The Lady of Shallot is a story written by Alfred Tennyson and published in 1842. This poem is superb because of it’s elusiveness and sense of mystery. However, because of these traits, it is very diffucult to analyze. Although presented with these difficulties, The Lady of Shallot has many purposely contradictory images that are shown throughout the poem. One notable example of a contradictory image would be when the Lady of Shalott is weaving her tapestry and looking at Camelot through her mirror. Upon the reflection she sees “A funeral, with plumes and lights/ or when the moon was verhead, came two young lovers lately wed. (67-70) Tennyson makes us note that the Lady of Shalott either sees a wedding or a funeral; This presents the viewer with a foreshadowing of two contradictory states. It impacts the viewers by showing these two situations are interchangeable and, further on into the poem, this is proven correct when The Lady of Shalott falls in love with Sir Lancelot and in doing so, begets the curse upon her. Another example would be the presentation of the weather and it’s changes through the poem. When the viewer is introduced to Lancelot, he is displayed nd described with vibrant, flashing colors.
He is a “red-cross knight”(78); his shield “sparkled on the yellow field”(80); he wears a “silver bugle”(88); he passes through “blue unclouded weather”(91) and the “purple night,”(96) and he has “coal-black curls. “(103) He is also described in a “gemmy bridle”(82) and other accessories, which sparkle in the sunlight. In contrast, once the Lady chooses to look at him without the use of the mirror, the curse is set upon her and everything turns pale and dark. The brilliance of the sky and the sunlight are eplaced by a “low sky raining,” The moment the Lady looks upon lancelot, she is stricken by her curse and, therefore, death.
At the end of the poem, her blood froze and her eyes turned dark. Finally, the contradiction between her decision to remain imprisoned or dooming herself in the outside world by becoming a symbol of art itself. Throughout the poem, the Lady is isolated from the world, only being able to view what is outside through a reflection. Upon looking at Lancelot, she loses her artistic isolation but at the price of losing her artistic creativity; “out flew her web nd floated wide”(114) is her art, and means of creating it, going away.
Not only that but, she also loses her mirror, which was her only access to the outside world. She stripped of her art object, means of creating art, and of her very life. She chooses to embrace the outside world, to be appreciated by the plethora of people at least as an object of art itself. Ironically, the poem ends with Lancelot’s apathetic response to the Lady’s tremendous passion. All he has to say is that “she has a lovely face” (169).