The Lady of Shalott Questions and Answers
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Lady of Shalott book cover
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How does the Lady of Shalott die?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Lady of Shalott is under a curse. She lives alone in a tower with all her needs met, but she is not allowed to look directly on the city of Camelot and its inhabitants or she will die.

For a long time, the Lady of Shalott is content to watch the towered city and its activities through a mirror while she weaves. She seems to be emotionally frozen, as she "lives with little joy or fear." Eventually she becomes "half sick" of watching the "shadows" of life in the mirror.

Then she sees and hears Sir Lancelot riding on his horse. She is so taken by the sight reflected in the mirror that she turns and gazes directly on him. Her mirror cracks and the curse comes upon her.

She leaves the tower, lies in a shallow boat, and floats down the river to Camelot. By the time she gets there she has died and is a "pale, pale corpse."

Her inability to continue living a half life of watching the world go by and not being a part of it kills her. She breaks the terms of the curse when she can no longer stand it and turns around to look directly at Lancelot.

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Lee Campbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Rejected by Sir Lancelot, whom she pined for, the Lady of Shalott took a boat down the river to her death. The poem describes her finding a boat, inscribing her name on it, lying down in it, and singing mourfully as she floated down the river to her death: 

". . .a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.?

 

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