The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Tennyson

Summary


The poem opens with Shalott’s description. Shalott is an island on a river near Camelot. The Lady of Shalott lives inside a castle with four grey walls and four grey towers on the island. The lady is incarcerated. She has never been seen by passers-by, but people know she exists because reapers occasionally hear her sing in the early morning. The reapers refer to her as “the fairy Lady of Shalott.”

Part two begins with the Lady spinning a magical web. We learn that a curse has been placed on her, preventing her from peering through the window to Camelot. The lady looks out the window and into the world through a mirror. She notices the road, the river, and the people who pass by. She incorporates everything she sees into the web. The Lady is lonely and yearns for company and love.

In part three, Sir Lancelot rides near the tower. As he rides towards Camelot, the sun shines on his armour and he sings. As his image flashes in the mirror, the lady exits the web, walks across the room, and gazes out the window at Camelot. The curse has struck. The spider’s web shoots out the window and the mirror fractures from side to side. “The curse has come upon me,” The Lady of Shalott exclaimed.

In part four, the weather is dark and stormy. The lady exits the castle and signs her name on the side of a boat. She climbs aboard the boat and sings her final song as she floats down to Camelot. As she approaches Camelot, her blood freezes and she dies. The inhabitants of the city gather to see the lady float by. In the king’s palace, applause fade to stillness, and Lancelot remarks, “She has a lovely face; God in his mercy land her grace, The Lady of Shalott.”

Read Also: Summary, Analysis and Theme of The Lady of Shalott.

Questions and Answers

Q. What is Shalott?
Ans. Shalott is an island in a river just outside Camelot.  Upon the island is a castle of four grey walls and four grey towers and inside the castle is the Lady of Shalott. 

Q. Who is imprisoned in Shalott? 
Ans. The lady called the Lady of Shalott is imprisoned in Shalott.

Q. Has the person in the tower ever been seen?  How do you know?
Ans. The person has never been seen by those passing by but people know she exists as the reapers sometimes hear her sing in the early morning.  The reapers call her ‘the fairy Lady of Shalott’.

Q. How do people know that she is there?
Ans. The people know she exists there as the reapers sometimes hear her sing in the early morning.  The reapers call her ‘the fairy Lady of Shalott’.

Q. What do the people of Camelot refer to her as?
Ans. The people of Camelot call her ‘the fairy Lady of Shalott’.

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Q. Using details from the poem, describe the room in the tower.
Ans. The lady resides in a tower in a castle on an island near Camelot. The castle has “four grey walls and four grey towers.” Her room has a sash window that opens on a hinge. The tower’s roof may overhang the walls. Lancelot is a bowshot distant from the speaker’s bower eaves. Maybe her window is below the eaves. Line 154 mentions that the window may have a balcony extending out of it.

Her room has a loom on which she weaves the images she sees in the mirror. Due to the curse, she can not look directly out the window. So, facing away from the window, she looks into the mirror, which reflects the view.

Q. Why does the lady never look out of the window?
Ans. The reason why the lady of Shalott cannot leave her tower or even look directly out of the window is that she is under a curse that forbids her from looking through the window to Camelot. 

3. What does she do all day?
Ans. She does many things to kill time, such as weaving; however, nothing can make her happy with staying in a tower her entire life.

Q. How does the lady see the outside world and what does she see?
Ans. The lady sees the outside world through a mirror.  She sees the road, the river and the people passing by.

Q. What does the lady weave inside the room?
Ans. She weaves the things she sees into the web.

4. Is she happy?  Explain how you know?
Ans. No, she is not happy because she looks at the world through a magic mirror. This is the only way for her to see the world. She is lonely and longs for companionship and love.

5. What do you think would happen if she looked out of the window?
Ans. The Lady is only allowed to see the outside world through a mirror or else suffer an unnamed curse.

Q. What is the curse on the lady of Shallot?
Ans. Forbidden to leave the tower, the Lady is only allowed to see the outside world through a mirror or else suffer an unnamed curse.

Q. Who is the man that rides by?
Ans. Sir Lancelot rides by the tower.


Q. How is Lancelot different to the Lady?
Ans. Lancelot is associated with Camelot since he is an Arthurian knight and is on his way there. Lancelot’s ability to come and go as he pleases contrasts with the Lady, who is confined to her tower and unable to exercise the same freedom. Shalott and Camelot symbolise the various roles of men and women in Victorian society in this way.

Q. What does the Lady do?
Ans. When she sees Sir Lancelot in the mirror, she finds him so beautiful that she can’t resist going to the window to look at him. In doing do so, however, she also sees Camelot and brings the curse upon her.

5. Explain what happens and why.
Ans. When she sees Sir Lancelot in the mirror, she finds him so beautiful that she can’t resist going to the window to look at him. In doing do so, however, she also sees Camelot and brings the curse upon her.
The curse strikes. The web flies out of the window and the mirror cracks from side to side. ‘“The curse is come upon me,” cried The Lady of Shalott.’

Q. What does the lady do in part four of the poem?  Why is the last line in italics?
Ans. In part four the weather is dark and stormy.  The lady leaves the castle and writes her name on the side of a boat.  She climbs into the boat and floats down to Camelot singing her last song.  Her blood freezes and she dies as she reaches Camelot.

The last line is in italics perhaps because the port wants to heighten the cadence and rhythmic quality of the poem as well as reinforce the focus of the central character The Lady of Shalott.

Q. What happens in verses two and three of part four?
Ans. She climbs into the boat and floats down to Camelot singing her last song.  Her blood freezes and she dies as she reaches Camelot.

Q. Explain how she dies.
Ans. Her blood freezes and she dies as she reaches Camelot.

Q. Where does the boat travel?
Ans. The boat floats down to Camelot.

5. What does Lancelot do when he sees the lady of shallots?
Ans. Lancelot says she is beautiful and says a prayer for her. He says, “She has a lovely face; God in his mercy land her grace, The Lady of Shalott.”

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Q. What does Sir Lancelot say at the end of the poem?
Ans. The poem concludes with Lancelot’s tragic trifling answer to her immense passion: all he has to say about her is that “she has a lovely face”.

Q. What is The Lady of Shalott poem about?
Ans. “The Lady of Shalott” is a lyrical ballad by the 19th-century English poet Alfred Tennyson. Inspired by the 13th-century short prose text Donna di Scalotta, it tells the tragic story of Elaine of Astolat, a young noblewoman stranded in a tower up the river from Camelot.

Q. What is the main theme of The Lady of Shalott?
Ans. Freedom Comes at a Cost: Regardless of the lens with which readers approach “The Lady of Shalott,” the concept of freedom is a recurrent end goal. The Lady is isolated in a tower and subject to a curse that tells her she cannot look at Camelot except in her mirror.

Q. What was the curse of the lady residing on the island of shallot?
Ans. Through her curse, she is unable to look outside of her window into the real world. As a result, she is forced to live a life where she weaves a tapestry all day every day unable to see the world except through the reflection of her mirror.

Q. What is the central conflict of The Lady of Shalott?
Ans. The poem presents a conflict between the artist’s need for withdrawal and the demands of human contact and social responsibility. When she leaves the tower, the Lady forsakes her art as she has hitherto practised it, and the web is torn from the loom.

Q. How and why did The Lady of Shalott draw the curse upon herself?
Ans. Because of the curse, the Lady can only see the outside world as a reflection in a mirror. One day, she sees the lovely knight Lancelot and can not stop herself from looking at him straight, thus laying the curse upon herself.

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