1. What is the play’s Greek source? Would the use of a Euripidean source have added to the poem’s credibility?
  2. What is the significance of the fact that the play is named after Atalanta rather than Meleager or Althea? To which aspects of her role does this call attention?
  3. How might Atalanta in Calydon be read as an allegory?
  4. Do you find parallels between this poetic drama and any of Swinburne’s other early works? (e. g., “The Triumph of Time”) Poetic dramas by other Victorian poets?
  5. What is added to the story by the fact that it is cast in poetic form? Does it seem to you essentially more dramatic or lyrical?
  6. What are some significant patterns of imagery?
    • --Artemis associated with fire and wind, the fullness of spring
    • --Meleager associated with the fire-burning brand and with water
    • --constant fire images, references to iron 
  7. Is the poem well-crafted? What linguistic and psychological patterns add structure and balance?
  8. What features or qualities of the poem create dramatic suspense?
  9. What seem to you significant features of the plot? Does it conform to Aristotelian views of tragedy?
  10. When we first meet Althea, what seem to be her dominant passions and characteristics? Is she presented as a noble character? (271) What forces or circumstances does she seem to represent?
  11. Do you find Althea’s responses to be consistent throughout? Is she a tragic figure, and if so, why? (when she burns him, also burns herself, 273) How does she respond to her murder of her son?
  12. The story of Medea--who killed her husband’s prospective new bride and their two sons--was also popular in the Victorian period. Why do you think the theme of maternal murder may have seemed especially horrific to the Victorians?
  13. What are some of the points of dispute between mother and son? (227, 228) How significant would these seem to be to a Victorian or a modern audience?
  14. What role does Meleager's father Oenus play in this drama?
  15. How is Meleager presented? What are some of his admirable/unusual traits? (stoic, dutiful, attracted to a virgin huntress)
  16. What do we know of the character of Atalanta from her speech and actions? Is she to be perceived as admirable?
  17. What role do Meleager's uncles play in the plot? Are their views to be seen as reasonable?
  18. What prompts Meleager to respond to them, and what might have happened had he not intervened? Within the context of the drama, is he responsible for their deaths?
  19. Is Althea's grief at her brothers’ death fully explained? (265-67, *268) How does she justify her desire to avenge their deaths? Do onlookers such as the Chorus seem to agree with her decision? What features of early Greek culture do these motifs seem to encode? (Woman’s identification with original kinship unit--even so, seems exaggerated?)
  20. Does a feminist approach offer any insights into the emotions of this poetic drama?
  21. What function is served by the chorus?
    • --211, defines Artemis
    • --221, describes fate of man
    • --235, apostrophizes love, “Oh Love, thou art fair”; love brings fate and death, actively opposes men
    • --246, indictment of gods, defies them
    • --counsels restraint, advocates for Meleager
  22. Is Althea's grief for her brothers' convincing? Does she ignore aspects of the situation in describing their deaths? (they had precipitated the conflict; her memories of them are of childhood, not of their adult actions) Her after-the-fact regrets for her son's death?
  23. Are some of these ideas or images present in other Victorian poetry, say that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, G. M. Hopkins, or D. G. Rossetti?
  24. What are some of the attractive lyrical sections of the poem?
  25. What is Meleager's response to death? (290-91, noble, perfect) Is he a tragic hero?What is the effect of his final song? (able to sing his own elegy, wishes well to all who will succeed him)
  26. How does he respond to each of his parents in death? What effect is created by his assertion that it is not his mother but fate that is responsible for his death?
  27. What are some of the features of the lyrics? How do these formal qualities reinforce their meaning? (variety pleasant, cmp. “Manfred,” “Prometheus Unbound”)
  28. Are the deaths presented inevitable in Greek tragic terms? In Victorian terms?
  29. Do you feel this play’s ending provides closure, and if so, what are the conflicts which it resolves? Does it provide its audience with a sense of Aristotelian “catharsis,” that is, emotions of pity and terror?
  30. If you have read “The Triumph of Time” or know anything of Swinburne’s private life, which features of this poem do you think may be autobiographical?
  31. What are some of the play's basic themes? (generational differences, kinship revenge, dangers of rebellion, chauvinism, cycle of birth and death)
  32. Are there feminist elements to this play? Anti-feminist elements?
  33. Why do you think this poem, and Swinburne's verse in general, appealed to modernist poets such as H. D.?
  34. Is "Atalanta in Calydon" successful as a modern lyrical drama? Is it suitable for performance?