Through the form of a dramatic monologue, Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem, "Ulysses," reveals the character of Ulysses to be one of selfishness and egotism. Ulysses reveals these characteristics about himself unintentionally as he reminisces about his past glory, and contemplates a new journey to, "shine in use!" (23). His wish to experience another adventure instead of remaining at home as king demonstrates his lack of consideration for his wife Penelope and son Telemachus, and indicates his obsession with his own self-interests. .
Ulysses" distaste with remaining at home is evident immediately from the first line of the poem, "It little profits that an idle king."(1) He does not wish to be sitting idly on the throne, when he could, "follow knowledge like a sinking star."(31). He also indicates his aversion to partaking in the government matters of his civilians, stating, "I mete and dole/ Unequal laws."(3-4) Ulysses also shows that he does not respect his subjects, calling them, "a savage race/ That hoard, and sleep."(4-5) He feels that hoarding and resting is beneath him, and shows this later in the poem by saying, "and vile it were/ For some three suns to store and hoard myself."(28-39) Ulysses feels that he is different from his fellow inhabitants of the island and does not belong among them since they, "know not me."(5).
Ulysses" egotism and belief in his own greatness is clearly visible through his recollections about his past adventures. He believes he is greater for having traveled the world and experiencing what he has experienced. Everything that he has been through has shaped him into the man that he is, "I am a part of all that I have met."(18) The line, "As tho" to breathe were life!"(24) indicates that he feels the people around him are not really living life to the fullest, they are just there. Ulysses thinks they should be out exploring the world, gaining knowledge as he did.