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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

by T.S. Eliot

Stanza II Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 13-14

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

  • There’s not much to explain about what’s going on in these lines. Women are entering and leaving a room talking about the Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo.
  • Eliot loves those Italians. The quote is adopted from a poem the 19th century French writer Jules Laforgue, but that doesn’t really help us figure out what it means here.
  • And, no, you’re not missing anything – these lines really do come out of nowhere and seem to have nothing to do with Prufrock’s question.
  • They do, however, add to the general atmosphere. For one thing, the women must be pretty high-class to be talking about Renaissance art, but their repeated action of "coming and going" seems surprisingly pointless.
  • Remember how we said that Eliot includes sneaky references to Dante everywhere? Well, Dante’s Hell features a lot of really smart people who repeat utterly pointless physical gestures over and over again in small, cramped spaces. Just something to think about.
  • Finally, these lines have an incredibly simple, singsong rhyme that could get really annoying if you had to listen to it for a long time. It sounds like a nursery rhyme, which totally doesn’t fit with the intellectual subject of famous painters.

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