“Christabel” begins with the night castle that belongs to the Baron. The castle is conventionally a male-governed space, a fortress, symbolizing military success (“The gate that was ironed within and without, / Where an army in battle-array had marched out” (120-121)) and safety (“Saying that she should command / The service of Sir Leoline, / And straight be convoyed, free from thrall, / Back to her noble father’s hall” (102-105)). But on the other hand, the castle, being a frequently used trope in gothic literature, also represents history (especially family history), an enclosed space with restrictions. Part I of “Christabel” takes place at night and is a completely female-dominated narrative. All of the characters are female, including the ghost of Christabel’s mother and the mastiff. Being a male-owned property, the castle acts as a way of repression for women. Christabel can only seek her freedom at night, outside the castle. After what’s possibly a sexual dream about her “betrothed knight” (28), that made her “moan and leap” (29), Christabel went to the woods to pray for his health. The woods have the connotation of promiscuity and fertility. The outside becomes a symbol for the liberation of desires, which the indoors (the castle) represses. This liberation of sexual desires invites a supernatural encounter with Geraldine.
Christabel’s room is portrayed as a hidden place, deep in the castle, where the ghost of her mother roams. The poem dedicates 7 stanzas to their journey from the woods to Christabel’s room. They had to cross the moat, the gate, the court, pass the mastiff’s kennel, the hall, go up the stairs and past the Baron’s room. And they end up in a room where “not a moonbeam enters” (168), in which “The lamp with twofold silver chain / Is fastened to an angel’s feet” (174-175). The chain fastened to the angel’s feet embodies Christabel’s lack of freedom in the castle. This room that is decorated with strangely carved figures (171), hidden deep in the castle, is full of secrets, and unspeakable horrors will soon unfold there.