Analysis of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Epic Poem Ulysses

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Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s epic poem "Ulysses" is composed as a dramatic monologue, consisting of four stanzas each of which frankly discuss the speakers current situation and yearning for adventure. The use of iambic pentameter provides a sense of fluidity to the speaker’s voice. The speaker reveals himself to be the protagonist of the poem with the opening line “It little profits that an idle king” (1). The use of the word “idle” offers the first clue as to one of the main themes of the poem. Tennyson much like the protagonist of his poem feels the need to move on, in life. The period in which the poem was wrote, many sociable changes where occurring in Victorian England, the effects of the industrial revolution where being felt far and wide and there was, the idea that society needed to work together in order to establish conformity. Ulysses is feeling emotionally empty throughout the poem, without his mariner friends and adventures similar to times gone by, a similar situation that Tennyson had found himself in.

“Ulysses” was written after the death of his close friend, soul mate and confidante Arthur Henry Hallam. This was one of many poems composed by Tennyson, upon Hallam’s death the most notable being “Memorandum” (1833-1850). Tennyson himself commented how the series of poems were a direct comparison to how he felt after the loss of his dear friend. The poem was published in the book Poems by Alfred Tennyson (1842). Mythological characters appear to play an important role within Tennyson’s poetry, from English folk law characters such as King Arthur that featured in “Morte D’Arthur and other Idyllis” to the Greek mariner and adventurer Ulysses. The character of Ulysses has featured in many great epic poems, ...

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...hesterton. Tennyson. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906. PDF.

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