From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

Reading "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" is like walking into a classic fairy tale. No, we don't mean the Disney kind, with happy, singing mice and twittering birds. We mean the old-school, medieval kind, with bleak landscapes, knights, fairies, and witches. The unnamed speaker at the beginning of the poem seems to have wandered into someone else's fairy tale, too. He's just out on a walk, enjoying the late autumn by a lake, when he sees a "haggard" knight who seems sick and depressed. He asks the knight what's up, and the knight launches into a long story about how he met a fairy lady in the fields somewhere. Is the knight's story all just a dream? Does the poem take place in a fairy tale, or in the real world? If it takes place partly in both, where's the border? The poem's setting seems designed to throw you off.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement