What is a synopsis of "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes?


Quick Answer

"The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes describes the tragic love between a highwayman and an innkeeper's daughter, Bess. The authorities try to use Bess to capture the highwayman, but she warns him by committing suicide. He dies in an attempt at revenge, and their ghosts meet on certain winter nights.

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Full Answer

Part one of "The Highwayman" begins on a windy, moonlit night. A fashionably dressed highwayman rides up to a locked inn and whistles to the window, summoning Bess, the innkeeper's daughter, his lover. The highwayman tells her that he plans to carry out a daring robbery that night. Though he plans to return to her in the morning, laden with gold, he may return later if he has trouble with the authorities. Tim, an ostler who is also in love with Bess, hides nearby, listening to the whole conversation.

In part two, the highwayman fails to return during the day, but a troop of British soldiers comes to the inn. They tie Bess up with a gun pointing at her breast. Then, they wait. She silently struggles with her bonds until she can reach the trigger of the gun, which she pulls when she knows that the highwayman can hear it. Hearing the gunshot, he turns around and speeds away.

The next morning, he realizes that Bess has died and rides for revenge, but the soldiers kill him. The end of the poem shows the ghosts of the two lovers meeting on certain windy, moonlit winter nights.

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