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How do you explain the irony in Tennyson's poem "The Lady Of Shalott"?

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aratiu | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 25, 2009 at 5:53 PM via web

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How do you explain the irony in Tennyson's poem "The Lady Of Shalott"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 26, 2009 at 12:40 AM (Answer #1)

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In this unforgettable poem by Tennyson the central contrast of the poem is between the world of shadows of the Lady of Shallot and the world of colours of Sir Lancelot. There exist many examples of irony in the poem.

At the end of the poem it is ironic that it is only when she sings her last song that she is heard by more than a handful of men, and likewise it is only in her death that the beauty is recognised of a lady who had "no loyal night and true." Despite this, she remains an object of mystery and even fear, and the reader is left wondering if anyone understands her character and her death at the end of the poem.

In her choice to embrace life, she has also embraced what comes with life - death. However, ironically, death seems to preserve her character and beauty forever more in a way that would not have occurred had she remained in her tower.

However, by leaving her tower, she has ultimately replaced one uncomprehending picture of herself ("The fairy/Lady of Shallot") with another, and if we see one of the themes of the poem as being about the Victorians' idealisation of women, we are left unsure whether Tennyson is celebrating this idealisation or criticising it.

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ukhamari | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 21, 2011 at 2:22 PM (Answer #2)

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It is also that the Lady of Shalott, being an artist herself, weaving the magical tapestry throughout her life with flamboyant hues, becomes an pbject of art herself when she arrives at Camelot in her death. the people belonging to the various social ladders and also, Sir Lancelot, muse upon her beauty, thus transforming her into an object of admiration, as is often done by people when looking at a piece of art or creation.

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