Please summarize "The Lady of Shalott."

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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"The Lady of Shallot" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, is a beautiful, mythical poem filled with enchantment, the Arthurian Knight Lancelot, Camelot, and the tragic fate of the "Lady."

Tennyson's poem tells the story of a young and beautiful woman who lives in a tower. She can see the river running past, as well as a road that leads to Camelot. Uncertain as to why she is in her predicament, she is knowns she is under a curse and may not look directly upon anything outside of her "prison," and neither can she leave. She weaves all day and watches the reflection of the world passing by through a mirror. It is in this way that she catches sight of Lancelot. The crusader passes by her home singing, as he heads toward Camelot; she sees the "plume" on his helmet and his flashing armor.

Tired of her life, the Lady of Shallot turns, quickly crosses the room and looks directly at the world around her, and the power of the curse falls upon her.

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces through the room,

She saw the water-lily bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look'd down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack'd from side to side;

"The curse is come upon me," cried

The Lady of Shalott.

She leaves her home and makes her way down to the river, where she finds a small boat. Lady Shallot paints her name on the side of the boat, rests herself on its bottom, and sets it afloat. Carried by the river's current, the young woman sings and watches the world as it passes above her, seeing things that have been kept from her, and soon dies. When the boat reaches Camelot, a group of people gather around the boat, wondering who she is. Lancelot is there. He calls down a heavenly blessing on this lovely woman who has died and notes that she "has a lovely face."

(By the way, Loreena McKennit sings a shortened version of this poem, which is quite lovely.)


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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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