The greatest Victorian contribution to poetry is certainly the form of the dramatic monologue. A dramatic monologue is defined by various critics as a type of poem in which a single speaker, a persona, “utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment.” This speaker addresses and interacts with one or more other people. They are silent but usually identifiable listeners in whose presence the speaker reveals his thoughts and feelings. (Abrams 25-26) Therefore, “an insight into the character of the speaker may result.” In other words, the speaker indirectly creates a self-portrait. (Holman and Harmon 152).
There were two important influences on the development of the dramatic monologue in the Victorian period: the Romantic poets, for they offered a model of close psychological observation and the novel because of its emphasis not on subjectivity but on reality and closely observed detail. What this paper aims for is to demonstrate that Tennyson’s poem Ulysses is written in the form of a dramatic monologue and to show how the poem functions as a vehicle for the poet’s world-view.
Alfred Tennyson’s entire poem is spoken by a single character as it is indicated by the large number of verbs and pronouns in the first person singular. The audience he speaks to is silent. The speaker is a classic, heroic figure in a classic situation, Ulysses being a mythological character associated with knowledge and the pursuit of it. His longing for adventure is also emphasized in Tennyson’s work which deals with the desire to reach beyond the limits of one’s field of vision and the mundane details of everyday life. The poem is divided into four paragraph-like sections, each of them comprising a distinct thematic unit of the poem. To each distinct thematic unit there is a corresponding, self-revealing emotional stage that the character moves through. He begins by voicing his frustration and
Cited: Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary terms. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1957. Holman, C. Hugh and William Harmon A Handbook to Literature 6th Edition, N.Y.: Macmillan, 1992. Pearsall, Cornelia, Tennyson’s Rapture: Transformation in the Victorian Dramatic Monologue, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Tennyson, Alfred, 2003 Ulysses. Poetry X. Accessed 15 Oct 2013 <http://poetry.poetryx.com/poems/1847/>