21 pages 42 minutes read

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Lady Of Shalott

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1842

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Symbols & Motifs

The Mirror

The Lady of Shalott’s mirror is her experiential filter to the outside world. It allows her to see the landscape surrounding her tower and the activities of the citizens of Camelot through a particular, circumscribed perspective. Read as a symbol in the context of art and humanity, the mirror has advantages and disadvantages. It provides her with a limited viewpoint, mediated by the mirror’s angle, range, and distance from the images it reflects. In this way, it represents the finite and distorted perspectives of all humans. However, it also allows the Lady of Shalott to experience the world without having to interact with it, which makes it a significant element of an artist’s observational practice. The mirror is also a ubiquitous symbol of femininity and reifies the Lady of Shalott’s position as a depiction of the Victorian woman.

The Web

Like her mirror, the Lady of Shalott’s tapestry weaving (referred to often in the poem as a “web”) has symbolic associations that support various thematic readings. If the Lady of Shalott is an artist or a substitute for Tennyson himself, then the tapestry is her ongoing artistic project, a beautiful work to which she must devote her life and undivided attention, and which is compromised the minute she chooses to engage in outside life.