Mirror Mirror

“She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
       The Lady of Shalott.”
The Lady of Shalott, by Alfred Tennyson is filled with themes of isolation, art, love, and the supernatural. The lady of shalott is stuck in isolation from the outside world but is left with her creative genius to weave/knit creating a “webbed” piece of art reflecting the world around her. The lady of shalott can only observe the outside world through the reflection of a mirror. The unspoken curse that inevitably causes her death is connected to the Lady’s weaving and her observations. The origin of the curse is unknown to the readers, contributing to the supernatural theme. Sir Lancelot, a knight, is reflected in her mirror and The Lady of Shalott impulsively looks out her window driven by his beauty and maybe even a lust for love. Unable to pursue something that she wants, it is easy to understand why she was overwhelmed at the sight of the knight and disobeyed her curse. Looking out her window to Camelot broke the curse, the mirror broke, and her tapestry came undone, foreshadowing her fate. Realizing her own fate and craving a connection to the world, she leaves her tower and travels to Camelot by boat. Although the curse keeps her protected and safe, it leaves her isolated and confined. Unfortunately she does not reach Camelot before the curse takes her life, her body is found floating in the boat with a parchment on her reading, “The Lady of Shalott”. I interpreted this poem as an examination on the limitations imposed on women in the Victorian society. Women weren’t to do much except kind of be present, when necessary, and be pretty. The isolation parallels the limited roles placed on women where they were often confined to domestic spaces and restricted from participating fully in public life. The curse symbolizes how the societal restrictions dictated womens behavior and interactions. The curse restricts the Lady’s agency and symbolizes the limitations placed on Victorian women’s freedom and self expression.

One thought on “Mirror Mirror”

  1. I really liked your interpretation on how to this poem would have connected to the Victorian era. I agree that it is connected to how little rights women have at the time. I also think by looking out toward men as well she is being punished by acting toward lust because women were not meant to explore their sexuality. This reminds me of the “Goblin Market” because she is being told not to look toward this man she thinks is beautiful similarly to how the sisters were not supposed to accept fruit from the goblins. This type of writing seems to scare women away from their sexual desires and keep them more confined. The New Women was an idea of the Victorian society that was feared and these types of writing could have been made to help maintain power to the men.

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