How is Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" a dramatic monologue?

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The poem 'Ulysses' by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a dramatic monologue by definition. A dramatic monologue, a genre sometimes identified with Romantic and Victorian poetry, is defined as a poem that has the following characteristics:

1. It is written in the first person, but with a narrative persona that is quite distinct from that of the poet.The narrator of a dramatic monologue often differs from the poet in chronological location, gender, or life circumstances. In some ways it is similar to a soliloquy excerpted from a surrounding drama. 

2. The narrator, in speaking to some putative audience, is gradually revealing his or her character to the reader. It is often said that the dramatic monologue is not heard, but like a soliloquy in a play, overheard. Often what is revealed is the opposite of what the reader expects or the narrator intends. 

Tennyson's poem fits this definition in that it is spoken in the voice of Ulysses (the Latin spelling of Odysseus) rather than in Tennyson's own voice, and has the quality of being overheard. Unlike many other dramatic monologues, we do not get a dramatic conflict between how the speaker intends to portray himself and what is revealed. Instead, the narrator explicitly reflects on his situation and the need for a final voyage not so much for its overt purpose, but to regain his sense of personal identity as a heroic figure. 

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In the poem 'Ulysses' by Alfred Lord Tennyson an aging war hero sorrowfully surverys his past glories and the dramatic monologue element of that reminiscence is in the way it is told - as if speaking to another person or persons, to you or any other reader/s. So find an example of that first , to illustrate your point, and quote it.

This poem does seem as if it is spoken by one person to a reader or listener or maybe more. for example  Ulysses explains

"you and I are old"

so it coiuld be a group of his old war heroes in his imagination, or a more local group. We feel as if he is adressing us, when we read the poem, it is conversational in tone. We know it is not a soliloquoy as it seems to be directed at an audience naturally nearby, rather than at a special show or theatre production. It is not like a speech , it is more like a chat, so find examples that put you in mind of this situation.We fel that the poet seems to be making responses to another invisible person or group and as if we are part of that, so you could write about how you feel about the drama, even if this doesn't work for you - as long as you give reasons.

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