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The Lady of Shalott - a feminist reading When considered from a feminist perspective, The Lady of Shalott is an excellent representation of the struggle faced by females in the Victorian Age.

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Introduction

The Lady of Shalott - a feminist reading When considered from a feminist perspective, The Lady of Shalott is an excellent representation of the struggle faced by females in the Victorian Age. The Lady of Shalott is a complex analysis of the Victorian woman's predestined role in society and her desire to relinquish this identity and break free into the wider, male dominated world. In the Victorian Age, society had very little tolerance for those who did not conform to the preconceived roles. This is shown through the character of The Lady of Shalott. She is representative of those who did not correspond to the idealised role of women and is consequently punished for it. The Victorian age was one of much upheaval with women actively petitioning for more rights in a male dominated society. The Era was epitomised by one of the nations favourite poems, 'Angel of the House', a man's tribute to his wife's subservience. Men were considered to be intelligent, strong, powerful characters, while women were emotional, domestic beings, most capable at raising children. ...read more.

Middle

By depriving her of independence and contact with the outside world, her innocence is preserved. The lady cannot look directly at the outside world, but must look 'through a mirror clear/...shadows of the world appear'. This symbolises the oppressive societal codes and lack of freedom and independence women had at this time. The description of Camelot, representative of mainstream Victorian society, shows the restricting gender dichotomy. Camelot, an Arthurian city, is an archetypal example of the male dominated, chivalrous and above all idealised society. This is displayed further with the character of Lancelot. Described as a 'knight in shining armour', his character diminishes women to the typical status of a damsel in distress or a wicked shrewd/witch. The traditional, heroic figure of Lancelot is presented to the reader as the complete antithesis of the Lady of Shalott. The Lady's isolation and loneliness is emphasised by Lancelot's definite and lively description. Lancelot is associated with light; 'flamed...sparkled...meteor'; and colour; 'golden...silver...purple'. However, the Lady is connected to shadows and grey. Lancelot's energetic persona is shown by the repetition of the plosive b sounds, 'bridle bells...blazon'd baldric...bearded meteor'. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Lancelot gazes upon her body, he declares 'she has a lovely face/God in his mercy lend her grace'. He is blissfully unaware of his effect on the Lady at the end of the poem. From a feminist viewpoint, one could see this as the double standards of men and women during the Victorian Era. The Lady's arousal is contradictory to the passive, idealised role society inflicts upon women and thus she is punished by death. However, Tennyson rebukes this idea with the continuation of the Lady's purity and innocence. The Lady is 'robed in snowy white', symbolising her Victorian style goodness, as she is conveyed with calm and tranquillity. Throughout the entire poem the Lady remains a mystery, prompting the reader to ask questions of her true identity. Sadly, we are led to believe no-one in the poem truly connected or understood the Lady. At the end of the poem we are in doubt of Tennyson's view on women's role in society. Does he agree with the demanding society which punishes the creative Lady with death or does he empathise with her desire for a more active, independent lifestyle? ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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