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AS and A Level: Alfred Lord Tennyson
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Common errors when writing about Tennyson's poems
- 1 Failing to distinguish between titles and characters – It can lead to confusion if you do not distinguish between ‘Mariana’ or ‘Ulysses’ (the poems) and Mariana or Ulysses (the characters). Quotation marks or italics are essential to indicate titles of poems.
- 2 Failure to make proper use of quotations – Quotations from the poems should always be followed by an analysis of their language and effects. It is not enough just to quote and pass on.
- 3 Sweeping generalisations about the Victorian era – Avoid statements like ‘the Victorians believed that…’ It is most unlikely that they all did.
- 4 The poet’s name – The poet should be referred to as Tennyson, not Lord Tennyson. He did not become a baronet until very late in life.
- 5 Poor spelling – Tennyson’s poems contain characters with unfamiliar names, such as Ulysses and Tithonis. Make sure you spell them correctly.
Tennyson is noted for the variety of his verse forms. Check the definitions of each of the following, and make sure you always try to link form with meaning in a poem.
- 1 Blank verse.
- 2 Dramatic monologue.
- 3 Elegy.
- 4 Lyric.
- 5 Quatrains.
Poetry essay success
- 1 Try to refer to the wording of the essay title two or three times during the course of your essay. This should ensure that you are answering the question effectively.
- 2 If asked to compare or contrast two poems, make sure you give equal weight to both of them.
- 3 Discuss poetic technique as well as narrative content, and consider how these two things relate to each other.
- 4 Introduce your quotations so they are fluently integrated into the flow of your sentences. Then analyse their effect. Don’t just expect them to speak for themselves.
- 5 Use adverbs or phrases such as ‘moreover’, nevertheless’, ‘in addition’ and ‘however’. These indicate whether you intend to develop a previous point or change tack, and help the reader follow your argument.
- Marked by Teachers essays 6
- Peer Reviewed essays 3
Finally, the balance between lines and theme is also important- twenty-six lines go on the zeal of Ulysses' previous explorations, and a further twenty-six go on his hopes, fears and attitudes for and towards the future. In contrast, he spends only eleven lines on his government and responsibility, and can spare just a single bitter indictment, "aged wife" for the ever faithful Penelope. This structure echoes the theme of responsibility against detachment- Ulysses' excessive description of himself and the fleeting mention of his subjects illustrates his abdication of responsibility and the egocentric nature of his character, although this could be expected from a great classical king.
- Word count: 3356
At the start of each stanza there is a narrative voice and Mariana's voice at the end. Each stanza describes a different area of her life. In the first stanza we see everything falling apart, "The rusted nails fell from the knots" (Stanza 1 line 3) This is a comparison to how her life is falling apart. At the end of each of the first six stanzas there are three lines which are always the same, "He cometh not, she said,' she said; She said, 'I am aweary, aweary, I would that I were dead!' " (stanza 1 2 3 4 5 6 lines 10-11-12)
- Word count: 3147