Tennyson uses place and setting, time, characterisation, imagery and form to tell the story in his poem Mariana, based on the character of Mariana from Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure. The poem is about the character Mariana, who after losing her dowry in a shipwreck, her lover Angelo leaves her. In the poem, we see Mariana slowly coming to terms with the fact that Angelo will never be coming back to her. Tennyson uses place and setting to show that Mariana’s feelings of despair have impacted on her surroundings, leaving them in disrepair and neglected. Throughout, we see evidence of Mariana’s neglected home. For example, in the first stanza, Tennyson mentions “rusted nails” and a “broken shed.” This shows that Mariana does not care about the state of her home, as she is so wrapped up in her own depression that what is around her doesn’t matter.
Alternatively, it could be said that Mariana, as she has lost her money, cannot afford to repair the damages, which would further emphasise the all-encompassing effect losing her money has had. Her home also reflects her internal bleakness, as she lives on a “lonely moated grange.” The moat surrounding her home suggests that she is cut off from the rest of the world, not only mentally but physically by the body of water. Even the surrounding land around Mariana’s grange reflects her desolation. The home is situated on flooded lowland, called the “fen”. This low, flat land could suggest Mariana’s one dimensional personality, as she is overtaken by grief.
Time is also used to tell the story in Mariana. The only real mention of time passing is in the refrain at the end of each stanza. There is either “the night,” “the day,” or “my life,” suggesting that Mariana has lost track of time, and the days and nights are all blending together for her and just form one huge expanse of time. She is trapped in time, with no real sense of days passing. Her life is monotonous, as shown by the repetition of the refrain throughout. There is no clear time frame in the poem, suggesting that time is endless for Mariana, who is always waiting for Angelo, who “cometh not.” The reader knows that time is passing however, as Mariana becomes sadder and sadder throughout the poem, finally realising at the end that Angelo “will not come.”
Tennyson also uses characterisation to show Mariana’s deteriorating mental health in the poem. Mariana is shown to only look for her ex-fiancé, such as when she draws her “casement-curtain by” to look out at night for him. She does not sleep, either, as shown when “upon the middle of the night” she wakes up and starts wandering aimlessly around the grange again. Tennyson also shows Mariana start to hallucinate. In the sixth stanza, Tennyson mentions “old faces”, “old footsteps”, and “old voices.” She begins imaging others with her as she is so alone. Her memories are like ghosts, creating an eerie presence around her. Her loneliness is obvious here, as she creates imaginary characters to entertain herself with.
Tennyson uses pathetic fallacy when describing the “dark fen,” which describes Mariana’s state of mind. This is also used when describing the landscape, where “no other tree did mark” the area around her, aside from one “gnarled” poplar tree. This shows Mariana’s loneliness, and also the fact that she is barren like the land, as she is alone and will not be having children. Personification is also used for this purpose, as the sheds are described as “sad and strange” and the grange as “lonely.” This puts qualities shown by Mariana subtly onto the surroundings around her. Tennyson also appeals to the senses, as he describes the wind as “shrill.” These screaming noises are harsh and cold, and creates a somewhat sinister atmosphere. The winds are also described as “bound within their cell” which reflects that Mariana is trapped within her home.
Form is used to show the monotony of Mariana’s life. Tennyson uses the repeated refrain at the end of each stanza to show the repetitiveness of her life, and how her emotions do not change, except for in the final stanza, where Mariana loses all hope. The rhyme scheme also represents this, as it remains the same throughout. As Tennyson does not use rhyming couplets, rather separated lines in an A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F structure, it shows that Mariana is separated from her lover instead of with him, as even though the rhyme changes every four lines, the pattern stays the same. This could suggest that even though the things around Mariana are changing, like the days and the weather, her heartbreak remains constant.
In conclusion, Tennyson uses setting, time, imagery, form and characterisation within the poem Mariana to show how desolate and depressed she is, and that her life is always the same and will not change unless Angelo comes back.