Irony in "Tiresias"

James R. Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Professor of English, University of Southern California

Note 3 to Chapter 7 of the author's Tennyson's Major Poems, which Yale University Press published in 1975. It has been included in the Victorian Web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

The poem is often read as quite unironic. Christopher Ricks, for example, comments that "Tiresias finds strength and consolation in deliberate self-sacrifice" He also goes on to say that "the sacrifice of God and His Son" is here "tenuously adumbrated" (p. 569). I would have said "parodied." One cannot deny that Tennyson may haw had some very positive motive in writing the poem; but motives wide, "Tiresias" is ironic in form and undermines to a great extent its prescribed "strength and consolation."

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Last modified: 28 March 2001