Comparing Ulysses and Not My Best Side Explore the Poets use of the Dramatic Monologue

Authors Avatar

12th July 2004

Philip Murphy

By Comparing Ulysses and Not My Best Side Explore the Poets use of the Dramatic Monologue

A dramatic monologue is a poem in which a single speaker who is not the poet utters the entire poem at a critical moment. The speaker may have a listener within the poem, but we too are his/her listener, and we learn about the speaker's character from what the speaker says. In fact, the speaker may unintentionally reveal certain aspects of his/her character.  The reader often perceives a gap between what that speaker says and what he/she actually reveals, which is subject to interpretation.

        Ulysses, by Alfred Tennyson, is a dramatic representation of a man who has lost his faith in the gods and in the necessity of preserving order in his kingdom and his own life.  The whole monologue takes place on Ulysses’ death bed.  It is a kind of dream, a means of momentary escape from the unwelcoming environment of Ithaca.  It is merely the expression of a hero indulging himself in the fantasy that his beloved mariners are still alive.  In this case, he can greet his dead sailors, and thus he can look forward to exploring the last great mystery – death.

Join now!

        The Victorian’s tended to read this poem fairly straight-forward, as an expression of unruffled confidence in the necessity of striving ever onward, even to death.  If we look at this monologue in present-day terms, and realize that Tennyson wrote the poem in the first few weeks of learning of his friend Arthur Henry Hallum’s death, we become conscious that it may represent Tennyson revealing his own ideas and concerns about death.  If we simply read it as a dramatic poem, we come to see its speaker as a highly complex individual, heroic but bewildered.  However, the structural inconsistencies may serve ...

This is a preview of the whole essay