21 pages 42 minutes read

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Lady Of Shalott

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1842

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Poem Analysis

Analysis: “The Lady of Shalott”

Part 1 of “The Lady of Shalott” serves mainly as exposition, establishing the poem’s setting and imagery, and introducing the title character. While the poem’s principal themes do not center around natural beauty or rural life, Part 1 makes use of descriptive language typical of contemporary pastoral poetry: “the yellow-leaved waterlily / The green-sheathed daffodilly” (Lines 6-7). The reaper, another symbol of simple, pastoral life, hears the Lady of Shalott singing while he works all day but knows little about her. The reader is thus introduced in Part 1 to one of the poem’s central concepts: the separation between the Lady of Shalott and the people of the world. This separation comes to serve several themes, including the artists’ role in society and the association of purity and innocence with femininity. Tennyson also emphasizes the motion of the landscape around Shalott; trees “shiver,” and the stream “runneth over” (Line 12). This descriptive language contrasts the solitary castle of Shalott with the flow of life outside of it and establishes the poem’s setting in a medieval, Arthurian world that is infiltrated by supernatural forces.

The conditions of her isolation are further developed in Part 2.