The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The Lady of Shalott Theme of Art and Culture
Although she's alone, and not too happy about it, the Lady of Shalott does have two things to keep her busy. She weaves and she sings. Even if no one sees her work, she's definitely an artist. A lot of people read this whole poem as a metaphor for the lonely life of the artist. We'll definitely look at that possibility, but even without that big metaphor, we think the theme of art and artists is still a major part of "The Lady of Shalott."
Questions About Art and Culture
- Does it make sense to call the Lady an artist? Do you have to be free in order to make art? What other terms might you use for her?
- Some people think this poem is about the lonely life of the artist, shut away from the world. Does that make sense to you, or does it seem like making something out of nothing?
- Both the Lady and Lancelot are singers. Does the poem treat their songs differently? Do we learn anything about them through their songs?
- Is Lancelot, with all his shiny armor, jewels and painted shield, a kind of living work of art? How about the Lady with her name written on her boat, on display for the people of Camelot?
Chew on This
The Lady, who spends her days trying to capture shadows, is a representative of all artists, who live partly in the living world and partly in a private dream.
By writing her name on her boat/coffin, the Lady of Shalott gives herself a title, making her death a work of art. This is a final act of confident self-definition, and proves that she is entirely free from her prison.