What are the key points in the poem "The Lady of Shalott"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott" is a ballad, or a story poem. To think about the key points, then, use the elements of the story arc. For this poem, the story unfolds like this:

Exposition: the setting and the characters are introduced in Part I. The island, the road, and the castle are described and the Lady of Shalott is introduced as a woman no one has seen, but whose songs can be heard through her open window.

Inciting incident: Part II begins with introducing the conflict of the story by describing the curse she is under if she stops weaving and looks to Camelot.

Rising action: as the action unfolds, the Lady hangs a mirror at her loom so she can see what is happening outside. She sees many types of people going toward Camelot. She sees knights and a funeral pass. Then she sees two newlyweds, and she begins to become discontented.

Climax: In Part III, the action continues to rise with the appearance of Sir Lancelot outside her window. The high point and turning point of the action is when "she left her web, she left her loom, / She made three paces through the room." The mirror cracks, and the curse comes upon her. This sets up the resolution of the conflict for good or ill--in this case ill. 

Falling action (denouement): In Part IV, the falling action occurs. She goes down to the river, gets into a boat, and floats toward Camelot. During this journey, "singing in her song, she died." She floats into Camelot and the people wonder who she is.

Resolution and theme: The poem ends when Lancelot views her, says "she has a lovely face," and blesses her. The curse, the conflict, has been resolved by her dying, but Lancelot has blessed her memory, even though he didn't know her, suggesting that if they had met, they may have had a future together. 

In a ballad, which is a story poem, one can keep track of key points by locating them in the story arc. 


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team