What is the main event in "The Lady of Shalott"?

Expert Answers

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

The poem "The Lady of Shalott" tells a story, yet it is not a very eventful story. In Part 1 and most of Part 2, the setting and everyday life of the Lady are described using the present tense, indicating that what is described is a constant scene rather than a series of actions. But at the end of Part 2, the funeral and the arrival of the two young lovers are described in past tense, indicating that the events of the story are now beginning. The remaining events include Lancelot riding by, the Lady leaving her loom and the curse coming upon her, the Lady floating down to Camelot in the boat and dying, and the residents of Camelot coming out to see her body. Of these events, the one that must be considered the "main event" is Sir Lancelot riding past the Lady's window. Most of part 3 is devoted to describing his actions and appearance, and the words "he rode" are repeated six times in four stanzas. The appearance of Lancelot in the Lady's mirror is what results in her decisive action: "She left the web, she left the loom, / She made three paces through the room." Certainly this event could be considered the climax of the story, yet it is precipitated by Sir Lancelot riding by. Therefore, of all the events that occur in the poem, Sir Lancelot's riding by shines clearly as the main one.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial