Lady of Shallot Theme and Imagery

Topics: King Arthur, Camelot, Lady of the Lake Pages: 7 (3044 words) Published: June 16, 2012
Literary devices in the poem The Lady of Shalott.
Tennyson uses multiple literary devices in "The Lady of Shalott," including simile, imagery, metaphor, and symbolism. In part three of the poem, Tennyson describes the details of Lancelot's armor and horse: "The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,

  Like to some branch of stars we see
  Hung in the golden Galaxy." (82-84)
Tennyson uses a simile to compare the glitter of the horse's bridle to the stars at night.  This simile also incorporates imagery, creating visual image in the readers' mind.  The celestial imagery continues later in part three in the third stanza as Lancelot journeys to Camelot: Burn'd like one burning flame together,

  As he rode down to Camelot.
  As often thro' the purple night,
  Below the starry clusters bright,
  Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
  Moves over still Shalott. (94-99)
The comparison of Lancelot to a meteor is significant, because the metaphor suggests that the knight travels a fixed course, with no room for variation, like a meteor.  With all his flash and brilliance, Lancelot cannot change his course or stop for the Lady of Shalott. Tennyson also employs symbolism with his use of the mirror that shows "shadows of the world" in part two (46).  A curse binds the Lady to weave, and her only view of the world is the mirror.  The mirror symbolizes the false promise of the outside world; it shows the reality of what happens beyond the tower, but is only an illusion.  When the lady finally leaves her weaving for Lancelot; the mirror "crack'd from side to side," signifying that her fragile connection to the real world has been broken by the curse. Use of colours is another important aspect of the poem .The colours of her world are very grey, blue, shadowy, misty, etc., until Sir Lancelot arrives. When he comes to town, she sees her life filled with vibrancy and color, especially reds and greens and blues. His arrival makes all the cold, ugly weather and colors leave her life, and she sees only bright, beautiful colors.These bright colors also represent her desire to go outside and see the world for herself, instead of viewing it from behind a window.

(Tennyson starts out this poem with a quiet description of a landscape. A river runs through fields of grain. The barley and the wheat cover ("clothe") the "wold" (an old word for an open, unforested piece of land). Through this field, there's a road running toward the castle of Camelot, which is the legendary home of King Arthur and his knights). (Apparently this road is pretty well traveled. The people who use the road can look down and see an island in the middle of the river. This island, which the speaker says is surrounded by lilies, is called the island of Shalott.) (The poem holds off on the plot details for a second here, and tells us a little more about the natural world around the island. We hear about the willow trees that grow on the river banks, and the aspen trees that "quiver" (when the wind blows though the branches of an aspen tree, the leaves shake or "quiver")) The speaker mentions little breezes that blow around the island too, and says that they "dusk and shiver." It's a little hard to say exactly what those words mean in this context, since we usually don't talk about something "dusking.") Those breezes run along with the river, which flows constantly past the island in an endless wave.) (Here the speaker is really underlining the flow of the river as it heads toward Camelot. That flow, that "wave that runs for ever" (line 12) will be really important later on, so he's careful to plant the idea in our heads now.) (Now we hear about a building on the island, a simple structure, just four walls with four towers. We imagine a mini-castle, a way smaller version of the many-towered Camelot we heard about in line 5) (It's apparently surrounded by flowers too. Weaving the natural and the manmade together is a big deal in this poem.) (Finally, we meet the star of...
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