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The Lady of Shalott Summary & Analysis
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Tennyson's famous "The Lady of Shalott" (1842) is a haunting tale of magic and art. In this poem, a mysterious woman lives alone on the island of Shalott. Just down the river from her is King Arthur's court at Camelot, but the Lady of Shalott is not allowed even to look in that direction, much less travel there: a mysterious curse forbids it. Instead of actually seeing the world, then, she looks into a magic mirror that shows her images of the world and then weaves exquisite tapestries representing what she sees. As in all fairy tales, however, the rules exist only to be broken; the poem tells the story of why the Lady finally looks out her window, and explores the fatal consequences of this spell-breaking. The poem is often interpreted as a metaphor for the solitary nature of the artist's creative life, suggesting that the artist must be distanced, and inevitably isolated, from the surrounding world.

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