Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott Essay

Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott Essay

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Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott


What used to be a simple home is now a sacred sanctuary, a refuge from all the filth of the world, a place to trap and stifle beauty, adventure, and passion. What used to be a simple woman is now an angel, a pure and domestic celestial being. I live in an era where women are considered most beautiful when isolated, helpless, and even dead; where a lady with passion is scarier than a bitter hag; where feminine is now a synonym for pure, selfless, and submissive; where sexism has put on the fancy dress of romance. And Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a man of his era, grabbing romantic sexism by the hand and enchantingly twirling her around the dance floor.

Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott has created a great tension within me, within my mind and heart. He plays into the public’s hands, trapping a beauty in a high tower and keeping her there with the threat of a curse:
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colors gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She know not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
A little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

Not only is she trapped and isolated, but also this lady sits weaving, apparently cheerful and content. Protected, pure, even angelic she sings her melodies and weaves and weaves. A beautiful woman weaving in her faraway room, only seeing the world through shadows and reflections: Tennyson pitifully feeds off of stifling social expectations, weaved deep into our culture (with frail Snow White laying helplessly poisoned in a glass case and with dear Repunzel combing her long hair in a high fortress…in a land far, far away). In other words, at the beginning o...


... middle of paper ...


... not trying to say anything as much as he is capturing the national mood and developing languages and images that haunt, move, and affect. At some point writers, readers, characters, and people must put aside their intentions and desires for social criticism and take part in the magic, even if it isn’t the wisest choice.
I must refer one last time to my own writing as Jane brilliantly describes this unwise, tension-filled, passionate choice:

I looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking—a precious yet poignant pleasure; pure gold, with a steely point of agony: a pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the well to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine draughts nevertheless. (173)

So sing on talented Tennyson. I’ll sway to the rhythm of your music.
Bibbity, bobbity, boo.
…and they lived happily ever after.

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