Character Sketch of Ulysses

“Ulysses” is a poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which explores the character of Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek mythology), the legendary hero of Homer’s epic poems “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” The poem presents Ulysses as an aging king who reflects on his adventurous past and expresses a longing for new exploits. Here’s a character sketch of Ulysses based on Tennyson’s poem:

Ulysses: The Heroic Wanderer

  1. Aging Hero:
    • Ulysses, the protagonist of the poem, is depicted as an aging hero. Having experienced the triumphs and challenges of his past adventures, he now finds himself in a position of kingship but expresses dissatisfaction with a life of inactivity.
  2. Restless Spirit:
    • Ulysses possesses a restless and adventurous spirit. Despite being a king, he yearns for the thrill of exploration and conquest. His desire for new experiences and challenges reflects his inherent nature as a wanderer and adventurer.
  3. Leadership Qualities:
    • Ulysses is a charismatic and authoritative leader. The poem highlights his leadership qualities as he speaks to his fellow mariners, encouraging them to embark on new voyages with him. His ability to inspire others underscores his role as a natural leader.
  4. Intellectual Curiosity:
    • Ulysses is characterized by intellectual curiosity. He expresses a desire to explore the unknown, encounter different cultures, and gain knowledge through experiences. His thirst for intellectual growth is a driving force behind his desire for continued adventure.
  5. Challenges of Rule:
    • While Ulysses acknowledges the responsibilities of kingship, he finds the mundane aspects of ruling a kingdom unfulfilling. The administrative duties and sedentary life conflict with his adventurous spirit, leading him to yearn for the excitement of the open sea.
  6. Sense of Destiny:
    • Ulysses has a strong sense of destiny and a belief that his life is meant for greatness. This belief fuels his desire to continue seeking challenges and fulfilling his heroic destiny, even in the face of old age.
  7. Reflective and Philosophical:
    • The poem showcases Ulysses as a reflective and philosophical character. He contemplates the passage of time, the transient nature of life, and the inevitability of death. Ulysses grapples with the idea that a life of constant striving is more meaningful than a life of ease.


Tennyson’s portrayal of Ulysses in the poem captures the essence of a legendary hero who, even in old age, yearns for the pursuit of adventure and intellectual stimulation. Ulysses represents the timeless human spirit that seeks challenges, exploration, and a sense of purpose beyond the ordinary. The character’s complex blend of leadership, restlessness, and philosophical contemplation contributes to the enduring appeal of “Ulysses” as a literary work.

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