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AS and A Level: Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Common errors when writing about Tennyson's poems

  1. 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. 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. 3 Sweeping generalisations about the Victorian era – Avoid statements like ‘the Victorians believed that…’ It is most unlikely that they all did.
  4. 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. 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. 1 Blank verse.
  2. 2 Dramatic monologue.
  3. 3 Elegy.
  4. 4 Lyric.
  5. 5 Quatrains.

Poetry essay success

  1. 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. 2 If asked to compare or contrast two poems, make sure you give equal weight to both of them.
  3. 3 Discuss poetic technique as well as narrative content, and consider how these two things relate to each other.
  4. 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. 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
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Tear, idle tears. analyse, with close reference to the poem, how the author deals with the subject of loss

    4 star(s)

    tears meant .It is also the retort of a wounded angry pride, the poet is ashamed at himself for crying over such a trifle. The tears had ?depth?, ?rise[ing] in the heart? suggesting that the tears weren?t shallow and feigned, the tears weren?t shed without meaning, instead, they were caused by an irrepressible sadness from the depths of his heart. ?Divine despair? further emphasizes that the sadness was no ordinary one, it was otherworldly, such that no other mortal would experience, symbolizing the devastation brought about by the loss.

    • Word count: 1086
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and Contrast Tithonus and Ulysses.

    4 star(s)

    imagery of emptiness and desolation; 'among these barren crags, match'd with an aged wife' he not only graphically depicts his discontent but also suggests that he can not engage in procreation as his wife is infertile. However it soon becomes apparent that the narrators have entirely different objectives; Tithonus is weary of the world, he has been immortalised without eternal youth and as a direct result he must suffer the pain of age without the reprieve of death; his wife, Dawn, inadvertently neglected to request eternal youth for her lover from the Gods and as such he as and old man prays for death: 'the happier dead...

    • Word count: 1163
  3. Marked by a teacher

    How does Tennyson create a memorable character in Ulysses?

    3 star(s)

    Ulysses heroic desire to discover new worlds and to fight life to the end makes him a memorable character. The use of enjambment represents the idea of pushing forward 'beyond the utmost bound of human thought'. Tennyson's constant use of movement verbs, for example 'roaming', emphasises Ulysses desire for travel. The eating and drinking metaphors such as 'hungry heart' and 'drunk delight' represent the idea of fulfilment and Ulysses insatiable appetite for life and adventure. The intensifiers such as 'greatly' and 'much' emphasise this. Ulysses wants to live life to the full, and inspires the reader to do the same.

    • Word count: 1085
  4. Marked by a teacher

    The Lady Of Shalott Feminist Reading

    3 star(s)

    With the use of dismal imagery, Tennyson constructs the setting to resemble a prison with "four grey walls, and four grey towers" entrapping her and physically separating the character from the rest of the world. The colour is repeated to enforce emphasis upon the monotonous and dreary existence of the Lady of Shalott, which contrasts dramatically with the rest of picturesque Camelot as the "sun came dazzling thro' the leaves" and the darkness is described as a beautiful "purple night".

    • Word count: 1386
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Critical Commentary - Mariana

    3 star(s)

    The main house - the 'thatch' - is 'ancient', 'weeded' and 'worn', the alliteration in 'weeded and worn' further emphasising the fact that the house is an uninhabited (save for Mariana) and 'lonely' place surrounded by a moat. As aforementioned, the moat physically isolates the house from the rest of the area. The fact that the poet has personified the grange is emphatic on Mariana's loneliness: she is so alone that even the most inanimate objects seem alive. The 'broken sheds' that looked 'sad and strange' add further to an atmosphere of desolation and misery, the alliteration found in 'sad and strange' contributing to this effect.

    • Word count: 1438
  6. Marked by a teacher

    A later poet said 'Old men ought to be explorers'. What do you think he meant by that? Do you think he would have approved of the Ulysses who speaks in this poem? What would be your own assessment of Ulysses' character?

    3 star(s)

    Also the poet specifically chose 'ought' as though there is an obligation, or a duty, to become one of these explorers, or perhaps that one might be seen as foolish or failed if one does not spend time in one's final years exploring something. Being a 'later' poet, he would have been able to look back and see the revolutionary ways that peoples' every day lives had changed due to the discoveries made during the Victorian era. Although there were of course destructive or depressing sides to the Industrial Revolution, for example the poverty in the slums, if so many

    • Word count: 2520
  7. Peer reviewed

    Look again at Ulysses and write about Tennysons narrative techniques

    5 star(s)

    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
  8. Peer reviewed

    How does Tennyson bring mental pessimism and Victorian optimism in his use of myths and legends?

    3 star(s)

    Some of the greatest poems created by Tennyson are based on myths and legends. He possessed the talent of giving the myths and legends a very new look just to show how these poems adjust with the people and the crises of his time. These poems are - Ulysses, The Lotos Eaters, Tithonus, Oenone, Morte D'Arther etc. Now we are to discuss these poems and observe closely the use of myths and legends Homer's Odysseus or Tennyson's Ulysses is about to leave his island Kingdom of Ithaca and set out of a great adventure, because he is a man dissatisfied with his lot as a king.

    • Word count: 1302
  9. Peer reviewed

    "What are the poetic skills Tennyson uses in his narrative poems?"

    3 star(s)

    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

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?

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