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Analysis of Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Analysis of Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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'Ulysses' by Alfred Lord Tennyson is an example of dramatic monologue, which consists of the speech of the protagonist, influenced by a critical situation, directed toward a silent audience. The narrator is the man in the title, an Ancient Greek hero talking about his loathing of his regal position and his wish to travel again before his impending death. In this poem, Tennyson presents him as an old sailor, a warrior and a king who is in retrospection on his experiences of a lifetime of travel. Ulysses’ old age and strong will causes him to be restless, being unable to feel comfortable at home. As a result, he attempts to go on to face a new but familiar journey, not knowing if it would be his last. At home, Ulysses is unable to adjust to old age. Regardless of his physical body, he feels his spirit is still longing for travel. He thinks his wife is too old, and he governs the people with contempt: “Matched with an agèd wife, I mete and dole / Unequal laws unto a savage race, / That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me” (3-5). He also condescends his own son by describing his timidity to rule the people and how his son is more capable of the common duties. Ulysses boasts with a sense of superiority while trying to reassure himself. This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle-
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine (33-43).
He chooses a life of adventure over his family because that is what he knows best. Being a life long traveler prevented Ulysses from learning any of the responsibilities of being a father and a husband. Instead, he was abroad meeting kings, generals and gods, traveling to “cities...