What is the purpose of what Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote about "The Lady of Shalott"?

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Lady of Shalott" is a Victorian poem based upon the Arthurian legend; that is, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table, especially Lancelot. It is also believed Tenneyson used the story of Elaine of Astolat for the Lady's description. I may suggest that this poem also reflects the manner in which Victorians viewed women. The Lady is cursed to weave a web continuously. She may not gaze upon the world except through a mirror. Upon looking at Lancelot, the mirror shatters, and the Lady of Shalott obtains a boat to float down the river to Camelot for Lancelot's sake. She never makes it to her destination; she dies beforehand. Thus, we have the Victorian's view on women who are not allowed to take part fully in worldly life and who are beautiful objects at which to look. Scary, isn't it?

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many critics have said that the lady in "The Lady of Shalott" represents the plight of the artist.  She, like artists, are isolated, and once she is able to leave the tower because she had looked outside of the tower with her own eyes, which she isn't supposed to do, she is set free into reality and dies because of it.  eNotes states that

The Lady is thus presented as an artist, more involved in her creative version of her indirect experience than with life experience itself. Indeed, she represents the nineteenth-century emphasis on the problems and issues connected to the artist's subjectivity.

Therefore, the art that artists create is much richer and more complex than what is in reality, which is flat and not as rich.