In "The Lady of Shallot," why is Lancelot described in terms of dazzling light and burning heat?

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Susan Woodward eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, is in love with Lancelot, hence the references to light and heat.  When she first sees him, it is the reflection of her magic mirror through which the Lady of Shalott is able to view the world.  She has been cursed to stay in her tower, only able to view life through this mirror and to live vicariously by weaving the sights she sees.  The sight of Lancelot is so dazzling that he takes her breath away like "a bow-shot from her bower-eaves" as "He rode between the barley sheaves" into view.  The sun shining on his armor reflects just how dazzling his beauty is.  The plume of his helmet looks "like one burning flame", perhaps mirroring the flame within her heart.  To her, he is like "some bearded meteor, burning bright".  Sadly, the curse laid on her will not allow her to leave her castle without dying, but she so longs to have Lancelot recognize her that she "came and found a boat" to have "The broad stream [bear] her far away...down to Camelot".  When the boat arrives, she is dead.  Lancelot notices that "she has a lovely face" and prays that "God in his mercy [may] lend her grace", but will never know that Elaine loved him.

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The Lady of Shalott

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