Nelson, Elizabeth. “Tennyson and the Ladies of Shalott.” Ladies of Shallot: A Victorian Masterpiece and its Contexts.
Brown University Department of Art, Providence: Brown Art Department, 1985.
portrays ‘The Lady of Shallot’ as isolated and spends a lot of the poem, focussing
on the tower’s surroundings and the outside world, creating an illusion of
mystery towards the curse and the lady herself.
Arguably, it’s a technique enrolled for de-humanising her and implying
that the surroundings are more significant than the lady herself, and she is just
an addition to her surroundings. Through the emphasis on the isolation of the
tower and focusing on the tower’s features instead, it’s interpretable that
Tennyson is implying that her surroundings are her impingement on freedom.
Firstly, within a tower you are above everybody and don’t have the freedom to
leave and secondly, the town of Shallot is isolated also, therefore lack of
freedom and isolation is imminent. Furthermore, by Tennyson choosing to discuss
the tower’s appearance and its surroundings, it could be interpreted as
demonstrating the lack of freedom and importance women of the Victorian era obtained.
to Nelson, The Lady of Shalott “perfectly embodies the Victorian image of
the ideal woman: virginal, embowered, spiritual and mysterious, dedicated to
her womanly tasks” 1(Nelson).
Supporting this, Tennyson adds a sense of mystery to the Lady through
disallowing her to speak throughout the poem and without providing details for
the reasoning of the curse and only portraying the female as partaking in mild
‘female’ considered tasks. Tennyson further depicts the Lady as perhaps too
weak to be outside, alongside the men, thus must remain within the confines of
her tower. Through Tennyson primarily focusing on the beautiful surroundings
and the outside world with the use of words, it limits her freedom further
through the implication that she has no entitlement to be discussed. Furthermore, it could be
interpreted that Tennyson attempts to conform with societies attitude by not
giving the ‘The Lady of Shallot’ a forename, and instead referring to her based
on her location and demonstrates the lack of respect and equality women of the
period received. In agreement, Stockstill furthers this argument stating, ‘The
repetition of her title in the narrative forces us to similarly ignore the Lady’s
identity beyond her constructed position inside the tower’2