By: Alex Olivero



Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most renowned authors in the genre of American Romanticism with not only his short stories that made him famous in the world of literature, but also for his many poems. The poem “The Coliseum” is a middle section of the play written in 1832, “Politian,” and brings together the concepts of the story and the eminent battle coming between Politian and Castiglione (Sova). Many aspects of the poem, including the symbolism, references to both Christianity and Greek mythology, and the style in which it is written are characteristics of American Romanticism (Strickland). Some events of Edgar Allan Poe’s life shed light onto why this poem was written the way it was. The many characteristics of American Romanticism used in this play are similar to other works of Poe, both his short stories and his other poems. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the greatest American writers of all time, and this poem embodies many of the characteristics of his style and that of American Romanticism, which he revolutionized, even creating his own, unique subgenre of Dark Romanticism.
A major aspect of the works of Edgar Allan Poe is the characteristics of American Romanticism that they display.

The symbolism and references to Christianity as well as Greek mythology are indicators of the Romantic style used by Poe in many of his works. Often the genre of Romanticism is considered to be highly philosophical, which ties into religion in many cases (Imbarrato). In Poe’s “The Coliseum” reference is made to Jesus and his crucifixion. The narrator of the poem speaks of the “Judæan king taught in the gardens of Gethsemane” (Poe). Romanticism focuses on the individual experience on a deep, philosophical level and Christianity is clearly a way to display this (Strickland). Along with Christianity, Greek mythology was extremely popular in Romantic literature. Poe makes reference to “Echoes” and “Memnon” both being important parts of the mythology of the Greeks (Poe). Poe also references “Fate” to the time he spends doing things in his own life. This is an important part of American Romanticism, as supernatural is a strong ideal held, and one could consider a belief in fate to be almost supernatural.

There are many ways in which the life of Edgar Allan Poe may have affected his short stories and his poems. He served in the United States Army and after two years worked with someone to try and get out of his service term early (Sova). This time in the military explains the basis of a battle and the setting of the Roman Coliseum, which of course is a place where a lot of blood was spilled. This poem is actually part of a play by Edgar Allan Poe, and the entire plot is in Rome and about a battle between two lovers (Sova). This may have had something to do with the complicated relationship that Poe had with his cousin that was much younger than he; with whom his relationship was very strange. Along with this, Poe’s vast knowledge of history allowed him to make references to mythology. He used this knowledge of history and the English language to create his own style and genre that made him famous. In these, and many other ways, the life of Edgar Allan Poe greatly changed the person and author that he became.

Edgar Allan Poe was able to create his own unique style of literature as a branch of American Romanticism that allowed him to become the great author that he was. Many of the characteristics of his style can be seen in the poem “The Coliseum.” In one of Poe’s most famous works, “The Raven,” the bird repeats the word “nevermore” many times eventually leading to the man in the story losing his mind. The use of repetition of a similar word is used in this poem. It is the “not all” as said by “the Echoes” tell the narrator (Poe). Though the meaning of each respective word is quite different, the quality of using such a word usage is a characteristic of many of Edgar Allan Poe’s literary works.

Another similarity in the works of Poe is the vivid descriptions; though usually quite grim, eerie, and dark this story actually has a different mood but still keeps the same style. One of the stanzas of the poem displays this characteristics; it reads:

These crumbling walls; these tottering arcades;
These mouldering plinths; these sad, and blacken’d shafts;
These vague entablatures; this broken frieze;
These shattered cornices; this wreck; this ruin;
These stones, alas! — these gray stones — are they all —
All of the great and the colossal left
By the corrosive hours to Fate and me?
-Edgar Allan Poe

Poe has a style that very well allows the reader to have an understanding of what is occurring in the context of the story, but at the same time can have a deeper, more figurative meaning. When one reads this section of the poem, it becomes easier to understand what the character is viewing in the Coliseum, but also comprehend what the character of the story is feeling.

The poem “The Coliseum” is one of Edgar Allan Poe’s many literary works and he is one of the greatest authors of American Romanticism. The work embodies most all of the concepts that Poe was famous for using in his writing. His symbolism, religious references, and references to Greek mythology are not only characteristics that he used many times in his work, but also are characteristics of American Romanticism (Strickland). When Edgar Allan Poe wrote his many works he created his own specific genre of Dark Romanticism. There are many ways to tell that Poe’s life influenced his works, and this poem is no different. It is comparable to many of his other works which all had a unique style that can only be written by Poe himself.



Works Cited

Imbarrato, Susan Clair, and Carol Berkin. "Romanticism."Encyclopedia of American Literature, Revised Edition: Settlement to the New Republic, 1608–1815, vol. 1, Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= EAmL0272&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 10, 2010).

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Coliseum." About Poetry - Poets, Poems, Poetics, Contemporary Poetry and Poetry History. Online. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://poetry.about.com/od/poems/l/blpoecoliseum.htm>.

Sova, Dawn B. "Poe, Edgar Allan." Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe0957&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 8, 2010).
Strickland, Dr. Brad. "American Romanticism Overview." Department of English. Gainseville College. Gainsville, GA. 1997. Online. http://www.westga.edu/~mmcfar/AMERICAN%20ROMANTICISM%20overview.htm