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M.Virgolin - Analyzing A. Tennyson's Ulysses
[author: Marco Virgolin - postdate: 2008-04-15]

Text: A. Tennyson's Ulysses





Ulysses - A. Tennyson


Tennyson's Ulysses is a dramatic monologue in which a new version of the classical character is presented. As a matter of fact the hero is different from Homer's and Dante's one (Joyce will present a further different character in his Ulysses of the 1922): he is an old idle king, sick of Ithaca.

The Ulysses Tennyson presents is completely different from the others because he is just a device used by the poet to convey the contradictory aspects / feelings typical of the Victorian age.

He is not more a virtuous young hero, he is quite the contrary, but if in one hand he is not more able to face new adventures, in the other hand he really desires to leave Ithaca and begin a new sea travel.

The poem is a dramatic monologue, that is the whole poem is spoken by a single character who seems to speak to himself. It is divided into four paragraphs, each presenting a different theme. The rhyme scheme is not defined and the lines follow the iambic parameter.

The first paragraph (line 1 - 32) presents Ulysses declaration of boredom and melancholy of the glorious past. He thinks that "it little profits" to live on his current situation, he is an "idle king" and is conscious of it. He feels no passion for his wife, he is just "Match'd with an aged wife" and finally, he recognize that he's not even good in doing his job: "I mete and dole | Unequal laws unto a savage race, | That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me." The final part of the line presents a metaphor that regards the position of the intellectual in the Victorian society. As a matter of fact, he feels superior to common people who are a "savage race", who live like animals and "hoard" as if life were not more than business and ownership (that were Puritan values).


To be continued...