What is the lyrical speaker?

He Lyric speaker Is the voice or person in charge of narrating the words of a poem or novel. This person should not be confused with the writer, who is the author of the text.

Therefore, the lyrical speaker is the character to which the author intends to give life in his text. Although sometimes the author can refer to himself, he will always do so in the form of a speaker and not directly (LiteraryDevices, 2016).

Lyrical speaker

The lyrical speaker is the narrative voice of a text, that is, it is who the reader must imagine as the narrator of the text. In this way, if a writing speaks of love, the reader must assume that the lyrical speaker, in this case, is a lover who is not necessarily the author of written words (BrooklynCollege, 2009).

Poets use the figure of the lyric speaker to have more freedom in their creations, since this narrator can evoke emotions and experiences that are not necessarily linked to the poet. In other words, the lyrical speaker is an invention of the poet who personifies the emotions and events described in the poem.

This narrator can take different voices and attitudes depending on what the author wants to convey. In this way, the lyrical speaker's voice can be in the first or third person, it can come from the author or the narrator, it can have a melancholic, enamored, decided, or sad attitude.

A poem may have one or more lyric speakers. The narrator can be the speaker, the poet or an observer who speaks both the author and the speaker. Either way, the narrator should always be treated as a fictional character.

The narrative that makes the lyrical speaker in first person is known as dramatic monologue. In this figure, the poet creates a fictional character who is in charge of holding a conversation with him as a monologue.

Who is the lyrical speaker?

The lyrical speaker is a conventional literary figure. It is historically associated with the author, although it is not necessarily the author who speaks for himself in the poem. The speaker is the voice behind the poem or novel; Is who we imagine that he is speaking and to whom we attribute the attitudes and emotions described in the text.

It should be clarified that, as the text is biographical, the speaker is not necessarily the author, since the author is choosing what he says of himself as if he were narrating an external person. It can be said that the speaker is the actor behind the scenes who describes the emotions and situations of the writer.

The lyrical speaker is the fictitious character created by the writer to speak freely from different perspectives on subjects that are foreign to him, such as race, gender, and even material objects. This character is the"I"that speaks and can be identified by the reader.

An example of who the lyrical speaker is can be seen in the poem"The Raven"by Edgar Allan Poe. In this text, the lyrical speaker is a lonely man who misses his lost love (Leonor), not Edgar Allan Poe.

Although the poem is written in the first person, the reader can infer that the speaker is not the author. This does not mean that the author has not been inspired by events in his life or that of someone known to write the poem.

Difference between lyrical speaker and alter ego

The definition of lyrical speaker is commonly confused with the definition of alter ego. However, these concepts are subtly different. A alter ego , Pseudonym or artist name is simply the name that the author adopts to hide his identity or to give him a touch more memorable and easy to remember (Pfitzmann & Hansen, 2005).

The alter ego, despite being considered a"second self"that inhabits the same body, is not considered a lyrical speaker, since at no time does the alter ego cease to be the author of the text.

In other words, the alter ego continues to represent the author materially, while the speaker represents what the author wants to explore through the emotions and feelings of different fictional characters.

Function of the lyrical speaker

The function of the lyrical speaker is to allow the author to convey his ideas in a more active way. In this way, the lyrical speaker serves as the transmitter of the written message that the writer wants to share with his audience.

It can be said that the speaker is a revealing agent of experiences and the emotions that these experiences inspire him (Hazelton, 2014).

The speaker also fulfills the function of giving greater creative freedom to the writer, who can project himself as another person and develop a different personality to talk about subjects that are not necessarily familiar.

When the writer uses this personality to develop and narrate a complete poem, the poem is called dramatic monologue. This monologue is characterized by being a conversation that the speaker maintains with himself (Archive, 2017).

Voice and attitude

There are different types of voices that the lyric speaker can adopt. Among the most common is the voice of the author and the voice of the character.

  • Voice of the author: for this type of voice, the author uses a fragment of his life and a style of his own.
  • Character voice: this is the voice of the character who narrates the text from his own perspective. The writer usually chooses the type of narrator he wants to use for reading his writing. Usually speaking in first or third person.

The lyrical speaker also assumes an attitude when it comes to narrating the poem or novel. This can be sad, angry, hopeful, depressed, anxious, malicious, or in love, among others. Once you define the type of voice the speaker will have, it is important to choose the type of attitude you are going to take.

The attitude is tied to the subject of which the voice speaks. If the voice speaks of war, it is possible that the attitude of the speaker is sad or dynamic.

It is possible that, if the author has personal memories of the war, the attitude changes and is oriented to his personal experiences. It is usually difficult to determine to what extent the text given by the author is purely fiction or actually includes material from his experience.

The voice and the attitude of the speaker also depend on the emotion that the writer wants to evoke in the reader. It is possible that, if the author has a posture marked in relation to a specific subject, he wants to convey this position to the reader.

Some authors call the attitude of the speaker as the tone that the speaker assumes. One of the most common problems presented to readers when it comes to identifying the tone is to find the word that best describes it. For this purpose adjectives are usually used as"merry"or"sad"(Gibson, 1969).

Steps to identify the lyrical speaker

There are a number of steps that readers can use to identify who is the lyrical speaker in a poem:

  1. Read the entire poem without stopping. Once this first reading is finished, it should be written what was the immediate impression of the speaker. Similarly, note the type of speaker being imagined. The first complete impression generated by the speaker should be noted.
  1. Read the whole poem again, stopping to ask"what is the poem about?"Attention must be paid to the title of the poem, as it almost always gives a clue about the situation and meaning of the poem. Another key element to answer this question is to identify the points in which the author emphasizes by means of repetitions. Occasionally, the author reveals the speaker's emotions and tone by emphasizing the theme of the poem.
  1. Determine the context of the poem. What is happening when the poem starts? What is the subject being addressed by the speaker? This scenario must be described in images that allow to locate the place where the text takes place. Is it a city, a general or specific location?
  1. Examine the type of language used by the speaker. This way you can know if this character speaks colloquial or formal and to what elements gives more importance. Language largely determines the attitude of the speaker.
  1. Determine the main emotion that the poem conveys. Is the speaker in a reflexive or extroverted tone? Do you read a pessimistic and optimistic attitude? Do you have a fluid or chaotic rhythm? When analyzing the words used by the speaker can be inferred different moods, colors, sounds and images. This information helps to determine with greater precision who the speaker is.
  1. Writing a short description of the speaker, should include his physical appearance, age, gender, social class, and any detail that allows the reader to give life to the speaker. If the poem lacks details about the speaker, one can take the context of the poem to speculate what its appearance may be (Center, 2016).


  1. Archive, T. P. (2017). Poetry Archive . Retrieved from Term: Dramatic Monologue: poetryarchive.org.
  2. (2009, 12). Lyric Epiphanies and Speakers . Retrieved from academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu
  3. Center, T.W. (2016, 1222). THE WRITER'S HANDBOOK . Retrieved from How to Read to Poem: writing.wisc.edu.
  4. Gibson, W. (1969). Part I • READING: The Voices We Catch. Excerpts from Person: A Style Study for Readers and Writer , New York.
  5. Hazelton, R. (2014, 59). The Poetry Foundation . Retrieved from Teaching the Persona Poem: poetryfoundation.org.
  6. (2016). Literary Devices . Retrieved from Definition of Person: literarydevices.net.
  7. Pfitzmann, A., & Hansen, M. (2005). 9 Pseudonymity. Anonymity, Unlinkability, Unobservability, Pseudonymity, and Identity Management - A Consolidated Proposal for Terminology , 13.

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