Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade: A Close Reading

Lesson rationale

In this activity, students will consider the context within which Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, first published in the Examiner in 1854, only weeks after the famous cavalry charge (25 October 1854) at Balaclava. Although this episode in the Crimean War was only minor, the poem immediately captured the public imagination, where it has remained, testimony to heroic failure, self-sacrifice and duty in war.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How did the poem become so popular so quickly?
  • What elements of the poem make it both memorable and controversial?
  • What aspects of the poem foreshadow the conflict of the 20th century?