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The Lady of Shallot Evaluation

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  • Pages: 7
  • Word count: 1672
  • Category: Character

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Tennyson first verse sets the reader a beatiful picture of the landscape around Camelot. “Gazing were the lilies blow”-not only is this qoute appealing to the reader because the ideal of crisp white lilies blowing gently in the wind create’s a vivid image of an alluring city, but because the iambic rhythm of the words make the line seem that much softer and cosyer for the reader to imagen.

As Tennyson moves onto descibing the little island of Shalott (which is just out of Camelot) the adjectives he use become more sinister, this is to contrast with the cosy city of Camelot which the reader has only just began to picture. “Little breezes dusk and shiver” the repeted ‘sssssss’ sounds create a threating and forboding effect upon the reader. Not only is Tennyson using this harsh sound to convay a less-than-friendly appeal towards this little loney island but he also use’s smaller and creepier adjectives compared to the booming and lively city of Camelot. Words such as “shiver” and “quiver” install the ideal of a forgotten and deserted place.

Tennyson adds to this effect of isolation by creating walls and barriars around it. “Thro’ the wave that runs forever” this phrase is very flowing with lots of ‘ff’ and ‘th’ sounds it just slips of the tounge naturally, adding a sense of an eternal circet -the never-ending circet of powerful water. How could such a place belong or hold anybody? No normal person would want to live in such a barren place while its sitting next to the friendly and bustling city of Camelot. A question that Tennyson sets within our minds right at the start of the poem.

Even though Tennyson has cast doubt of any life upon this tiny island he brings this mystreous lady into the picture. “who hath seen her wave her hand?…see her stand?” Through all the layeys of destation and isolation stands this lone woman, in the middle of it all but unseen, unknown and as we come to know -unloved as well.

Why? I hear you ask, why live such a lonely life? Well Tennyson later comes onto explaing this odd way of being. Simply that she is under a curse, she cannot go out into the real world or she will die. This results in her being in-between, incomplete and never truly decisive -basicaly because she has no real control over her own life. Tennson convays this to the reader though the adjectives he use’s upon the Lady, like her tiny island (or prison) the actual words are tiny, flutterey -like her there are faint imprints of life, for example ‘whispers’ and ‘Shadows’.

What could one so lonely and trapped do all day? Is the next question to ask. Even though the Lady cannot physically go out to the world she is granted a mirror that sees through to every-day life down at Camelot, “a magic web of colours gay” and so there she sits surppresed to weave the joys of life into a tapestry of happyness she could never join or have, rather depressing really. Descriding the tapaestry as ‘magic’ highlights the fact of how isolated she is, normal life isn’t only forrbidden to her, its like a bit of hocus-pocus, or a superstition. It seems so far away and wonderful compared to her condemned and hopeless situation, that its unreal to her, something that is in dreams. A fact that could tug the heart strings of Al Capone and Jack the Ripper.

What her entrapment could also signify or symbollise though, is Tennoyson himself. As an ‘artist’ in the strict but dismal life of the Victorians he could be hinting at the fallbacks of being a poet -of having to isolate yourself from the outside world just to get a good picture of what that ‘outside world’ is. That is unless he is hinting at the shun from society from being a poet. This we could never know the answer to, but is something to consider throughout the poem.

Going further on in the story however, the Lady seems to show resentment and impations at her half-life. “I am half sick of shadows” this is the first time we hear her speak. Her sudden turn of heart is a result of seeing a funeral and a young married couple together -something she will never have in this curse and something that she see’s coming, her own death. A death that would leave no trace behind of someones life, except a tapestry and a body so desolated and unloved that it should really be called a waste of life. Or space.

And all this with life running out in frount of her, being soo ‘near’ but not hers. She can see the life of ‘sheperds’, ‘abbots’ and ‘village girls in red cloaks’ all ambling past merrily while she stares hungrelly out on them. The main feature of this happy fairytale she see’s, are the nobel and handsome Knights “She hath no loyal knight and true” a reflection on her hearts desire just struts by, without ever seeing her face.

Going back to the structure of the poem, Tennyson also use’s very arcaic launage, like “weaveth” and “wold”. An answer to his odd choice of words could come from the Victorians themselves. Victorian times were harsh and hard, it was the hight of British power and indrusty, which resulted in a very grimy and work-filled life for average citizns. This meant that a lot of victorian poetry was looking back at the ‘Golden age’ (or the medievil age as we see it today). To Victorians the ‘days past’ were times of simplisty and freedom, with more control over ones life. With Tennyson adding in old words adds to the effect of the ‘Golden Age’.

Settling back into the story of this unfortuate Lady a sudden shooting star of hope comes shining into her life, it is of course the Nobel and Gailent Sir Lancelot. The man of her dreams flashes like a beacen of joy across her mirror as he rides like a arrow though a forest. “sun came dazzling through the trees” this wonderful man turns the lady of shalott’s life up side down. No more shadows and gloom, now its sunshine and sparkles! Her love for him makes her decisive and true. Knowing what she wants know in her life, not just wants -but needs.

Tennyson conveys the suddeness and deciciveness of this change in her life through the adjectives he uses, no more fluttery settings or fractioned visions of life. It’s all strong and powerful words like “dazzling” and “flamed”. These new intense and powerful adjectives can also influence are thoughts/image of Lancelot being strong, well-bodied and true. A classial golden age vision of a loyal knight who serves his king.

After a few verses on the Brave Sir Lancelot Tennyson comes back to are cursed but lovey-dovey Lady. Tennyson imprints the urgencey of the lady in verse 13 by changing his lilting sentence’s to short and pinpoint percesion. “she left the web, she left the loom” this also adds to tension, we all know that she cant leave and live, but still a part of us (or at least me) wants her to survive, to live a true life. We hold are breath and increase are heart rate simply through Tennysons fantastic structure and genis.

Running into her own doom she carries on without hesitaing (just goes to show that love is blind) and there at the bottem of the lake lies, as if destiny calls her (“left afloat”) , a boat -ready for flight. Yet again the adjectives Tennyson uses change -in my opion they become more negative, as if destiny and the natural world have a different plan for her, like “Straining”, “Waning” and “Complaining”. This gives me the impression that Tennyson was building more tension and giving the impression of the Lady having ‘no hope’ against the forces of nature, against her curse.

As she rides towards her love (and death) the rhythm of the poem changes, It slows down and becomes more calm, almost peaceful. “down the rivers dim expanse” another example of iambic rhythm, this adds to slowly lower the tension. As Tennyson describes her looking towards Camelot, towards the Life she never truly knew the tension drops to a zero. But it is only then that she seems to ‘give in’ or ‘give up’ by carefully lying down and lettint the stream take her away. A strong change to her rush and determination befor hand.

Tennyson then describes the angelic scene for us, a white-clad beatiful woman lying on a mearandering boat down the countryside and outside world she never saw, “…singing her last song, The Lady of Shalott” I find this phrase intriging. I know a little myth, that when a swan is about to die it sings its last but the most beatiful song it ever sang, and then dies. I do not know if Tennyson knew this as well but the way he described her as “snowy white” and singing with her last breath, (“singing in her song she died”) I cannot help but be remined by this myth and comparing the Lady to a Lovely but defencls swan. A part I feel that suits her well because she is defenless her whole life, even in death.

And it is this, and only this, that the villagers hear of the Lady that has seen tham grow, the one time they hear her true is at her death. In a way its ironic, she has watch them all her life and they only know her at her death.

The end of the Poem leaves on a sad account. As the villagers crowd at this mystrious beauty, who should appear but Lancelot? Seeing her once and only, he ends on a pray to her, the one with a lovely face, The Lady of Shalott.

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