Written in 1790, “Tam o’ Shanter” is perhaps the most famous of Robert Burns’s poems. Its dramatic monologue draws on folk and vernacular traditions to tell the story of Tam’s midnight flight from a coven of witches. The contrast of the conviviality of the pub and the horror of the kirkyard make for memorable scenes which seamlessly combine reality with the supernatural and ask the reader which is to be more feared. Its use of the comic and the grotesque highlights not the mock moralitas of the final stanza which advises against excessive drinking, but the necessary recognition that all actions have consequences, although such consequences may be worth the experience.
In 1789, Burns was first introduced to Francis Grose, an English antiquarian, who was travelling
Citation: Hansen, Moira. "Tam o' Shanter". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 11 July 2018 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=9724, accessed 09 December 2023.]