Literary Analyiss Of The Poem The Lady Of Shalott

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The poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ was written in 1832, and was later revised, and published in 1842, before the time when Tennyson became famous. This poem is believed to be one of the few poems that he wrote about the episode in Arthurian legend of Elaine of Astalot. His engagement with this legend is also in his work ‘Idylls of the King.’ But Tennyson claims that his source was on the base of the Italian book ‘Donna di Scalotta.’

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This poem sets in the Middle Ages in England, during the reign of King Authur, and depicts a world of knights in flashing armor and women in need. In the island of the Shalott, near Camelot, there is the ‘lady of Shalott’ locked in. She is never allowed to look outside down to Camelot but through the mirror that only works as she weaves the magical web. Whenever and however, if she looks out to Camelot, she will be cursed.

Since the poem is a long poem, there will be only Part 1.

When the poem starts, the perspective of the poem differs from each part. In Part 1 and Part 2, the appearance of the Lady of Shalott from outside is described. Part 2 and 3 includes the description of the world from Lady’s perspective

This poem is divided and written in four separate narrative parts. Each stanza has nine lines, the first two have four, and the last two have five with the AAAABCCCB rhyme scheme. The ‘B’ in the fifth line always stands for the ‘Camelot’ and ‘Shalott’ for the ninth ‘B.’ Since the meters are iambic tetrameter, ‘A’ and ‘C’ lines are always in tetrameter, except for ‘B’ that it is trimeter. This rhyme scheme typically reinforces the inescapable isolation, for it is the most repetitive kind of all the rhyme scheme. As the rhyme scheme appears, there is also internal rhyme. In line 1, it says ‘On either side the river lie.’ The ‘i’ in the word side and lie makes the rhyme. Also, in line 3, it says ‘That clothe the wold and meet the sky.’ The ‘o’ in the word clothe and wold makes the rhyme. In addition, ‘the silent isle imbowers’ from line 17 makes a rhyme with ‘i’ in the word silent and isle.

The opening stanza of the poem set the tone for the rest. It introduces Camelot and Shallot which are the two highly contrasting place. The Camelot represents whoever’s dream symbolizing desires and hopes that people would mostly dream to reach one day. However, Shalott represents the bubble that we as individuals create for ourselves. It is a place that people merely notice in passing.

In the second stanza, Tennyson starts to create a mood for the storyline. The whitening winter represents the frigid nature of events that will happen afterward, and that indifferent reality is waiting. The ‘Little breezes,’ our hope and dream, flows down to Camelot where we were dreaming for. But like the lady of Shalott, we build our boundaries toward the world to stay alive in the world. Still, our desire and dream float in the world of Camelot.

In the third stanza, the focus of the poem is changed. They are slowly making their way to go to the Camelot. The questions make us realize how we can be trapped in the safe zone that we have created for ourselves.

The last stanza in Part 1, answers the questions form the third stanza. The reapers harvesting barley are the only ones who know the existence of the lady of Shalott. It is because the song the lady sings every day and night. And for this reason, people think the lady of the Shalott is a fairy. If we look at Shalott’s lady as ourselves, we are nothing more than those who have not stepped off the safe zone to meet, and because of that, our desire for life is only an echo that reaches people. We have no fear of making our ‘Camelot,’ but we are very afraid of taking risks to achieve those goals. That is why our words will not affect the people around us, and our voices will remain as empty as it echoes even when we sing our plans day and night. If we want to be recognized, we have to take the risk of deviating from the normal.

The reason for this poem to be so charming is because of its elusiveness and a mysterious sense that comes out. Tennyson, as a specific artist, he expresses a more personal dilemma in the poem. Though love can be detrimental to us, taking that risk rather than hiding from the world is a better choice. 

16 August 2021

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