ISOLATION IN MARIANA
The main female character which features in Tennyson’s ‘Mariana’ is one which embodies melancholy isolation. The poem is based on Shakespeare’s play ‘Measure for Measure’ whereby Mariana is waiting for her lover, Angelo, who has abandoned her.
The poem is set within a ‘moated grange’, which immediately gives a sense of loneliness; a despairing woman lying within a landscape of decay. The ‘moated grange’ is not a specific location, but a one which appears to occupy a liminal place outside of normality, contrasting to its normal association with fertility and growth, which only emphasises what Mariana doesn’t have. Descriptions such as ‘thickly crusted’ and ‘thickest dark’ suggest a heavy, almost chocking sense of seclusion, creating layers within the poem which line the physical and mental landscape. Mariana is physically separated from the outside world by a boundary which acts to keep everybody out and her confined within.
Tennyson employs pathetic fallacy to portray the fact that Mariana is not only isolated in her residence, but such is representative of her emotional turmoil. Her entire surroundings are aesthetically overcast: ‘rusted nails’, ‘broken sheds’, ‘glooming flats’. Every natural element is restricted and lonely, for example the ‘wild winds [are] bound within their cell’. The flower pots are described to be ‘thickly crusted’ with the ‘blackest moss’ which shows a bold contrast to the brightly coloured blooms which plant pots are expected to bear. Likewise, other feminine imagery is downplayed in this poem such as the stagnant ‘blackn’d waters’ and the moon, which doesn’t rise to its normal height. This choice of imagery shows that that Mariana isn’t effectively portraying the desired characteristics of a woman, as her lust for her beloved has driven her insane.
This lust is shown through the extended metaphor of the poplar tree present in the fourth and fifth stanzas. The tree serves as the only break in a flat, unbroken...