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Themes

The mysterious curse on the Lady of Shalott is a big part of the plot. It rules her life and causes her death. This little thread of black magic helps give "The Lady of Shalott" its spooky, sad atmosphere, and also connects it to the medieval fantasy world of wizards and spells. We can just tell that, if Tennyson were alive now, he'd be a huge Harry Potter fan.

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. Why don't we learn more about the curse? Would the poem be better if it had more back-story, like a wicked queen who casts a spell or something like that?
  2. Is the magic web meant to seem evil and scary, or is it a symbol of the Lady's power and skill?
  3. Does all this stuff with magic spells and King Arthur seem a little nerdy to you? Do you kind of love it? Shmoop welcomes all poetry dorks. We understand, trust us.
  4. The reapers call her the "fairy Lady of Shalott." Do you think she herself has magic powers, or is she just trapped by them?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By eliminating specific information about the curse, Tennyson focuses our attention completely on the lady and her loneliness. This makes this primarily a human story with magic elements, rather than the other way around.

By associating the weaving of the Lady with magical power, the poem suggests that all art is a form of magic, a way of casting a spell.

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