Sample essay questions on the poetry of John Keats

1. ‘Keats delighted in the ways in which beauty, in both natural and human forms, revealed the truth about life.’ To what extent can you agree with this comment about Keats’ poetry?
2. Keats has been called a poet of the senses. To what extent is Keats’ appeal to the senses an integral part of his poems’ meaning and how does Keats use language to appeal to the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell?
3. To what extent are Keats’ references to the world of classical mythology an integral part of the poems which incorporate them?
4. ‘In addition to his sense of the musical power of words, Keats had a strong pictorial imagination.’ (Alan Bold) Illustrate and explore the relationship between the appeal to sound and to sight in Keats’ poems.
5. ‘What makes Keats different from any other poet is his extraordinary sensitivity to the impression of the moment, and his use of the day-to-day circumstances of life for poetry.’ (Robert Gittings) To what extent do you agree with this view?
6. ‘The vital force behind all his verse was his power to apply imagination to every aspect of life.’ (Robert Gittings) To what extent is ‘imagination’ a central concept in Keats’ poetry?
7. Keats wrote: ‘Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity.’  Do you agree that what impresses the reader of Keats’ poems the most is his excess, his wealth of images and the perfection of his poetic technique?
8. ‘What is remarkable about Keats is his delight at the sheer existence of things outside himself.’ (Jack Stillinger) Do you agree with this view?
9. ‘Keats’ poetry embodies and interprets the conflicts of mortality and desire.’ To what extent do you agree with this view?
10. ‘Under the richly sensuous surface, we find Keats’ characteristic presentation of all experience as a tangle of inseparable but irreconcilable opposites.’ (Jack Stillinger) Write about some of the paradoxes in Keats’ poetry which you have found most interesting.
11. ‘He finds melancholy in delight and pleasure in pain.’ (Jack Stillinger) Do you agree with this view of Keats’ poems?
12. ‘Keats desired to immerse himself in an imaginative dream world but also wished to play a full and responsible part in the world of painful reality.’ (Jack Stillinger) Do you think such a view of Keats’ attitudes in his poetry is justified?
13. Write about the variety of ways that Keats’ poems allow his readers to experience the world of nature.
14. In Keats’ poetry what is the role of imagination and what is its relationship to creativity?
15. ‘His poems reflect his personal circumstances. Death was always a part of his life.’ To what extent do Keats’ poems reflect his awareness of mortality and the transitory nature of life?
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