Known as one of Victorian England's finest poets, Lord Alfred Tennyson
epitomized the agony and despondency of the degradation of one's character.
His masterpiece, The Idylls of the King, explicates the grand scheme of
corruption of the Authurian age while simultaneously paralleling Tennyson's own
internal struggles. A most intriguing chapter of The Idylls, "Merlin and Vivien"
portrays the manipulative Vivien, identified as pure evil and hatred, as her
corruptive beauty leads to Merlin's self-destruction.
The Victorian era, from the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 until
her death in 1901, was an era of several unsettling social developments that
forced writers more than ever before to take positions on the immediate issues
animating the rest of society. Thus, although romantic forms of expression in
poetry and prose continued to dominate English literature throughout much of
the century, the attention of many writers was directed, sometimes
passionately, to such issues as the growth of English democracy, the
education of the masses, the progress of industrial enterprise and the
consequent rise of a materialistic philosophy, and the plight of the newly
industrialized worker. In addition, the unsettling of religious belief by new
advances in science, particularly the theory of evolution and the historical
study of the Bible, drew other writers away from the immemorial subjects of
literature into considerations of problems of faith and truth. Tennyson's writing
displays evidence of doubt and concern towards England's government, both
present and past. His distinctive style can be differentiated from many
Victorian poets by diction and syntax alone. Also, Tennyson can b...
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harmony. His poem "Merlin and Vivien" of The Idylls of the King displays
Merlin's self-chosen downfall in exchange for the temptations of Vivien, the
manipulative evil. "For Merlin, overtalked and overworn,/ Had yielded, told her
all the charm, and slept." (ll.963-964)
Culler, Dwight. The Poerty of Tennyson. London: Yale UP, 1997. 238-239.
Hain, Donald. Tennyson's Language. Toronto: Toronto UP, 1991. 144-148.
Hellstrom, Ward. On the Poems of Tennyson. Gainsville: University of Florida
Press, 1972. 117-118.
Kincaid, James. The Major Poems of Tennyson: The Comic and Ironic Patterns.
London: Yale UP, 1975. 177-182.
Marshall, George. A Tennyson Handbook. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1963.
Reed, John. Perception and Design in Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Athens:
Ohio UP, 1969. 48-58.
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