Portraying Emotion Over Intellect In Ulysses English Literature Essay

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Romanticism was a time period when writers and artists began to experiment with the rules of their ancestors and sometimes forgot those rules entirely. They had strong characteristic attitudes that are embodied in every Romanticist work. One of the most overpowering attitudes was a general exaltation of emotion over reason and the senses over intellect. With this attitudes two writers, Robert Browning and Lord Tennyson, both shaped their works to hold a character that places more weight with their emotions rather then their intellect or reason. In the works, "My Last Duchess," and "Ulysses," the audience witnesses the way emotion can play an essential and overwhelming part in the someone's life. The Duke and Ulysses in their respected pieces both tend to make decisions on their emotions rather then reason.

"My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning is an exceptional example of one of the characteristic attitudes in a sense that it expresses a general exaltation of emotion over reason and the senses over intellect. Throughout the poem, the Duke is explaining to the audience that the painting is of his late Duchess. The Duke continuous to explain that the Duchess was a woman who was "too soon made glad," and "she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere." With this outcry the audience begins to see the persona of the Duchess and even of the Duke. What furthers the audience thoughts of the Duke is when he explains that the Duchess did not appreciate the Duke's "nine-hundred-years-old name" and so he "gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together." What this example shows is that the Duke is a very cynical and jealous person. The Duke alludes to the fact that he had the Duchess killed due to the fact that she was not being faithful and not appreciating the name he bestowed on her. Having the Duchess killed is a great example of emotion taking the forefront of situation over reason. After the fact that he had the Duchess killed, he falls back to the matter that he is tasked with, arranging a new marriage for himself with the Count's daughter. The Duke is portrayed as a man who is never challenged usually by anyone and he did not know how to react to someone such as the Duchess who does not seem to care about the Duke's prestige. With the Duchess' acts, the situation resulted in her Death because of the Duke's use of emotion over reason. Especially in the time frame, people need not forget that the structure of the household was so the women would be subservient to the men. The Duke, being accustomed to this manner of living could not have the Duchess tampering with his precious name. The Duke simply did not want to be made a fool of and decided to correct his problem. Browning characterized this attitude by writing this poem and showing the blinded rage of the Duke. Browning also utilizes the emotional ploy, with this writing with the readers. He engages the readers with the emotion of the story and by telling the story in the Duke's point of view, the audience has to gather clues and infer what happened. By having the story as the Duke's point of view the audience witnesses his rage, his pain, and ultimately his emotions to why he had the Duchess killed.

Furthermore, "Ulysses," by Tennyson is another strong example of the characteristic attitudes that it expresses a general exaltation of emotion over reason and the senses over intellect. First, it is a dramatic monologue, which always beholds strong emotional words and meanings and this poem is no different. One phrase that stands out is "For always roaming with a hungry heart," which expresses the desire to follow his heart and emotions over his thoughts and intellect. Ulysses is not satisfied with his travels and wants to follow his heart into another journey. This shows that because of his heart and emotions never being satisfied, he will always follow his heart and emotions to the next journey in life. The entire poem is detailing the life of Ulysses; past, present, and future. The poem hints toward the fact that Ulysses has just finished a long trip and now is back home deciding upon his next journey. One would assume that by reason that old age, which Ulysses claims throughout the poem would be a reason to stay in one place, however, this is not the case and with emotion Ulysses conveys that he wishes to keep traveling. Also, the line "To follow knowledge like a sinking star," exemplifies Ulysses use of emotions over reason and intellect. Ulysses is a traveller, who does not want to stop traveling even if he is older. In the last and final stanza of this poem, Ulysses address fellow mariners that he has encountered over the years and tells them "Some work of noble note, may yet be done." By stating this Ulysses is telling them, just because they are not as young as they once were, they should never stop trying to do good because they can still accomplish those noble acts. This wish is designed to be more emotionally driven then on reason because these men that he is referring to are all close to death and reason would tell one that it is not possible to these noble acts that they were once all capable of, however, emotionally Ulysses claims that they can still accomplish these acts. Tennyson has the character of Ulysses to be more of an emotional character, that he relies on his feelings over reason. This concept is evident throughout the poem and is the basis for the character Ulysses, which Tennyson developed.

Clearly, the two characters of the Duke and Ulysses both let their emotions lead their actions instead of thought and intelligence. By reading both of these works of the Romanticism era, the audience witnesses how both Browning and Tennyson developed their characters to be emotional beings and to make decisions based on their emotions. It is evident that Browning and Tennyson tended to hold the Romanticism characteristic attitude of a general exaltation of emotion over reason and the senses over intellect as a truth and portrayed such truth in their works of "My last Duchess" and "Ulysses."