Study Guide

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Stanza II

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Stanza II

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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