April 6th, 2017
“The Lady of Shalott”: A Fallen Woman
During the Victorian Age, many people seemed to be obsessed with the topic of the fallen woman. Throughout Victorian literature, this idea of a woman losing her virtue due to sexual desire was constantly showing up, and this concept of the fallen woman is found in many different novels and poems. In Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott”, the concept of the fallen woman is suggested quite differently than other works. There isn’t a literal fallen woman in this poem in the sense of the Victorian definition, but through the theme of experience vs. innocence found in the poem, Tennyson is able to create the allusion of the fallen woman. The Lady of Shalott is the representation of innocence while Lancelot represents the experience.
At the opening of the poem, the reader is introduced to the island of Shalott, and the setting is described with intense detail. There is a river found on this island flowing in the direction of Camelot, and near the river is a tower with “four gray walls…” that “overlook a space of flowers,/and the silent isle imbowers/The Lady of Shalott” (15-18). The Lady of Shalott is isolated in this tower, and it is mentioned that no one has seen her before; she has been heard singing, but that is all. Because of this isolation, the Lady of Shalott has not experienced the world. This tower has been her shield; therefore, her innocence has remained intact due to the protection of her tower.
Leading into the second part, the reader learns that the Lady of Shalott “weaves by night and day/a magic web with colours gay./She has heard a whisper say,/A curse is on her” (37-40). There is a mirror located in her tower across from a window overlooking Camelot. The curse is never identified in the poem, but if she were to look out the window, the curse would come upon her, and she would die. This being said, the Lady of Shalott does not seem too concerned with the curse, and she enjoys weaving her web with “little other care” (44). Her innocence is exposed even more in this part of the poem. In comparison with the fallen woman, she has not encountered any sort of experience that would cause her to lose her focus on the task at hand. She goes about her business without the temptations of the world clouding her view. Even though she weaves the reflections in the mirror of the world, she is not influenced by its activities. The curse that is mentioned is an allusion to the possibility of an immoral fall. If the Lady of Shalott were to look out the window to the world, she would die. It can be interpreted that looking out the window would cause the Lady to lose her innocence, and as a result, she would be “cursed” with impurity.
In part three, the reader learns of a new character: Sir Lancelot. This entire part of the poem is dedicated to his description, and he is described with great allure. The poet uses words like “sparkled”,...