Cover image of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Allusion Activity

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Allusion Activity

by eNotes

  • Release Date: February 21, 2020
  • Subjects: Language Arts and Literature
  • Age Levels: Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12, and Grade 9
  • Pages: 8
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Document Details


This activity gives students an opportunity to practice identifying and analyzing allusions. Allusions broaden the scope of a text and imbue passages with deeper meaning by subtly drawing on unexplained references to literature, history, science, geography, philosophy, mythology, or other aspects of a culture. Allusions are thus a powerful tool often employed by writers and are well worth understanding. In completing this activity, students will be able to identify, analyze, and interpret allusions, thereby accessing deeper meanings within the text.

Thomas Gray (1716–1771) began to write “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” in 1742 after the death of a close friend and published the poem in 1751. As the title suggests, the poem is a meditation on mortality; the speaker considers the lives of those buried at a graveyard—mostly farmers and rural people who led simple lives. In his contemplations on death, mortality, and virtue, Gray alludes to political and literary figures from English history, contrasting their grandeur and fame to the obscurity of those in the grave.

Skills: analysis, close reading, drawing inferences from text, interpreting implications of allusions

Learning Objectives:
In completing this activity, students will

  • identify different types of allusions and locate examples of allusion within a text;
  • analyze examples of allusions to determine their purpose in the context of a passage of text;
  • analyze examples of allusions to interpret their meaning and determine how they inform a passage of text.


Our eNotes Classroom Activities give students opportunities to practice developing a variety of skills. Whether analyzing literary devices or interpreting connotative language, students will work directly with the text. The main components of our classroom activities include the following:

  • A handout defining the literary elements under discussion, complete with examples
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An answer key or selected examples for reference, depending on the activity

In completing these classroom activities, students will be able to classify and analyze different literary elements, thereby developing close-reading skills and drawing deeper inferences from the text.

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