How does the Lady of Shalott die in "The Lady of Shalott"?

The Lady of Shalott dies in "The Lady of Shalott" as a result of the curse placed on her, which forces her to weave constantly. Once, she stops weaving to look down upon Sir Lancelot and Camelot, and her mirror cracks. She gets into a boat and floats down the river, dying before she reaches Camelot.

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The Lady of Shalott dies in a mystical and unnatural way. She has been confined to a tower from which she can only see out through a window. However, she is not actually allowed to look directly outside and can only look at the window's reflection in a mirror. In the first stanza of part II, the speaker says that she must "weave alway" and that "A curse is on her, if she stay / Her weaving, either night nor day." In other words, the lady is under a mysterious curse that even she does not seem to fully understand. The speaker says that "She knows not what the curse may be." She knows only that she must weave without stopping (to "stay" means to stop in this case) and that a terrible fate awaits her if she ceases weaving.

The life of the Lady of Shalott is thus diminished, partial. She experiences "little joy or fear" because she is not allowed to participate in the full spectrum of human life, experience, and emotion. "She hath no loyal knight and true," and seems, therefore, never to have known love. One day, though, Sir Lancelot comes into her view, and she sees how he "glow'd" as he "flash'd into the crystal mirror," and she moves to the window to see him, apparently without any thought for her own well-being. At once, the "mirror crack'd," and she realizes that she has called the curse down upon herself with her actions. It seems that she falls in love when she sees Lancelot and acts before she can consider her fate.

So, knowing that she will now die, she goes to the stream and finds a boat to lie down in. She carves her title into the stern and sets the boat adrift. Singing "her deathsong," the boat follows the stream to Camelot, and the lady dies while she is singing.

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The Lady of Shalott dies because she has violated the terms of a curse placed upon her. Under that curse, she was forbidden to look directly upon Camelot or any of its inhabitants. Yet that is precisely what her ladyship did one fateful day, when she caught sight of Sir Lancelot in her mirror.

Hoping to get a better look at this devastatingly handsome knight, the Lady of Shalott went to the window of the tower in which she was confined. As she did so, her mirror “crack'd from side to side,” an indication that the curse was now about to take effect.

Realizing that her days are numbered, the Lady of Shalott aims to get one last look at Camelot. So she gets into a boat and, after lying down, drifts along the river to the legendary city. Tragically, however, she dies before she reaches the city.

The Lady of Shalott's confinement in the tower was quite comfortable, but it was still confinement all the same, not the kind of life that anyone would choose to lead. One can understand, then, why she opted to bring certain death upon herself by looking directly out of the window at Sir Lancelot. She wanted to savor something of the real world outside her tower, even if it meant breaking a curse that would result in her death.

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In part 2 of "The Lady of Shalott," readers learn that the lady is under a curse. She is forced to weave "night [and] day" and is forbidden to "look down to Camelot." She isn't sure what might happen to her if she breaks the conditions of the curse, so she steadily weaves with no time to "sport and play." She keeps a mirror near her so that she can see the reflection of Camelot, but she never looks directly upon the world which exists outside her confinement.

Everything changes one day when she catches sight of Sir Lancelot in her mirror. She is taken aback by his "coal-black curls" and his "broad clear brow" which glows in the sunlight. The Lady of Shalott is so moved by his physical appearance that she leaves her loom and walks to her window so that she can see him more fully. The mirror cracks, and The Lady of Shalott realizes that she is now subject to the terms of the curse.

She realizes that she is about to die, so she gets into a boat and writes her name on it. She looks at Camelot with a "steady stony glance" and lies down in the boat. The river takes her to Camelot as she sings one last song—her "deathsong." The Lady of Shalott dies before she reaches Camelot, a victim of the curse.

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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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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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