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The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Lady of Shalott

Symbol Analysis

Obviously she's the main character and a huge part of this poem, but is the Lady of Shalott a major image? Lancelot is almost buried in description, but we hear almost nothing about the Lady herself. Hair color, eyes, height? Those things aren't all crucial, but they'd help us to build a mental picture of our main character. In some ways, it feels like the speaker is trying to hold back an image of the Lady, to make her deliberately hard to imagine.

  • Line 18: The first time we hear her name is as the closing line of the second stanza. We're going to hear the same thing a lot more before the poem is over. The Lady's name is a refrain that the speaker uses over and over. Her name almost starts to hypnotize us, like a magical spell.
  • Line 71: Don't worry, we won't take you through all of the spots where the poem talks about the Lady, but we thought this one was worth mentioning. This is the place where the Lady admits her frustration with her life, and says she is "half sick of shadows." While we still don't get an image of her face, we can feel the strength of her personality in this moment, a glimmer of the independence and strong will that is about to blossom.
  • Line 153: This is the end of the Lady's transformation, the moment of her death. She has moved from slavery and imprisonment to freedom, but it has cost her everything. Before she sang, now she is quiet. She was warm, now she is frozen. All of these are powerful images of loss and change. Eventually she becomes a sort of statue, a pale shape in a coffin-like boat.

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