Oenone By Alfred Lord Tennyson Summary & Analysis


Oenone Summary

” Oenone ” is a dramatic monologue written by The Victorian poet Lord Alfred Tennyson in 1829. It’s a passionate song of a Mountain Nymph ” Oenone “. In this lyric, events are narrated by Oenone. Oenone describes how she fell in love with Paris whom she married and with whom she lived in the most perfect tenderness. But their conjugal bliss was soon disturbed. Oenone has been abandoned by Paris. The poem begins with the laments of Oenone who lost his beloved husband, Paris. Oenone, the speaker of the poem tells that Paris left her for Helen. She describes how Paris slips away from her hand. She details the story of Paris.
At the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, it so happened that Paris was made judge decide who among the three goddesses — Hera, Pallas and Aphrodite deserve the apple bearing ‘ For the fairest ‘. Hera tempted Paris with Power. Pallas tempted him with Wisdom and Aphrodite tempted him with the love of the Fairest woman. Oenone hoped that his husband would choose either Hera’s offer of ‘royal power ‘ or Pallas’s offer of self-reverence, self -knowledge, self- control. But swayed by venereal beauty and erotic desire, Paris declared Aphrodite winner and accepted the love of Helen. By nature men are attracted to physical beauty rather than the beauty of knowledge. To gain knowledge, Paris must abandon Oenone. Eventually, Paris would have to pay a heavy price for his choice which is the ultimate lesson of his life. Because , Troy is on the verge of destruction for Helen.


On the other hand, as Oenone was abandoned by Paris, she would be alone till she died. She suffers from her fiery uncontrollable passion. She would sit alone in the Valley. She wished to die. Fiery thoughts shaped themselves within her. It seems that she was surrounded by flames of fire. She thoughts that she is a victim of outside circumstances. Actually, she is victimized by her passion, perhaps the irrationality that rule in human affairs.

Unlike the widely self-effacing confidantes in Racine’s plays, Oenone has extraordinary stature. She is nearly a serious character, another Phaedra played during a different key. Like her mistress she is that the victim of an awesome passion — in her case, maternal-like love. Her misdeeds aren’t the results of an evil nature but the perversion of a virtue. She isn’t an Iago taking a malicious pleasure in dispensing perfidious advice. Her schemes and treachery are motivated only by the hysterical desire to guard her charge. Oenone, like Phaedra, loves not wisely but too well, and like Phaedra too, expiates her crime by suicide.