Themes analysis in The Idylls of the King

RUNNING HEAD: Themes in The Idylls of the King 1

Themesanalysis in The Idylls of the King

TheIdylls of the King by renowned poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson is abook that offers lasting value to the reader. This book was writtenduring the Victorian period, an era where some of the finest poetsexisted. Arthurian legends being the representatives of the Britishpast, have always held firm stands on English imagination, Tennysonwas, therefore, under great pressure to compose a thrilling poem onsome epic theme. He therefore, had to select a figure that showedstrong traits of admiration and patriotism. Some of the tales such asThe Coming of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, whereTennyson drew inspiration and content of his Idylls, givegreat insight of medieval literature. His poem uses fascinatingcharacters and is divided into several parts to describe severaltales, bringing out themes such as The Reconciliation of Religionand Science and The Virtues of Perseverance and Optimism (Spark NotesEditors, 2002). This essay gives a detailed analysis of these twothemes.

TheReconciliation of Religion and Science

Duringthe 19th century, where there was a lot of religiousconflict between religion and scientific advancements. Tennyson,therefore, used his mastery of poetry as a countermeasure towardsthis conflict. Major theories and scientific findings from variousscholars during this period included stratigraphy in 1811, which isthe study of rock layers, Darwin’s theory of natural selection in1859 and the discovery of galaxies in the 1840s. The period between,1840-1899, is characterized by scientists such as Joseph Lister, andLouis Pasteur, who spent sleepless nights conducting experiments thateventually led to the germ theory. (Science and Technology in themid-19th Century, n.d.). This modern understanding of diseases andmicroorganisms is what eventually challenged our traditionalunderstanding of nature.

Thesediscoveries really troubled Tennyson, for most of his career, to thepoint of writing the poem “Locksley Hall” (1842). This poemexpresses his irresoluteness on the developing technology andscientific discoveries. He uses a character who always feels that heis in the wrong ‘environment` where modern civilization is sorampant and that he needs to return to the salvage life that he isused to.( Spark Notes Editors, 2002). In Memoriam connects thedespair that Tennyson felt over the loss of his friend Arthur and hiscontemplation of a godless world. Despite these challenges,Tennyson still continued with his work of reconciling science andreligion as can is seen on some of his later work: “Locksley HallSixty Years After” (1886). He uses the same protagonist from hispast work “Locksley Hall”, but now in old age, who looks back atthe optimism he had with a lot of skepticism on the progress he hasmade.

TheVirtues of Perseverance and Optimism

DespiteTennyson struggling through a tough desperation period after thedeath of his friend Arthur, he eventually found his foot and startedwriting again. He had managed to counter his alcoholism addiction,whichfor a long period had not given him any room to show hiscreativity through writing. (Spark Notes Editors, 2002). He wroteseveral poems with the central theme being Temptation to give up andPessimism, but with a focus on the importance of life struggles. Thecentral theme of In Memoriam (1833) was the need forperseverance.

Tennysonhad faced a gloomy and challenging childhood perhaps that is whyperseverance and optimism frequently appear in his poetry. Evenbefore the death of Arthur he had written “The Lotos-Eaters”(1832, 1842). In which the central theme was still on perseverance.The poem “The Lady of Shalott” (1832, 1842) gives praise tocharacters that fight the challenges in their lives by embracingdestinies despite still winding up in tragic death. The Lady ofShalott is determined to leave her cocoon to find solace in the outerworld, with the determination to find the love that is missing fromher life. (Spark Notes Editors, 2002).


Tennyson,A. (1939). Idylls of the King: The story of King Arthur &amp hiscourt. New York: Heritage Press.

Tennyson,A. (1832). The Lotos-Eaters: The story of King Arthur &amphis court. New York: Heritage Press.

Tennyson,A. (1842). The Lady of Shalott: The story of King Arthur &amphis court. New York: Heritage Press.

Twain,M. (1889). A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur`s Court.Auckland: Floating Press.

SparkNotes Editors. (2002). SparkNote on Tennyson’s Poetry.Retrieved April 20, 2015, from

Scienceand Technology in the mid-19th Century. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22,2015, from