Narrative Techniques: The Lady of Shalott

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  • Created by: Dany1995
  • Created on: 04-05-14 18:16

The Lady of Shalott Part 1: Summary


In the first part of his four-part poem 'The Lady of Shalott', Tennyson introduces the contrasting settings of Camelot and Shalott, while merely mentioning the protagonist, the mysterious 'fairly Lady of Shalott'. In the bustling town of Camelot, only the reapers hear her 'song that echoes clearly' and know that the voice belongs to her. 

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The Lady of Shalott part 1: Form

This is the first of four sections. The division of the poem into four sections contributes to its fairytale-like tone, as if each section were a chapter of a book. The short and rhyming verses (AAAABCCCB) and frequent use of enjambment make the poem extremely fast-paced, thus efficiently creating a sense of dynamism and continuous movement. The fifth and ninth line of each stanza are similar, as they are shorter and end respectively in 'Camelot' and 'The Lady of Shalott'. This creates an ulterior division in each stanza, as the first section is related to Camelot and the second to Shalott. This highlights the contrast between the two settings. 

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The Lady of Shalott part 1: Setting

The two settings of the poem, Camelot and the island of Shalott, are deliberately juxtaposed. Camelot is immediately presented as an extremely pleasant and welcoming, almost idyllic place. The setting is serene and tranquil; there is a river that 'runs for ever', on both sides of which there are 'long fields of barley and of rye'. The vivid image that is presented to the reader is one of serenity and dyamis at the same time; this is conveyed throught the use of verbs such as 'lie', which suggests idleness and serenity, and 'clothe', which conveys a sense of protection and caring.The terms 'quiver', 'dusk and shover' suggest quick movement. In contrast with this tranquil, pastoral idyll is the hustle an dbustle of city life. The road 'runs by' to Camelot, where the people go 'up and down' in continuous movement. The 'heavy barges' and the 'shallop' all '[skim]' down to the town; this shows not only movement and activity, but also possibly alludes to wealth. tennyson juxtaposes the activity and energetic vibe of Camelot with the dullness and mysterious anture of the island of Shalott, where the protagonist resides. The island around th castle where the Lady of Shalott resides is beautiful: it '[overlooks] a space of flowers' and 'the lilies' blow around it; this creates a picture of natural beauty and delicacy. However, the tower where the protagonist lives is blandly described as 'four gray walls and four grey towers'. The dullness and dreariness of this palace is immediately and effinetly conveyed in this short line, which exposes the dreary colour and the simplicity of the setting, as well as alluding to its being like a prison. 

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The Lady of Shallott Part 1: Narrative Voice

The narrative persona is an unknown third-person narrator; the narrative voice incorporates the thoughts of the characters. In this section, the point of view is that of the inhabitants of Camelot, who '[gaze]' at the lillies that lead to the mysterious island of Shalott. They wonder whos he is: 'who hath see her wave her hand? [...] or is she known in all the land?'. The series of rhetorical questions shows the people's interest and bewilderment regarding this myserious 'fairy Lady'. The point of view shifts to that of the reapers, who 'reaping early', hear her singing and whisper ''Tis the fairy lady of Shalott'. This is the only instance of direct speech; this emphasizes the dramatic impact of this exclamation, which reinforces the aura of mystery that Tennyson has artfully created around The Lady of Shalott. 

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