Pale Fire

by

Vladimir Nabokov

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Queen Disa is King Charles’s wife. She first meets King Charles when she is 19 years old, and the King agrees to marry her despite being gay because he feels pressure to produce an heir. Despite Disa’s kindness, charm, and persistence, Charles is never able to consummate the marriage, and he is quite cruel to his young bride. He has very little empathy for her suffering and his affairs publicly humiliate her. While Charles doesn’t feel anything for Disa in waking life, he often has dreams in which he loves her more profoundly than he has ever loved anyone and wants to tell her but cannot find her. His dreams indicate that, on some level, he knows how much she suffers and he sees her kindness in spite of it, but he is unable to express or feel any of this while awake. When their marriage fails, she moves back to her family’s villa on the French Rivera, but she never stops trying to help the King. His whereabouts in the United States are discovered after Andronnikov and Niagarin break into her villa and steal his letter from her bureau.

Queen Disa Quotes in Pale Fire

The Pale Fire quotes below are all either spoken by Queen Disa or refer to Queen Disa. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Pale Fire published in 1962.
Commentary: Lines 367-434 Quotes

I am thinking of lines 261-267 in which Shade describes his wife. At the moment of his painting that poetical portrait, the sitter was twice the age of Queen Disa. I do not wish to be vulgar in dealing with these delicate matters but the fact remains that sixty-year-old Shade is lending here a well-conserved coeval the ethereal and eternal aspect she retains, or should retain, in his kind noble heart. Now the curious thing about it is that Disa at thirty, when last seen in September 1958, bore a singular resemblance not, of course, to Mrs. Shade as she was when I met her, but to the idealized and stylized picture painted by the poet in those lines of Pale Fire. Actually it was idealized and stylized only in regard to the older woman; in regard to Queen Disa, as she was that afternoon on that blue terrace, it represented a plain unretouched likeness. I trust the reader appreciates the strangeness of this, because if he does not, there is no sense in writing poems, or notes to poems, or anything at all.

Related Characters: Narrator/Charles Kinbote (speaker), Sybil Shade, Queen Disa
Page Number: 206-207
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Pale Fire LitChart as a printable PDF.
Pale Fire PDF

Queen Disa Character Timeline in Pale Fire

The timeline below shows where the character Queen Disa appears in Pale Fire. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Commentary: Lines 49-98
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
Line 49: shagbark. “Shagbark” is another word for hickory. Years ago, Charles the Beloved’s wife, Disa, copied into a letter a passage of a John Shade poem that compares a gingko... (full context)
Death, Mystery, and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...kept his mother’s ghost away. Eventually, she stopped pursuing him. Thirteen years later, Charles married Disa, Duchess of Payn. (full context)
Commentary: Lines 230-348
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...married forty years. John and Sybil Shade were married thirty years before King Charles married Disa, the Duchess of Payn. Morally speaking, Zemblans mostly turned a blind eye to King Charles’s... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 367-434
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
...know where the King was)—his mentioning the Riviera helped Gradus make the connection to Queen Disa’s villa. Told that he wouldn’t see Lavender after all, Gradus left. (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...trip (which is Sybil’s fault), and so he can’t say whether they ever saw Queen Disa’s villa. Disa grew up there, and then returned in 1953 as a “banished queen,” although... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
The Zemblan revolution began in May of 1958, and Disa wrote King Charles urging him to stay at her villa until the situation was resolved.... (full context)
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
The Nature of Art Theme Icon
As she aged, Disa became even more lovely, and Kinbote thinks it’s strange that there’s a passage of “Pale... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
When they were first married, Disa would lose her temper due to her “misfortune,” and Charles would use these outbursts as... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
Charles had never loved Disa (although he respected her), but in dreams his feelings were different. Even if he never... (full context)
Loss and Longing Theme Icon
When Charles appeared at Disa’s villa in disguise after fleeing Zembla, he was not troubled by these thoughts. Instead, he... (full context)
Commentary: Lines 469-629
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...what he was saying and thought they could find the King’s location by breaking into Disa’s villa. They instructed Gradus to wait in Geneva for further instruction. (full context)
Commentary: Lines 662-872
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
...having only barely recognized them as being familiar. Gradus got into a cab bound for Disa’s villa, but the chatty driver told him before he arrived that nobody lived there at... (full context)
Identity, Delusion, and Loneliness Theme Icon
Patterns, Fate, and Coincidence Theme Icon
...sitting in his hotel lobby in Nice. He flipped through the paper and saw that Disa’s villa had been burglarized. While trying to figure out how to communicate this secretly to... (full context)