* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
Dismiss
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
To Althea, from Prison

To Althea, from Prison

by Richard Lovelace

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

This poem is really all about the setting. It takes place in a prison, which is the main antagonist of the poem. In other words, the poem is really just a list of the ways that the speaker is able to overcome his sorry lot as a prisoner. And, by overcoming that challenge, he seems all the more impressive and heroic as a result. Ironically, the speaker kind of needs the prison setting in order to write this poem in the first place. (After all, it's hard to use your mind to break free of a place that you can just get up and walk out of.)

We wonder, though, just to what extent this speaker is truly free from his prison cell setting. Whether he's getting tangled up in hair, paralyzed by looks, or comparing himself to caged birds, confinement seems to be all the speaker can think about. The setting, in this way, penetrates every nook and cranny of the poem. So, while the speaker may be able to out-fly the birds, out-swim the fish, and out-sing the linnets, he's still, in some undeniable way, stuck in his confinement. The setting poses a really interesting question then: just what, exactly, are the limits of the human imagination?

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Noodle's College Search
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement