• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Lady Of Shalott Feminist Reading

Extracts from this document...


IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT "THE LADY OF SHALOTT CHALLENGES THE ROLE OF WOMEN WITHIN A VICTORIAN SOCIETY." DISCUSS. Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott portrays the role for women during the Victorian era and the desire for the main character of the poem to relinquish her female restraints and enter a male dominated society. The Lady of Shalott is set during a period when society was restrained by the Victorian chain-of-being which deemed women to unequal to the supreme male dominance for example they had limited access to education and married women of higher classes were forbidden to work. It can be argued that Tennyson uses his main character to represent the increased activity of women activists who were petitioning for equality between the genders and most importantly the right to vote and were ultimately punished for doing so. The character's rejection of the Victorian values of femininity leads to her ruin as she refuses to accept the boundaries her gender enforces upon her. As a result, the male dominated society destroys her because there is no place for an assertive female. Tennyson presents the Lady of Shalott as an outsider who is to remain on the verge of a patriarchal society, isolated on her own "silent isle" through use of setting. ...read more.


Many feminist critics have noted the main themes within The Lady of Shalott as being women's sexuality and their place in Victorian society. Tennyson constructs Lancelot as a character comprising of many sexual notions such as the imagery of a "helmet and the plume" which alongside the Lady of Shalott's "water-lily [blooming]" suggests her arousal. Sir Lancelot sings "'Tirra lira,' by the river" which is an intertextual reference to a song from Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale where Autolycus considers "tumbling in the hay" with his "aunts" (prostitutes). The Victorian era was a time where it was seen as a transgression of God's will for a woman to exploit her sexuality either as a prostitute or with various partners without being credited as 'unclean', but it was perfectly acceptable for a man to use prostitutes or mistresses. It can be argued that Lancelot would have been viewed by a contemporary audience a stereotypical 'knight in shining armour' coming to the rescue of a woman who cannot control her sexual and promiscuous desires. Tennyson describes the character "bold Sir Lancelot" as a typical knight with "coal-black curls" and a "broad clear brow" so that Camelot is presented as an archetypal Arthurian city with a male dominated presence. It is believed by many critics that the male character adopts the stereotypical qualities of a man in a medieval context and therefore reduces the Lady of Shalott's status to the 'damsel in distress'. ...read more.


The female character relinquishes herself from her role as a female and as a result suffers a punishment as "singing in her song she died." It is only through death that she is truly recognized for her "lovely face" and gain recognition of being a women and individual. Lancelot is oblivious of the effect he has had upon the Lady of Shalott which can be viewed as the double standards of both men and women during the Victorian period. The female character's sexual exploitation is contradictory to the idealized role of women in a Victorian society and they are supposedly passive, therefore she is punished and ultimately dies. Despite this, Tennyson reprimands this notion through his use of description as the Lady of Shalott remains "robed in snowy white" which symbolizes her innocence and purity. In conclusion, it is evident that within the poem The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson includes many archetypes of women and men within Victorian (and medieval) society. He analyses closely the idea of a woman being the weaker sex and the notion of the man as the protecting and righteous gender. The poem can be interpreted by feminist critics as an example of typical Victorian views towards women and their rights. Due to Tennyson's focus upon nature during a time of industrialization the Lady of Shallot appears as a caricature of how women were previously treated, therefore, suggesting a change in attitudes. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Alfred Lord Tennyson section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

There is the outline of a plausible feminist critique of the poem here, but the writer has not convincingly used textual detail to support this reading, and tends to make grand claims on the basis of insufficient evidence.
The essay also seems to suggest that Tennyson fully intended his poem to be an examination of male dominance and female oppression. The notion of authorial 'intent' is a problematic one. No-one can know what an author intends, unless a written statement of intent survives, and the nature of poetry is that it is often open to different interpretations.
A more tentative approach is recommended, which explores a feminist critique while recognising possible alternatives.

Marked by teacher Val Shore 21/03/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Alfred Lord Tennyson essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and Contrast Tithonus and Ulysses.

    4 star(s)

    Ulysses, however has the problem that he simply cannot access his sexuality while on Ithaca, as is suggested by the implication that his wife is infertile; he years for the days on his travels when procreation was virtually for him a recreational activity, however his reference to this is laconic at best: 'he works his work, I work mine'.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Tear, idle tears. analyse, with close reference to the poem, how the author deals ...

    4 star(s)

    poet?s eyes, further indicating that the notion of death was inviting to him. Yet, the ?earliest pipe of half unawakened birds? were ironic, ?when unto the dying eyes?, as the singing of birds, that were the herald of a new day, was signaling the end of the poet?s life.

  1. Peer reviewed

    "What are the poetic skills Tennyson uses in his narrative poems?"

    3 star(s)

    In stanza 3 it says that they cannot escape as they are surrounded, "Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them," (Stanza 3 lines 1-3) Nevertheless they are not scared and ride boldly into the enemies, "Boldly they rode and well,

  2. Tennysons Poetry is defined by a desire to escape the world rather than engage ...

    Another of these positive and negative contrasts constructed by Tennyson involves Ulysses likening his people to 'a savage race' implying a lack of knowledge and content to live in ignorance, whilst he desires for a world with 'cities of men', juxtaposing 'savage race' by including an actual identity, carrying the

  1. The Lady of Shalott - a feminist reading When considered from a feminist ...

    This reflects the Victorian attitude to women. The image of the 'four grey walls, and four grey towers' is restricted and prison like whilst the repetition and lack of colour emphasises the monotonous tone of her existence. This drastically contrasts to the vibrancy of the outside world.

  2. 'The Lotus Eaters' by Tennyson

    Everything on the Island is the same and each day rolls in to each other and the same things happen.

  1. "Consider the context of Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott' and analyse the presentation of ...

    The romantic era saw new concepts and developments in philosophy; one of the new concepts was existentialism. This is a major philosophical theory that emphasises individual freedom; existence and the choices one individual must take in their lives. Some aspects of the romantic movement in England are sensibility; love of

  2. A comaprison between mariana and the lady of shallot

    We know that she feels restless because it says "she left the web, she left the loom, she made three paces thro' the room, she saw the water lily bloom, she saw the helmet and the plume, she look'd down to Camelot.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work