What is the summary of the poem "The Lady of Shalott"?

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part I: Fields of barley and rye line both sides of the river.  In the middle of these fields a road leads to Camelot, home of the legendary King Arthur.  Many people travel this road and gaze upon the island in the middle of the river, the island of Shalott. On it is a castle with four grey towers, the home of the Lady of Shalott.  No one has ever seen her.  Reapers, however, hear her sing in the morning and evening and believe it

"Tis the fairy/Lady of Shalott."  (line 35-36)

Part II: In the castle she weaves, day and night, a magical web of bright colors.  She has heard it said that if she looks toward Camelot, she will be cursed.  She doesn't know what the curse is, so she continues to weave and care about ilttle else.  She avoids looking directly at Camelot by viewing it in a mirror and watches shadows of people traveling to Camelot.  Sometimes a group of happy girls, sometimes a priest, sometimes a shepherd, and once in a while kinights will come, riding two by two.  She doesn't have a knight on the island to protect her.  But she weaves all of these scenes into her web. She finally admits that she is tired of only seeing the sights through the mirror.

"'I am half sick of shadows'/ said the Lady of Shalott." (lines71-72)

Part III: One day Sir Lancelot, a brave knight in King Arthur's court, is making his way toward Camelot.  He is very handsome and enjoys singing on his journey.  Even though she knows it is forbidden, she turns and looks down toward Camelot.  When she does , the web flies out the window, the mirror cracks, and she knows,

" 'The curse has come upon me' cried/the Lady of Shalott." (lines 116-117)

Part IV: Now the rain starts.  The Lady of Shalott walks down to the river and finds a boat. She writes "The Lady of Shalott" on the bow of the boat.  Glassy-eyed, she unties the boat, lies down in it, and lets the river bear her downstream.  Dressed all in white, she floats down to Camelot singing her last song.  Before she reaches Camelot, she dies. Silently, the boat floats into Camelot, and everyone comes out to stare at it. The knights all cross themselves for fear of what this means.  Sir Lancelot arrives and comments on her beauty, asking God to bless her.

"She has a lovely face/God in his mercy lend her grace/The Lady of Shalott." (last three lines of the poem)

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The Lady of Shalott

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