21 pages 42 minutes read

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Lady Of Shalott

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1842

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Cultural Context

Tennyson was perhaps one of the most prominent Victorian poets, and “The Lady of Shalott,” especially the revised 1842 version, reflects the Victorian preoccupation with feminine innocence and sexual suppression. In the Victorian era, men and women were culturally and physically divided in public and private spaces, and this division drives the central themes and imagery of the poem. Tennyson’s revised version includes an ending that replaces her suicide note with a simple acknowledgement from Lancelot, since suicide was particularly taboo at the height of the Victorian era. Victorian trends are also reflected in the poem’s subject matter and source material. Victorians admired chivalry and praised the concepts of chastity and virtue, and were therefore particularly interested in Arthurian legend, which saw a large resurgence during the mid-nineteenth century.

Arthurian legends, and particularly Tennyson’s early poetry, were major inspirations for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters and artists founded in 1848. Brotherhood members William Holman Hunt and John William Waterhouse both famously painted the Lady of Shalott as she appears in different moments in Tennyson’s narrative.