Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads: A Close Reading

Lesson rationale

Lyrical Ballads grew out of the friendship and artistic collaboration between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but Wordsworth – who contributed most of the poems and whose Preface to the 1800 edition outlines the aesthetic intention of Lyrical Ballads – was its guiding force. In this lesson, students will explore a number of the poems in light of Wordsworth’s key philosophies, considering the extent to which Wordsworth and Coleridge succeeded in putting these philosophies into practice.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What were Wordsworth’s hopes and intentions for Lyrical Ballads?
  • What trends in 18th-century poetry was he reacting against?
  • To what extent did he succeed?