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Goblin Market and the Lady of Shalott

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1212
  • Category: Love

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Goblin Market and the Lady of Shalott have strong themes of love and death, which with issues such as temptation. Goblin Market has a strong Christian theme running through it as well. The Lady of Shalott deals with isolation ,which leads to temptation, circled with a feeling of the supernatural, though both poems may be seen to be critical of the times when they were written (Goblin Market; the Goblin Men could be seen to be men who would have access to child prostitutes; the Lady of Shalott can be portrayed to be art or the ‘woman’, which in those times both were isolated and thought little of, just as the Lady of Shalott is).

In Goblin Market, the theme of love is layered with these erotic overtones; ‘did you miss me? Come and kiss me. Never mind my bruises, hug me, kiss me, suck my juices.’ These are apparent all throughout the poem, where the erotic overtones almost have a sensual feel, a feel also of passion. However, in The Lady of Shalott, the love is of a completely different nature. ‘”Tirra Lirra,” by the river sang Sir Lancelot.’ The song “Tirra Lirra” is a direct reference to ‘A Winter’s Tale’, in which Shakespeare refers to tumbling in the hay with his aunts (prostitutes), so even as Sir Lancelot is introduced to the poem, he already has a presence of eroticism.

He, in fact, is her knight in shining armour who ‘overwhelms’ her, however, he is also a complete contrast to her, for he is an exaggeration of the stereotype of a typical knight. He is a figure of colour that strongly contrasts to the Lady of Shalott, for he is vibrant and full of life, whereas she is just dark and grey. He is a kind of love and temptation, which also links back to Goblin Market where Laura is tempted by the ‘forbidden fruit’ (‘Sweet to tongue and sound to eye, come buy, come buy.”) as it were, and she pays the price, as does the Lady of Shalott. However, this time there is nobody to save the Lady of Shalott, so she pays a much higher price, the price of death, whereas Laura is saved by her sister. “But who hath seen her wave her hand?” highlights the isolation of the Lady of Shalott. This portrays a picture of nobody even seeing her.

Along with the erotic overtones, there is also a theme of love that ties in with a Christian theme also. “Tender Lizzie could not bear to watcher her sister’s cankerous care … Longed to buy fruit to comfort her, but feared to pay too dear.” This suggests that Lizzie has a selfless and altruistic nature about her, and she is willing to put her life on the line to save her sister. “Laura, make much of me: For your sake I have braved the glen, and had to do with goblin merchant men.” This entertains the Christian theme running through the poem, of self-sacrifice and agape. Unfortunately, ‘The Lady of Shalott’ has no one to save her from her fate, and so her death is a tragedy. ‘Four grey walls, four grey towers, overlooking a space of flowers.’ This implies almost a sort of prison, which introduces the isolation of The Lady of Shalott, which leaves her to be alone in a dark, unrelenting Victorian industrialised society. This could mean that she is a representation of art or even of the usual woman back in Victorian times, where art had been crushed and destroyed by the new industrialised society, whereas if Tennyson is portraying her to be a woman in the dark Victorian society, she is a figure that represents all of the females from that time who were usually oppressed.

Early autumn creates a sense of grey and darkness in the Lady of Shalott in contrast to the pathetic fallacy in Goblin Market, where pathetic fallacy (e.g. as love pours, so does rain) is used to highlight the rebirth of Laura. Also, in the lady of Shalott, in part IV, the storms and violent nature provide a setting for doom (“In the stormy east-wind straining, the pale yellow woods were waning, the broad stream in his banks complaining, heavily the low sky raining”). This time it is spring that matches the settings, and spring portrays rebirth, nature and goodness which goes hand in hand with the actions which are happening in the poem, such as her hair returning “Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass, as new buds with new day … Her gleaming locks showing not one thread of grey”.

Death is an important theme in both poems. In the Lady of Shalott, her death brings together the knights, burghers, lords and dames. Tennyson may be trying to insinuate that the loss of art and beauty that is apparent in the Victorian industrialised society has made everyone cold, leading to a lack of unity. However, the death of the Lady is a sort of awakening for everyone. This is because she is seen as something that brings this society together, for before they were divorced not only from art and beauty, but from themselves as well, and so now this one thing has brought them together again. In Goblin Market, the goblin men are described to be evil and satanic, for even the fruit they sell has some evil mythological being. “Pomegranates full and fine…” Pomegranates are traditionally evil fruits for the God of the Underworld (Hades).

These evil goblin men tempt Laura (the Christian theme comes into play here; the serpent in the garden of Eden) and she finally succumbs. Both Laura, Lizzie and the Lady of Shalott portray beauty and nature who have been taken by evil in some way or another. “Like two blossoms on one stem, like two flakes of new fallen snow, like two wands of ivory, tipped with gold for awful kings”. When Laura has given into temptation, she looses all of her nature, and also her innocence. She goes flaccid when she becomes dependant on the fruit, for she looses her vitality and is on the brink of death. “Laura turned cold as stone, to find her sister heard that cry alone” … “Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit” … “Her tree of life drooped from the root”. They are both warned of the consequences of the fruit by the story of Jeannie, who had been a victim of the goblin men before. “She thought of Jeanie in her grave, who should have been a bride; but who for joys bridges hope to have, fell sick and died”).

Both poems tackle the strong issues of love and death. In Goblin Market, the temptation that is presented in the form of fruit (connection with forbidden fruit) is fatal for Laura but luckily she is not alone, for Lizzie is there to save her. On the other hand, the Lady of Shalott who is forced to view the world through a mirror and shadows enslaved by a curse is killed when she attempts to break it to go after her ‘knight in shining armour’. This time, there is no one left to save her.

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