How does Tennyson powerfully convey the character of Lancelot in Part 3 of "The Lady of Shalott"?

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

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To answer this question, you need look no further than the way Lancelot is introduced at the beginning of Part III of this excellent poem. Consider the way in which the first stanza immediately presents Lancelot as a vibrant character, full of light, movement and colour:

A bowshot from her bower eaves,

He rode between the barley sheaves,

The sun came dazzling through the leaves,

And flamed upon the brazen greaves

Of bold sir Lancelot.

Notice the tremendous movement as he is compared to a "bowshot" and the descriptive details such as "dazzling" and "flamed" and "brazen." Given the grey shadows that the Lady of Shalott spends most of her life looking at through her mirror, such a combination of intense and vivid colour with movement makes both us and her sit up and take notice. Also, consider the alliteration in the next stanza. The repetition of "b" and "g" sounds in phrases such as "golden Galaxy" and "bridle bells" certainly help to make the verse ring as merrily as bridel bells themselves ring.

Up until this stage, the poem has been written in a kind of dreamy, nebulous way, with mystical enchantment surrounding the scene. At this point in the poem, the symbol of reality, Sir Lancelot himself, enters the shadow world of the Lady of Shalott, and Tennyson makes sure that we are all aware of the change.

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teddymvs | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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The poet powerfully conveys Lancelot’s character by using different techniques of writing. The techniques he uses to convey his character are similes, metaphors, personification, and symbolism. In Stanza I, the poet uses symbols to convey the character of Lancelot. We see this in line 6 where it says ‘red-cross knight for ever kneel’d’ this symbolizes a crusader who is going ’to a Lady in his shield.’ Through this the poet implies that Lancelot is a warrior, respected and brave; also it implies that he’s chivalry and gallant from ‘knight for ever kneel’d.’ From this we can assume that Lancelot is brave and strong. In Stanza II, the poet uses sound effects to convey the character of Lancelot. This is shown in line 4 where it says ‘bridle bells rang merrily, as he rode down to Camelot.’ The use of sound effects shows that ‘bells rang merrily’ when Lancelot passed, suggesting that Lancelot was respected therefore there were bells ringing around him. Through this we can see that Lancelot was a well known and respected person. In Stanza III, in order to convey the character of Lancelot the poet uses similes. The use of similes such as ‘the helmet and helmet-feather burned like one burning flame together.’ Through this the poet implies that he is made noticeable like ‘one burning flame.’ From this we can suggest that he stood out while riding down to Camelot. Also, the poet uses personification to convey Lancelot’s character. In line 8 it says, ‘some bearded meteor, trailing light, moves across Shallot.’ Through this the poet reinforces that there is a flying trail that ‘moves across Shallot.’ This gives us the impression that he was dashing. In Stanza IV, the poet uses the form of image to convey the character of Lancelot. This can be gathered because he has ‘coal-black curls.’ Through this the poet implies that he is attractive because he has ‘coal-black curls.’ We can see that Lancelot is an attractive person even from his looks. In conclusion, the poet conveys the character of Lancelot by using symbols, sound effects, similes, personification and images. Overall, he succeeds in creating Lancelot’s character by using these techniques.

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