relations to the male protagonist and the protagonist’s relations with other women.
Corrine and Ellenore appear to share similar backgrounds, both have been forced to live away from their home country, lack parental upbringing, desire love and have been seen as unsuitable matches by the enlightened society. Despite this, Corrine and Ellenore have different outlooks and motives for life. De Stael creates Corrine as a creative and passionate woman who is celebrated for her artistic ability. This can be seen in the when Corrine arrives in the capital to be crowned:
Corrine was sitting on the chariot, built in the style of ancient Rome[…] Everywhere she went people lavishly threw perfumes into the air; […] everyone shouted, Long live Corrine! Long live genius! Long live beauty! […] At one and the same time she gave the impression of a priestess of Apollo […] and of a woman who is completely natural in ordinary relationships.
This quote illustrates similarities between Corrine and the classical muse. Reference to the chariot connotes royalty and honour whilst Apollo is used to compare Corrine to a follower of the Roman god of music and poetry. Moreover, the celebrations of the people suggest that she is admired and for being both female and intelligent, this is illustrated through the crowd acknowledging her beauty and genius. However, De Stael manages to ground Corrine by stating the she appears ‘natural in ordinary relationships.’ This allows the audience to see her as an equal but also as a fantastical source of inspiration. Thus, it can be seen that Corrine is similar to the traditional concept of the muse. However, Constant differs from De Stael by describing Ellenore in a darker light. This can be seen in Adolphe’s first observations of Ellenore:
The position she occupied in society made her very uneven. She was often dreamy and taciturn; sometimes she would talk with vehemence […] she was always tormented by one particular idea, she could never be perfectly calm […] there was in her manner an impetuous ardour and unpredictability […] one studied her with interest and curiosity, like a beautiful storm.
This portrayal of Ellenore is contradictory, as she appears both reserved and outspoken with a degree of...