The Victorian period
introduces a new wave of poetry based on lyrical purity and powerful
exploration of loss and faith. Lord Alfred Tennyson is the most important of
the Victorian Poets, who wrote poems which are focused on many different topics
like romance, nature, criticism of political and religious institutions.
Tennyson like another Victorian genius Robert Browning is very good at
composing dramatic monologue which gives
an impressive effect to his works.
In this essay I argue
why the dramatic monologue is so important in poems and how it gives them an
emotion which touches the reader and makes him feeling everything deeper.
in an extraordinary way with history and what it implies, and it gives to the
reader a helping hand in understanding the human predicament. (Bristow, 131)
The poem is based on
the character Odysseus from Homer’s Odyssey
and on the spirit of Dante’s Inferno, Canto XXVI which makes it unique in tone
and spirit. Some critics says that it is Dante’s Ulysses, not Homer’s Odysseus:
”more indebted to Dante than to Homer
for the conception of the character of the hero, who is made the prototype of
the modern thruster after the conquest of knowledge”. (Turnbull, 59)
characteristic of this poem is the dramatic monologue which helps the speaker
to reveal transformations of self and emotional affection. For example,
Ulysses’ next voyage is something that he is overly seeking and the dramatic
monologue tries to accomplish something for
its speakers, something which makes a change of the situation.
The poem begins with Ulysses
who expresses his own thoughts and feelings to the silent listeners and his
monologue begins with his cynical remarks about life: ”It little profits that an idle king/ By this still hearth, among
these barren crags,/ That hoard and steep and feed and know not me.”(1-2;5) So, the poem is a dramatic monologue because
is based on the human emotions, not on the action.
The monologue is spoken
by the main character, Ulysses, who expresses his discontent and describes his
desire to keep sailing, the voyage as a satisfaction: ”I will drink/Life to the lees” (6-7). He tries to escape from
his island, which brings a complex of ambitions to his discursive moment.
(Bristow,72) The climax of his monologue is when he inspires his sailors and
tries to convince them to enter a life full of explorations with great courage:
”Death closes all, but something ere the
The power of Tennyson’s
poem ”lies in his choice of introducing
critical historical moment” and the view against our knowledge of the
fatal final of his voyage. This reveals the human condition and constitutes the
idea that life is very short and implacable in the face of time, but humans’
knowledge is infinite: ”We are not now
that strength which in old days/ Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we
are.-” (66-67) (Bristow, 132).
Ulysses is constructed
as a truly Victorian hero, who inspires courage and power, values which are
visible in the final, as a conclusion: ”To strive, to seek, to find, and not
The dramatic monologue
is very well reflected in the poem with the help of soliloquy, through ironic
tensions between the speaker and his dramatic situation and between his
perspective and that of his implied audience. (Kissane,120)
In conclusion, the poem
”Ulysses” by Lord Alfred Tennyson is a dramatic monologue which is
represented by the dramatic tone and the destiny of the main character, who
feels a little dissatisfied after coming back home, but he finds a way to
fulfill his existence with the desire for a new expedition.