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Describe and Explain the Key Contextual features of the Poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

In this worksheet, students will explore the contextual background of the poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The historical context will be used to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the poem.

'Describe and Explain the Key Contextual features of the Poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'
' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', Conflict: 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which can be found in the Power and Conflict section of your Anthology.

 

 

battle

 

Tennyson wrote 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' after reading a newspaper report about the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.  

 

On the 25th October 1854, 670 cavalrymen and officers were given a badly judged order to attack Russian troops who were armed with cannons. Tennyson relates how the cavalry (the ‘Light Brigade’) attacked, showing heroic bravery and discipline, despite the other side surrounding them with cannons. They failed to defeat the gunners and were forced to retreat, losing more than two hundred men killed outright, wounded or captured

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about the key quotations of the poem.

battle

 

In order to understand the context of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem and match the questions to the answers below:

Column A

Column B

Where is the poem set?
In Russia, during the Crimean War
What is a 'Light Brigade'?
There was a miscommunication in the order they wer...
Why did the men charge head first in to the cannon...
Men on horses who were lightly equipped
Why was the 'Light Brigade' so respected afterward...
For following orders, even though they knew they m...

battle

 

Now that you have read the poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', choose the summary which you think best explains the poem.

 

The narrator is a soldier rallying the troops as they charge into battle. Despite the odds stacked against them, he convinces the brigade to charge forward

Soldiers charge through a deadly valley and are attacked by the enemy. Although they are attacked from all sides, they are protected. It is implied that God is on their side

A deadly battle is described. Soldiers on horseback advance into a valley that is surrounded by the enemy who have guns and cannons. The soldiers are not as well prepared and many are killed

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in 1809 in the Lincolnshire Wolds to a father who was the rector in a church.

 

church

 

Choose one quotation which you think shows that religion had an effect on the poem.

 

"Rode the six hundred"

"Boldly they rode and well"

"All in the valley of Death"

Tennyson enjoyed writing epic poems -  a long, narrative poem that is usually about heroic deeds and events.

 

battle

 

Choose one quotation below which fits this style of poetry.

 

"Theirs not to make reply"

"Noble six hundred!"

"Rode the six hundred"

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' gives us an understanding of how the Victorians viewed heroes:

 

"Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell"

 

 

cavalry

 

 

What does this quotation tell us about how Victorians viewed heroes? 

 TrueFalse
There was glory in dying for your country
Going against orders when you knew they were wrong displayed courage
It was even more heroic to fight against someone who was more powerful than you
It was more heroic to survive than to fight a difficult battle

In 1850, Tennyson was announced as Poet Laureate and became England’s national poet. He was literally the poetic voice of Great Britain.

 

Why do you think 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' would have been a suitable poem for a 'Poet Laureate?

 

The Queen would've enjoyed reading about the battle

It was a poem about a current British event which painted the soldiers in a brave light

It was a description of a successful British battle

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' took place during the Battle of Balaclava, which took place during the Crimean War.

 

 

sword

 

 

Underline the verb that tells the reader that the Russian soldiers were not as skilled as the British.

 

 

 

\"Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre stroke\"

Interestingly, this was one of the first-ever battles to be reported in the media. No internet or TV then - so newspapers only!

 

 

newspaper

 

 

Choose one quotation that explains how the public felt about the battle.

 

"Cannon to left of them"

"All the world wondered"

"Sabring the gunners there"

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is an example of the power of the poet, which allows historical events and characters to be remembered. Would anyone know about the Duke of Ferrara, about Ozymandias, about the Charge of the Light Brigade, if it weren’t for the poems that we study today?

 

 

war memorial

 

 

Choose one quotation that explains the issue of remembrance. 

 

"When can their glory fade?"

"Flashed all their sabres bare"

"Sabring the gunners there"

Finally, try out this True or False quiz on the context of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' to check your learning!

 

Good luck!

 TrueFalse
Tennyson was born during the Elizabethan era
He was the son of a poet
Tennyson enjoyed writing epic poems
The poem tells us about heroes
In 1850 he became Poet Laureate
The poem takes place during the Crimean War
The battle was first reported on TV
Tennyson wanted people to remember the bravery of the soldiers
  • Question 1

battle

 

In order to understand the context of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem and match the questions to the answers below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Where is the poem set?
In Russia, during the Crimean War
What is a 'Light Brigade'?
Men on horses who were lightly eq...
Why did the men charge head first...
There was a miscommunication in t...
Why was the 'Light Brigade' so re...
For following orders, even though...
EDDIE SAYS
The poem tells the story of a brigade consisting of 600 soldiers who rode on horseback into the “valley of death” for half a league (about one and a half miles). They were obeying a command to charge the enemy forces that had been seizing their guns.
  • Question 2

battle

 

Now that you have read the poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', choose the summary which you think best explains the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
A deadly battle is described. Soldiers on horseback advance into a valley that is surrounded by the enemy who have guns and cannons. The soldiers are not as well prepared and many are killed
EDDIE SAYS
A deadly battle is described. Soldiers on horseback advance into a valley that is surrounded by the enemy, who have guns and cannons. The advancing soldiers are not as well equipped and many are killed.
  • Question 3

Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born in 1809 in the Lincolnshire Wolds to a father who was the rector in a church.

 

church

 

Choose one quotation which you think shows that religion had an effect on the poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"All in the valley of Death"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "All in the valley of Death" is a reference to the Bible, used to show the horror of what the soldiers now face. Tennyson used the quotation to create an impression of how terrible the battle was, as it makes it seem like "hell".
  • Question 4

Tennyson enjoyed writing epic poems -  a long, narrative poem that is usually about heroic deeds and events.

 

battle

 

Choose one quotation below which fits this style of poetry.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Noble six hundred!"
EDDIE SAYS
This was a tricky one! The quotation "Noble six hundred!" shows that the poet felt that the soldiers were heroic and had taken part in something that should be remembered in history - all key ingredients for an epic poem! The adjective "Noble" means to have excellent personal qualities and morals.
  • Question 5

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' gives us an understanding of how the Victorians viewed heroes:

 

"Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell"

 

 

cavalry

 

 

What does this quotation tell us about how Victorians viewed heroes? 

CORRECT ANSWER
 TrueFalse
There was glory in dying for your country
Going against orders when you knew they were wrong displayed courage
It was even more heroic to fight against someone who was more powerful than you
It was more heroic to survive than to fight a difficult battle
EDDIE SAYS
Our perspective on heroism has changed. We no longer think that it is an honour to die for your country (to serve it, maybe) and that is perhaps one reason why we don’t feel comfortable with huge battles like those of World War I and II. This poem, however, shows that the Victorians wouldn’t have had many problems accepting the “glory” of these soldiers’ deaths.
  • Question 6

In 1850, Tennyson was announced as Poet Laureate and became England’s national poet. He was literally the poetic voice of Great Britain.

 

Why do you think 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' would have been a suitable poem for a 'Poet Laureate?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
It was a poem about a current British event which painted the soldiers in a brave light
EDDIE SAYS
As Poet Laureate, Tennyson would've been expected to write poetry about current events happening in Britain - and present them in a very positive light! Despite the soldiers not winning the battle, the poem does make British soldiers out the be extremely brave, courageous and dutiful.
  • Question 7

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' took place during the Battle of Balaclava, which took place during the Crimean War.

 

 

sword

 

 

Underline the verb that tells the reader that the Russian soldiers were not as skilled as the British.

 

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke"
EDDIE SAYS
The verb "Reeled" means to lose balance, which creates the impression that when the soldiers were fighting it was the British soldiers who had the skill in the sword fights. It shows that the Russians only won the battle because they had the more powerful cannons.
  • Question 8

Interestingly, this was one of the first-ever battles to be reported in the media. No internet or TV then - so newspapers only!

 

 

newspaper

 

 

Choose one quotation that explains how the public felt about the battle.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"All the world wondered"
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? The quotation "All the world wondered" creates a sense of the disbelief that people felt when they heard what the army had been ordered to do. The poet is making the point that the decision was so badly made that even the people reading the newspaper report could see that it was the wrong decision to send the men into battle.
  • Question 9

'The Charge of the Light Brigade' is an example of the power of the poet, which allows historical events and characters to be remembered. Would anyone know about the Duke of Ferrara, about Ozymandias, about the Charge of the Light Brigade, if it weren’t for the poems that we study today?

 

 

war memorial

 

 

Choose one quotation that explains the issue of remembrance. 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"When can their glory fade?"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "When can their glory fade?" is a rhetorical question that tells the reader that the bravery of the men should never be forgotten. By writing a poem about the battle, Tennyson is making sure that the soldiers will be remembered for years to come.
  • Question 10

Finally, try out this True or False quiz on the context of 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' to check your learning!

 

Good luck!

CORRECT ANSWER
 TrueFalse
Tennyson was born during the Elizabethan era
He was the son of a poet
Tennyson enjoyed writing epic poems
The poem tells us about heroes
In 1850 he became Poet Laureate
The poem takes place during the Crimean War
The battle was first reported on TV
Tennyson wanted people to remember the bravery of the soldiers
EDDIE SAYS
The poem was written at the height of Queen Victoria’s Empire, the years when Britain was at its peak. However, the Crimean War was characterised by blunders and mismanagement, carelessness, and also brave battles, where British troops were out-manned and outgunned. Tennyson had no idea how it would end when he wrote the poem. Well done, that's another activity completed!
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