• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Analysis of Leda and the Swan. Greek mythology.

Extracts from this document...


Analysis of Leda and the Swan. Greek mythology has, throughout history, been the subject of much debate and interpretation. Conjuring up images of bloody battles and crumbling cities, its descriptions of the epic battle between good and evil still have remarkable relevance and continue to resonate with poignancy in our bleak, war-torn society. The poem Leda and the Swan, written by William Butler Yeats, attempts to shed new light on what is arguably one of Ancient Greece's most controversial myths. In this essay I aim to study the poem in more depth, analysing what Yeats says and how he says it. Leda and the Swan is an interpretation of the Greek myth wherein Zeus, in the form of a swan, violated a young woman, who gave birth to Helen and Clytemnestra. Helen's flight with Paris to Troy, leaving her husband Menelaus (Agamemnon's brother) caused the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Clytemnestra then murdered her husband Agamemnon on his return from victory at Troy. The poem begins with Yeats emphasising the brutality of Zeus' actions, describing the initial impact as a "sudden blow". ...read more.


and therefore doubts the validity of her resistance to the act. Leda's confused state of mind is re-emphasised by the fact that she "pushed the feathered glory" from her thighs, yet those thighs were "loosening" (i.e. she was being submissive) at the same time. The second questions how the victim is able to realise how unnatural the events are - "And how can body, laid in that white rush, But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?". The "white rush" could represent either the movement of semen during ejaculation, or the movements of the swan itself. The word "white" serves as a contradiction - how could something white, a colour which is supposed to represent purity and innocence, violate a young woman in such a brutal, senseless fashion? The use of the word "strange" to describe the swan's heart carries the connotation that the organ itself, and therefore the swan's intentions and feelings, are alien and unnatural. The fact that the poet questions why the victim was capable of realising the unnatural intentions of her attacker implies that she was aware of the consequences of the rape. ...read more.


He describes the swan's beak as "indifferent", a word which carries the connotation that Zeus was uncaring and unflinching in what he did. Furthermore, the harshness of the word "beak" is used to again portray Zeus as cruel and barbaric. It is clear from the poem that Leda was raped by Zeus, who had disguised himself as a swan. It is also clear from the poem that Leda felt ambivalent while being raped - she was unsure of whether to submit or resist. The implication near the end of the poem is that she did attempt to resist (although the "shudder in the loins" and the "white rush" convey the fact that she was raped), yet the question is why this was so. Yeats causes the reader to ponder on whether Leda's fingers were "terrified" because of the act or because of her potential knowledge of the consequences, and he himself near the end of the poem ponders on whether she knew the consequences of the rape before it happened ("Did she put on his knowledge with his power...?"). Yeats speaks, on a literal level, about the rape of a young woman, yet he also relates the events of Greek mythology to themes of fate, giving the poem meaning and resonance on a more universal level. 1 Darren Anderson. 13PD. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level W.B. Yeats section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level W.B. Yeats essays

  1. Analysis of Literary Devices: ""Leda and the Swan" ...

    Yeats also shows the unnatural superiority the swan has over a human, "A sudden blow: the great wings beating still" (1).Yeats uses personification in ""Leda and the Swan" to stretch the point that the swan is Zeus, the most powerful god.

  2. How effective is W.B Yeats in cautioning the modern reader on the melancholic, the ...

    being destroyed, as he isn't using the given gifts by God well. He faults her primarily by saying "her opinionated mind," and these lines show that one cannot help but wonder if her opinion that Yeats was not the man for her leads the poet to the judgment that too strong an opinion is a harmful thing in a woman.

  1. Leda and the Swan Commentary.

    immediacy while the verbs in the passive tense distance the reader from the rape and makes you reflect on the event.

  2. Love is a common theme in poetry and it has been written about for ...

    This is to indicate to the reader that these parts of the poem are very special and that their importance is stressed by the writer's use of alliteration. Lots of vivid images of fire and apple blossom are used to create a picture inside the head of the reader.

  1. Language and Literature Assignment. Analyse 'The Stolen Child' By W.B Yeats.

    is gloating about the things that the child will now miss through his agreement to follow the faery. This particular metaphor strongly depicts all the comforts of home life, the life the child has with his family. By fusing together the image of the kettle singing and the satisfying comfort

  2. In the light of 'Leda and The Swan' and 'The Second Coming' describe Yeats' ...

    Zeus, disguised as a swan captures Helen, and at the moment of conception not only engenders impregnation; but also causes the fall of Troy and the death of Greek heroes. Yeats uses this subject to illustrate a moment in time, which his cyclical view of history is begun anew.

  1. Discuss the way Yeats explores the theme of destruction in "Leda and the Swan".

    Likewise, the ?nape? is the part of the body where the spine meets the brain, both these components are vital to life thus, the swan holding her by her nape indicates her life is under the swan?s authority. Additionally, the lexical choice of powerlessness, ?helpless?, ?sudden?, ?terrified? and ?staggering? accentuate the destruction due to her being so exposed.

  2. Discuss how Yeats uses the theme of the supernatural in "The Cat and the ...

    Similarly, Yeats?s love for Maud Gonne is shown in ?Broken Dreams?, a poem for which Maud Gonne is the muse. Yeats dedicates the poem to her beauty, ?Heaven has put away her stroke of doom?. The comparing of Maud Gonne to heaven itself is a metaphor of her sheer beauty

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work