An Explication of Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott Essay

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An Explication of Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott

Children often grow up listening to fairy tales. Repunsel is one fairy tale about a girl cursed to live a life of isolation in a tower. She longs to break free from seclusion and become part of the outside world. She eventually finds her one true love and risks her life to be with him. "The Lady of Shalott" by Lord Alfred Tennyson relates to Repunsel in many ways. In this poem, Tennyson tells a story of isolation. The woman in this ballad is also doomed to remain on her sheltered island eternally. If she even looks out at Camelot, she will die. She finally sees her "red-cross knight" (line 78). The Lady of Shalott escapes from her "silent isle imbower[ed]," yet dies a
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She starts to see the possibilities the outside world has to offer, but realizes that these advantages are far beyond her reach. The lady begins to regret her seemingly unimportant life inside her chambers. This passage could be viewed as the gradual aging of the Lady of Shalott. She is developing her consciousness and questioning her existence. She no longer wants to live a life of seclusion, yet she has nowhere to go, or no one to turn to. Tennyson remarks, "She hath no loyal knight and true" (62). It is during this part of the ballad where the curse of unknown origin and consequence is mentioned: "She has heard a whisper say, / A curse is on her if she stay / To look down to Camelot" (39-41). Tennyson arouses curiosity and builds up tension, while " [ . . . ] she weaveth steadily, / And little other care hath she" (43-44). When the Lady of Shalott bemoans, "I am half sick of shadows" the poet marks a turning point of the poem (71). The reader is now attentive and interested in the outcome of the story.

The lady's final reason for escaping comes into play when Lancelot appears. He is described with bold colors, "gemmy bridle," (82) and "a mighty silver bugle" (88). Tennyson also states, "The helmet and the helmet-feather / Burned like one burning flame together" (93-94). His heroic and erotic appearance ultimately triggers her desire for

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