How does Tennyson use imagery (examples) in the poem, "The Lady of Shalott" to present the story? Visual and auditory imagery?
How does the audience know what Tennyson is trying to say by using imagery?
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The speaker of Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" switches back and forth between visual and auditory imagery to reveal the story.
The poem opens with visual imagery of nature, freedom, and movement (which is touch, actually, but the visual does dominate). Around Shalott, the willows are white (visual), the aspens quiver (touch), the waves in the river run forever (sight and touch), by the island in the river (sight) (lines 10-18).
But in lines 28-36 auditory images predominate: the reapers "Hear a song that echoes cheerly (auditory). This is how the lady is known: no one has seen her wave her hand, stand at the window, or knows her at all.
Another switch from visual to auditory occurs in the shift from lines 73-81 to lines 82-90. In the first stanza Lancelot is described visually: he rides like a bow-shot, rides between the barley, his image dazzles into her mirror, his armor shines like flames, as does his shield.
In the next stanza, the imagery changes to auditory: the bridle bells ring merrily, his equipment belt holds a bugle, and even his armor rings.
All this fascinates the Lady, but what inspires her to actually break the curse and look out the casement or window, is Lancelot's song:
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the waterlily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot. (106-113)
Imagery makes abstract ideas more concrete. With the visual and auditory imagery, Tennyson makes concrete his ideas. That helps the reader understand what he is revealing. For one example, the Lady first sees Lancelot blaze into her mirror, and then hears the ringing of his bells and armor, followed by his song. These images concretely reveal what makes the Lady look out the window and break the curse. The speaker could say that the Lady sees Lancelot in her mirror, and hears him outside, and therefore goes to the window and looks out. But all that is abstract. The images make it concrete.
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