The famous hero of Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus. Here "Ulysses," he is in his twilight years and knows death is near, but he wants to continue his journeying and do something noble and glorious with his men one more time. He laments the weakness of his people and seeks the vigor that comes from bold adventures and seeking what lies beyond.
The title character of the poem by the same name, Tithonus is also a character from Greek myth. He was the lover of Aurora, goddess of the dawn, and here he asks her for eternal life. It is never stipulated that he wants immortal youth, however, so he decays forever. He begs her to let him embrace the natural cycle of life that includes death, and he laments his weariness.
Goddess of the dawn, parallel to Aurora in Roman myth, though she is not named in "Tithonus." She brightens up every day as she brings light to Earth, but this endless cycle is no life for Tithonus, her beloved.
The heroine of "Mariana," she pines after her lover and slowly decays in a moated grange. She is based on the character in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.
The Lady of Shalott
The Lady of Shalott, from the poem of the same name, is embowered in a tower along the river to Camelot. She is under a curse that stipulates that she can neither leave the tower nor look out the window. For most of the poem she is happy to weave the shadows she sees in her mirror into her magic web, but once she sees Sir Lancelot, she breaks the curse by looking out the window. She leaves her tower and floats down the river in a little boat, singing until she dies.
The bold and handsome knight with whom the Lady of Shalott falls in love.
The disillusioned poet from "The Epic." Unhappy with his King Arthur epic, he throws it into the fire. His friend Francis Allen rescues it, and Hall reads what is left, "Morte d'Arthur" ("death of Arthur"), to his friends on Christmas Eve.
One of the college friends in "The Epic," who saves "Morte d'Arthur" from the fire.
The legendary king from "Morte d'Arthur." Here he is dying from a grave battle-wound. He asks Sir Bedivere to throw Excalibur into the lake and to take him to the barge that is waiting for him at the shore. The king is noble and brave even in death, and he exhorts Sir Bedivere to have faith even when his world is crumbling.
The knight from "Morte d'Arthur" who is left to take Arthur to the shore where the barge waits. Sir Bedivere has difficulty throwing the beautiful sword Excalibur into the lake and is rebuked for his treason by Arthur. Finally Sir Bedivere complies and completes both of his tasks, but he feels bereft and broken by Arthur's passing.
The voice from "The Two Voices"
This insidious voice in the speaker's head tries to convince him that suicide is the only way to quell his profound grief over his friend's death. The voice uses many convincing arguments but ultimately loses when the speaker is revivified by a scene of family harmony.
A massive sea monster of Norse myth, the creature from the poem of the same name sleeps at the bottom of the sea until, in one splendid moment, he rises to the surface and dies.
The title character from the poem of the same name, Godiva is a nobleman's wife who tries to persuade her husband to lift the crushing tax he has levied on his townspeople. When he laughs at her and says he will do it if she rides through the town naked, she does just that. After requesting that all the townspeople shutter their windows and forbear looking out, she undresses, mounts her horse, and completes her famous ride. The tax is lifted, and she is beloved by all.
The princess forms a university dedicated to the education of women and wants no part of misogynistic male society. When her place is infiltrated by men, she becomes enraged. Her noble experiment continues to crumble around her as her brother (on her behalf) and the prince (for her hand in marriage) battle. She relents somewhat after the prince and his friends are wounded, and the university opens up to nurse the men. She is ashamed that her grand project is failing, but she also opens her heart to love for the prince as she nurses him back to health. She still possesses doubts about the possibility of equality in marriage, but by the end it is suggested that she will marry him.
The prince in "The Princess" tries to win the hand of the princess by entering the university disguised as a woman. His views on gender equality are rather traditional at the outset of the poem, but they evolve throughout the poem. He continues to pursue the princess even though she scorns him. At the end, when he has recovered from his wound, he wins her love and tells her they will have an equal marriage.
The prince's friend. His bawdy song in the mountains reveals the men's identity. He and Lady Psyche fall in love.
The prince's friend and sister of Lady Psyche. He and Melissa fall in love.
One of the princess's friends and advisers, the widowed Lady Psyche is the mother of Aglaia. She is the sister of Florian and recognizes him when he infiltrates the university. She agrees to keep the men's secret but loses the princess's friendship and her own child. She remains with the men until after the battle, when the princess gives her child back to her and forgives her betrayal. She and Cyril become romantically involved.
The cold Lady Blanche, mother of Melissa, is a friend and adviser of the Princess. She is partly responsible for urging the princess's rigid policy against men. She becomes envious of the princess's closeness with Lady Psyche and makes a deal with the men.
The wealthy host of the outdoor party in the framing narrative of "The Princess." Sir Walter is a typical misogynist, but by the end of the tale his ideas on women appear to have evolved somewhat.
The sister of Sir Walter, who first tells the group in the abbey that there are plenty of remarkable women but that convention and men keep them oppressed.
Tennyson’s Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Tennyson’s Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Published in 1832, “The Lotos-Eaters” with its “Choric Song” is one of Tennyson’s most popular poems. It derives from a 15-line episode in Homer’s Odyssey that depicts Odysseus (Ulysses) and his men journeying to the land of the lotos-eaters on...