Maud by Alfred Lord Tennyson: Summary & Analysis

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Michael Drayton: Biography, Poems & Sonnets

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Tennyson & ~'Maud~'
  • 0:55 ~'Maud~': A Summary
  • 3:47 ~'Maud~': Imagery & Themes
  • 5:48 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lucy Barnhouse
''Maud: A Monodrama'' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is notable both for its romantic narrative and for its sharp social criticism. ''Maud'' became one of the best-known English poems of the Victorian period. This lesson summarizes the poem's dramatic narrative and explores its use of rich imagery.

Tennyson and Maud

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was made Poet Laureate of Great Britain by Queen Victoria, and he dominated the literary scene during his time. He also came--for better and for worse--to represent that generation's taste, both during his life and after it. Tennyson's Victorian language can seem daunting to modern readers. In reading Maud, it's a good idea to just embrace the exaggerated concepts. Experimental in style, laden with intense symbolism, and full of social criticism, Maud was not a popular poem at first, despite its author's status. Tennyson himself was proud of the work, and retaliated against criticism by reading it aloud whenever he could. Reportedly, this won over many critics due to the beauty of the poem's language.

Maud: A Summary

It's easy to just concentrate on the ornate language of Maud, but there's a lot of drama in the narrative of the poem. There's also the narrator's internal drama, which is every bit as intense as the things that happen to him. You'll notice Tennyson changing meter between sections of the poem, to fit and reflect the narrator's changing moods. The poem begins with a violent outburst, alluding to violent events: we learn that the narrator's father committed suicide. The narrator even hints that his father's business partner cheated him, leading to his death. To add insult to injury, the cheating partner, now rich, is returning as lord of the manor. 'Were it not wise if I fled,' the traumatized narrator asks, 'from the place and the pit and the fear?'. In the second through fourth sections of Part I, we learn why he does not flee: because of Maud. Maud is his childhood friend, but the daughter of his enemy, and she is hauntingly beautiful. The narrator becomes increasingly fascinated, but resents his own attraction to her.

When the narrator and Maud finally meet again, she is friendly, but he mistrusts both her and his own feelings. They begin a shy flirtation, but then Maud's brother returns. Maud's brother has anger issues and is a terrible human being. Nevertheless, the narrator risks the brother's displeasure in order to find out if Maud returns his love; he and Maud pick flowers together, and he even kisses her hand. This is such a big deal that he momentarily considers reconciling with her brother. The two have to limit themselves to amorous gazing, until the brother leaves for a week. Ecstatic visiting ensues, as the narrator exults 'I have led her home, my love, my only friend'. The brother returns, however, with plans to marry Maud off, and matters come to a crisis.

After an intense passage where the narrator waits for Maud in a moonlit garden, there's a dramatic caesura (a break in the action of the poem) between Parts I and II. The opening of Part II hints ominously that a death has occurred. We learn that the narrator has impetuously dueled with Maud's brother and has killed him. In the aftermath, he fled to France. Brooding on the coast of Brittany, the narrator imagines himself as a dead man, mourning his own isolation and the lack of human compassion. In the brief Part III, he seeks death, redeeming his guilt by participating in a righteous cause, asserting 'I swear to you, lawful and lawless war / Are scarcely even akin'. The poem's conclusion is ambiguous, but there's a strong hint that he's joined up to fight against Russian tyranny in the Crimea. The narrator feels he is fighting also against cowardice and corruption in Britain itself.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account