Publication Year

1986

Keywords

Literature, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Victorian England, Arthurian legend, Idylls, literary criticism

Disciplines

Comparative Literature | Creative Writing | English Language and Literature | European History

Abstract

Looking toward the coming of a nobler spirit into society, Lord Alfred Tennyson turned to the past to discover an adequate barometer of the moral temper of Victorian England. By the nineteenth century, the story of the Order of the Round Table had become a literary anachronism, and out of Tennyson's life-long fascination with the story of Camelot was to come the Idylls of the King. From his earliest years, Tennyson had written out various histories of Arthur in prose, and he considered the Arthurian legends his greatest poetic challenge. Tennyson believed that only under the inspiration of ideals could a man combat the "cynical indifference, the intellectual selfishness, the sloth of will, the utilitarian materialism of a transition age." Tennyson's desire to teach men the "need of the Ideal" is given form in his presentation of King Arthur and the Round Table. In his chronicle of the flowering and collapse of Camelot in the Idylls of the King, Tennyson indicates not only the need for a sustaining ideal in men's lives, but also what that ideal must consist of. The ideal of order for which Arthur's kingdom stands embodies the tenets of faith and hope, and is manifested in the poem's central images; in the end, Tennyson uses his story of Camelot as a framework against which to judge his own age.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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