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English “Tam O Shanter: A Tale” Robert Burns. Facts (useful for essay) Considered a masterpiece Focuses on an individual’s experience with the supernatural.

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Presentation on theme: "English “Tam O Shanter: A Tale” Robert Burns. Facts (useful for essay) Considered a masterpiece Focuses on an individual’s experience with the supernatural."— Presentation transcript:

1 English “Tam O Shanter: A Tale” Robert Burns

2 Facts (useful for essay) Considered a masterpiece Focuses on an individual’s experience with the supernatural Genre: indulgent in folklore/ supernatural The relationship between realism and fantasy

3 Basic Overview of the plot Tam spends an evening at the pub, drinking and socialising He journeys home on his horse (already late) He is subject to intrigue (and lust) at Alloway Kirk He interrupts a dance of witches Tam’s life depends on a contest between two females: the witch (Cutty Sark) and Maggie (the horse)

4 Tam There is a heroic dimension to Tam’s perseverance, but he is also shows to be human and fallible (can make mistakes). For example, excess alcohol consumption, feeling of sexual attraction Called “heroic Tam” in stanza 13 (see ‘Specific Form’ slide) Not just the ordinary man, but the ordinary Scot

5 The Devil and the witches The narrator gives us a detailed account of the evening’s celebrations with the Devil and his witches. The witches and the Devil are almost humanised in that they too need to enjoy themselves after a busy day. Their choice of dances suggests that they are patriotic Scottish witches The Devil is “black, grim and large” (fearsome) and also a “tousie tyke” (makes him familiar) As a source of intensive creative energy, the Devil has obvious affinities with the poet himself The Devil is given different names (and forms) in the poem

6 Themes The Supernatural Female influence (Kate, Kirkton Jean, Cutty Sark and Maggie) Alcohol Desire Religion

7 Specific Form of the Poem Long narrative poem - CRUCIAL A ‘mock epic’ poem (about a hero) – CRUCIAL Burns creates a distinct narrative voice In the opening lines the narrator sets the context (esp. lines 5/6) The narrator speaks from and for the group (stanza one), showing that he is one of Tam’s friends. He knows that if Tam had taken Kate’s advice, things would be very different. We know that he knows of Kate’s reproaches: “She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum / A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum” The narrator establishes a general point that pleasure always has a price which must be paid sooner or later

8 Specific Form continued The narrator is telling the ‘tale’ and this allows him to embellish the truth The narrator serves to: set the scene, introduce the principal characters, create narrative interest (will Kate be proved right?) and grounding a tale of the supernatural in the real world. The narrator presents the journey in vividly visual terms The narrator sometimes addresses characters directly (Tam, the young witch) – This serves to engage the reader Moral at the end of the poem against alcohol and womanising (delivered by the narrator)

9 Does the poem tell you about much about Burns? He shows his knowledge of the local area/circumstances and links it to his imagination Religion plays a big part and shows that it was dominant in society at Burns’ time “Tam O Shanter” proves that Burns’ relationships with his community could produce imaginative literature of a very high order Through the narrator, Burns makes points about religion and society

10 Why is this poem written in Scots? Does this add to its success? Written in the vernacular The vernacular is particularly expressive and it is also appropriate since there are terms which Tam and his friends would use. Souter Johnnie is Tam’s “ancient, trusty, drouthy cronie”: the sequence of adjectives reflects Tam’s priorities, with the most valued quality – ‘drouthy’ – occupying pride of place beside the noun. The use of vernacular authenticates Tam’s experiences

11 Literary Techniques Similes (e.g. “Gathering her brows like gathering storm”) Personification: (e.g. “the groaning trees”) Metaphors: (e.g. “Nursing her wrath to keep it warm”) Alliteration: (e.g. “…blethering, blustering, drunken blellum”) Onomatopoeia: (e.g. “rattling showers”) Repetition: (e.g. “hour” in stanza 7) These are just examples – there are more for you to find

12 Other Comedy versus tragedy: “Whare drunken Charlie brak’s nack-bane” is intentionally funny. “Whare hunters fand the murder’d bairn” is definitely not. Then the alliteration in “Mungo’s mither” reintroduces a humourous note (stanza 10). See also stanza 13. Rhyme and rhythm (mainly octosyllabic couplets) Variation in pace of the poem > Tension builds Climax of the poem in stanza 18: “Weel done, Cutty-sark)

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