What types of conflict (physical, emotional, moral, intellectual) are in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Lady of Shalott"?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In this poem, for unexplained reasons, the Lady of Shalott is imprisoned by herself in a tower under a curse. Because of the curse, if she were to stop--"stay"--her weaving to look at Camelot, something bad would happen to her, though she is not sure what it is. As the poet puts it:
No time hath she to sport and play: 
A charmed web she weaves alway. 
A curse is on her, if she stay [stops]
Her weaving, either night or day, 
       To look down to Camelot. 
So the physical conflict is that while she would like to be in Camelot, she is forced to stay in her tower, weaving constantly. This leads to an emotional conflict: while she can watch Camelot in a mirror, she longs for more: 
'I am half sick of shadows,' said 
       The Lady of Shalott.  
In other words, she wants to do more than just watch the scenes from afar: she wants to be part of them. But this conflicts with her other desire, which is to avoid the curse.
Her emotional desire for connection overwhelms her when she sees Sir Launcelot. All the scenes of Camelot are filled with beautiful images, but none so much as this man. When she sees him, she abandons prudence and turns. At this point, the mirror cracks and the loom flies out the window. She heads down stream in a boat where she dies. 
It's hard not to read the poem sexually: although the lady's physical needs are all apparently taken care of as long as she weaves, she has an overwhelming desire for Launcelot that kills her. Her chaste life conflicts with a tumult of sexual feelings that arise uncontrollably inside of her. 
pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Lady of Shallott is experiencing both types of conflict, internal, which would be emotional, as character vs. self,  and external conflict, character vs. character or the environment. 

For example, the Lady locked in the tower struggles with her emotions ranging from initial contentment with her situation to desperation to escape.  She knows, morally and intellectually, that she must not leave the tower because of the curse.  But once she sees, through her mirror, Sir Lancelot's shiny armour, and hears him singing, she makes an emotional decision to leave the tower and go to Camelot.

Immediately, the Lady knows that she is in conflict with the curse, an external conflict.  As she journeys to Camelot in her boat, the effects of the curse begin.  She slowly dies in the boat as it drifts to Camelot.  

The Lady of Shallot surrenders her intellect to emotion, making a poor decision in her internal conflict. She loses to the external conflict, the curse wins and takes her life before she sees Lancelot.  The only gain is that Lancelot looks at her in the boat, but she is already dead.

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The Lady of Shalott

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