How does Tennyson reveal character in "The Lady of Shallot"?
Tennyson reveals the characters in this poem through visual descriptions, and the use of sound. Since the Lady is not permitted to look directly out the window, she views the world through a mirror, looking at the reflections of those who pass her tower, relying heavily on what she can hear.
We are introduced to the Lady of Shallot through the use of sound. The reader learns that a farmer hears her singing. The fact that the woman is heard singing suggests that she is content or happy with her confinement.
Tennyson creates a visual image for the reader to understand the character that is stuck in the tower, by imagining her happily singing and doing needlework.
The lady's attitude changes, however, when she sees a glimmer of armour in her mirror and hears Lancelot singing. She doesn't really see him, but rather falls in love with his voice, after she hears him singing.
Finally, when the Lady decides to leave the tower, the descriptions are visual again. The poet describes her actions, and her death. We learn more about the character through her actions, her determination to get to Camelot and Lancelot. In the end, she is recognized by Lancelot, he looks upon her and remarks that she is lovely.
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, ‘She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.’ (Tennyson)
Tennyson uses imagery to reveal the character of the Lady. "There she weaves by night and day a magic web." The Lady is caught in the trap of weaving, is not able to make her own decisions. When the curse comes upon her, she lies "robed in snowy white," in her virginal state to drift toward Camelot. The Lady is seen, again, unable to act upon her own will and arrives "dead pale" to her destination. Through this imagery, the character of the Lady is seen as virginal, pure, and helpless. One way that Victorians viewed women!