The poem was written during Tennyson's ten years of silence. Can you see any connection between the poem and his own life?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, definitely, considering that The Lady of Shalott is about a woman being imprisoned in a tower unable to participate in the activities of a normal life. The curse that is upon her, could be compared to the curse of mental illness or depression that imprisons an individual, something that Tennyson suffered from and feared would destroy his mind.

The Lady of Shalott cannot even look out the window, she must observe the world through a mirror's reflection. Tennyson withdrew from society because he was highly sensitive to the criticism of his work. He suffered from depression and was terrified that he would develop mental illness, which ran in his family.

Although The Lady of Shalott is a fantasy poem, based on the myth of Camelot, there is a ring of truth in the fact that the lady seems very content at first in her lonely tower, even though she is restricted, prevented from going out of the tower and interacting with people. She seems to not need people, until she sees the reflection of Sir Lancelot in her mirror and hears him sing.

Then, bravely, she emerges from the tower, throwing caution to the wind, testing the curse, she boards a boat, ready to float to Camelot. She arrives, and Lancelot sees her, but by that time she is dead. This could be a metaphor for Tennyson's poetry being badly received by his critics, which made him feel dead emotionally. He had no tolerance for criticism of his work, he would get high insulted and discouraged.

The Lady of Shallot that we read today is an updated version included in a book of poetry released after the 10 years of silence. The first version was highly criticized when released before the 10 years of silence.

Read the study guide:
The Lady of Shalott

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