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What similarities and differences are there between the way women are represented in La Belle Dame sans Merci and The Lady of Shallot?

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Introduction

Jonathan Green March 2002 What similarities and differences are there between the way women are represented in La Belle Dame sans Merci and The Lady of Shallot? Both of these poems are about mysterious, yet very interesting and beautiful women, 'Full beautiful- a faery's child', this is the opening description of La Belle Dame, in The Lady of Shalott it describes her as a fairy, 'Tis the fairy'. There are many similarities between the two poems: Both of the poems are set in a medieval world with knights and other symbols of the old historical period, 'To many- tower'd Camelot', 'Four gray walls, four gray towers'. The Lady of Shalott is based in a tower overlooking the medieval town of Camelot. In La Belle Dame the poem involves a sad knight who is taken to a cave by the woman, 'O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms'. Both of these poems have been inspired by something that had happened the writer for them to write it. ...read more.

Middle

'As he rode down to Camelot. From the bank and from the river He flash'd into the crystal mirror'. The word, 'flash'd' is significant here because it really showed that he was special to her. Both of these romantic relationships end disastrously, in The Lady of Shallot, she breaks the curse, which makes everything fly out of the window, and she dies in the end in the little boat. 'Out flew the web and floated wide; the mirror cracked from side to side.' The curse took effect, after this she died, 'Singing her song she died'. In La Belle Dame, the knight feels as though he has been cursed by her and he dreams of princes and warriors, all pale as death. They shouted a terrible warning- they were the woman's slaves. And now he was her slave too. 'They cried- 'La Belle Dame sans Merci'' There are a few differences between the women though: Both of the women link to destroying, La Belle Dame destroys the knight but the Lady of Shalott is destroyed by the curse because she liked the knight. ...read more.

Conclusion

The feelings of the Lady of Shalott her centred entirely around her as she is alone, while La Belle Dame's feelings are centered around the knight. La Belle Dame takes the initiative while the Lady of Shalott cannot help herself from looking out of the window and bringing on the curse, 'She saw the helmet and the plume'. From the poems there are some conclusions that we can draw: Both women have a lot of similarities and differences as we have seen Each of us lives partly in a world of make- believe. It shows that all good things must come to an end such as with the knight waking up from his dream. There are some explanations of life, in that telling us we are in a trap, and that eventually we will die. We know this from the experiences of John Keats, the writer of La Belle Dame, who used his own experiences in writing the poem. Life is even like a drug, which Keats had seen of experiences from, one can be on a high and then it wears off and one is on a low. ...read more.

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