English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In a narrative poem, the entity telling the story is called the narrator. The narrator is different from the author, in that the author is the real person who wrote the poem, while the narrator is a fictional entity that "lives inside" the poem. As such, author and narrator can be completely different "people".

Is there an equivalent term to refer to the character who "speaks" in a lyric poem? For example, in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

How do you call the "I" who wonders whether he should compare his lover to a summer's day?

share|improve this question
    
Hi, I'm just going through posts which have "How do you call....?" in their questions or titles. See the discussion in this post: “How do we call (something) in English?” Would you mind editing yours to “What do you call the "I"....?” Thank you! – Mari-Lou A Mar 24 at 20:29
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Quoting from here:

image of the last Dutchess

Persona as a literary term refers to the narrator or speaker of the poem, not to be confused with the author — a narrative voice other than the poet tells the entire poem. When the poet creates a character to be the speaker, that character is called the persona and the poet imagines what it is like to enter someone else’s personality. A good example of this is in Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”, where the persona is the Duke of Ferrara.

The term speaker is perhaps more appropriate when referring to a poem, as a narrator may be confused with either the person interpreting the poem, or the narrator of a novel. However, it always depends on how you intend to use the term.

share|improve this answer

The term is narrator. You don't need to look any further than that.

From NOAD:

narrator |ˈnarātər|
noun
a person who narrates something, esp. a character who recounts the events of a novel or narrative poem.

Sometimes people will refer to "the poet," but that is not really accurate, since the poem may not be intended to be spoken from the actual poet's perspective, but instead by a character or voice the poet creates. Sometimes the voice or character is referred to as "the speaker," especially in the case of dramatic monologues (e.g., Browning's "My Last Duchess").

share|improve this answer
2  
In college, we used "speaker" more than "narrator" when discussing poetry, for what it's worth. – onomatomaniak Sep 28 '11 at 6:10
1  
I'd use speaker for Browning's "My Last Duchess" and narrator for Vikram Seth's "The Golden Gate", say. The speaker is clearly present throughout Browning's poem, while for Seth's, he is mostly in the background, and occasionally comments on something. – Peter Shor Sep 28 '11 at 12:27

You can call the narrator a persona.

share|improve this answer

I personally call them the character, especially if you don't know the gender.

share|improve this answer
    
Why do you call them that? That seems counter intuitive. – Matt E. Эллен Apr 20 at 13:40

protected by Rathony Apr 19 at 6:42

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.