The Lady of Shallot Essay

Submitted By StephenGonzalez1
Words: 1160
Pages: 5

The Lady of Shallot Creativity is recognized as the central component in the work of artists and innovators; often distinguished as the ability to breathe life into new and imaginative ideas. Early civilization was established through creativity, through the development of shelters against harsh climates or the assembly of weapons against dangerous predators. Although humans possess the instinctive desire to express creativity, societal expectations tend to revoke visionary outlets and oppression has become alarmingly standard. During the Victorian era, women were offered limited opportunities to express their creativity and were expected to perform uninspired tasks, such as tapestry weaving, in a sequestered environment. The yearning for an artistic outlet, responsibility as an artist, and the mortal consequences a defiant woman would face is illustrated throughout Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot. The formal elements found in The Lady of Shallot provide the reader with a deeper understanding behind the story’s meaning, since a literal interpretation would quickly leave the reader puzzled. Formally, the poem is written in a narrative ballad and encompasses a refrain (ancient British form used to describe when a verse/phrase experiences repetition). The refrain can be identified in every stanza’s final line, “The Lady of Shallot”, which continues its repetition throughout the poem. The poem’s sound exhibits a strong rhyme scheme: “lie, rye, sky, by”, which is arguably arranged to exhibit a sort of ‘verbal music’ form. The syntax is noted to be line-bound, as each line is almost equal in length. Formally, poets tend to use literary allusions to briefly describe the work of other artists from the past and relate their ideas; however, the primary allusion noted in The Lady of Shallot is actually rooted in the story’s setting, Camelot. The speaker in the poem isn’t made clear but implies familiarity with the Lady’s tragedy (perhaps the speaker was one of the people from Camelot who found the Lady’s body at the end of the river stream). The ironic components presented in the poem are displayed through the Lady’s tapestry and her affection towards Lancelot. Tapestry weaving, in contemporary society, is arguably considered to be a form of art and creativity but in the Victorian era, weaving was a dull task that women were often encouraged to do. Lancelot, who was described as a glamorous character, serves as the object of the Lady’s affection. The Lady desires a true knight of nobility like Lancelot but is unaware of his love affair with King Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere! Unbeknownst to the Lady, her desires for true romance are ironic since Lancelot is neither loyal nor true in nature. The tone of the poem shifts from dark themes such as sulking, hope, and concludes in tragedy (although one could argue the ending tone is actually positive, interpreting the Lady’s acceptance of her death as the awakening of her independence). The Lady is also suffering from a deadly curse that prevents her from gazing out directly towards the real world and uses a mirror’s reflection to safely view outside her confinement. The symbolism behind the curse can be interpreted in numerous ways, such as a manifestation of the notion artists cannot socialize with common folk or the Victorian belief that artists must tend to their responsibility as moral-shaping creators. Nearby, two lovers wed and the Lady uses the mirror to announce a significant metaphor, “I am half-sick of looking at shadows”, referring to “shadows” as the real world reflected upon the mirror. During Lancelot’s travel, the Lady fails to use the mirror and directly faces the knight and the world. The mirror cracks and the mysterious curse is triggered, as the Lady proceeds to accept her doom. The allegory presented in this scene arguably describes the human experience of ‘art vs. life’, as the artist (the Lady) dies when neglecting tapestry weaving (art) and facing the real