In the Lady of Shallot, the poet, Tennyson, uses many poetic devices. These create different effects and trigger different feelings and emotions. In the Lady of Shallot, Tennyson uses subtle effects that build up in the readers mind, and eventually create a strong understanding and opinion. In this essay I will be finding out how he uses language, structure, style, rhyme and rhythm to do this. I will include quotes from the poem. The language Tennyson uses greatly effects the poem. He uses words that are possibly not so frequently used in today’s language.
This is because it was written a long time ago, in 1842. It is probably not an effect he used intentionally, but his choice of vocabulary has made the poem more interesting because it means the reader has to think more about what is meant, and this creates more tension. Another clever tool he uses is not saying things clearly, instead he implies things more than once so the reader can make the poem there own and have their own opinions. He uses this in the poem, when talking about the curse that is upon the Lady of Shallot. One example is, ‘The mirror crack’d from side to side’.
This makes the reader realise there is something unusual and mysterious about the life of the Lady of Shallot. The reader may start to wonder what is happening, and by this point in the poem they have probably realised that the Lady of Shallot is cursed. It continues adding to an already mysterious atmosphere and subtly reminds the reader that she is cursed therefore continuing the theme and building the picture in the readers mind. The quote makes the reader wonder if she knew she was under a curse and if so, whether she knew what the curse was.
It makes the person reading think about what is previously written in the poem because they have just learnt that the Lady of Shallot is leaving her room, therefore activating her curse, after seeing Sir Lancelot pass by her tower. This makes the reader believe that the Lady of Shallot is going out to see Lancelot. The reader realises that she really wants to talk to him and is willing to risk her life to do so. This is the only time she has shown an interest in the outside world and this rebellion seems to be out of character. Tennyson gives no explanation for this, he just makes it seem like she accepts her fate.
Tennyson probably does this so again, the reader can make there own judgement and have their own outlook on the poem. The quote contains very strong imagery. The reader can almost hear the ringing of the glass as the mirror shatters and splinters. This makes the reader feel like they are present at the scene and makes the poem seem spookier, as popular superstition says that if a mirror cracks then it is bad luck. Tennyson uses other effects in the Lady of Shallot. For example in this quote, ‘Heard a carol, mournful, holy, Chanted loudly, chanted slowly’, he uses both onomatopoeia and assonance.
The word ‘chanted’ is the example of onomatopoeia because it is a word similar to a sound. Tennyson uses this as it creates imagery again making the reader feel like they are present at the scene. Also the word chanted sounds quite sad and holy because it is often linked to praying or medieval singing in churches. The sad atmosphere that is created means the reader prepares for something bad such as dead or disaster. By repeating the word the reader pays more attention because they realise that it must be important if it is said twice.
Also assonance is used; this is the ‘ou’ sound in the words ‘mournful’, ‘loudly’ and ‘slowly’. It is said in quite a deep tone and is a long sound, both of these mean that again a sad atmosphere is created. The religious atmosphere is added to by the words carol and holy. You automatically think of religion and worship when you hear the word carol and the reader will probably realise that it is Christianity because in Victorian Britain (the era in which the Lady of Shallot was written), the UK was very much a Christian country.
Tennyson uses the word mournful to give a clear hint that the Lady of Shallot is going to die. It is a very important word in the poem because without it the meaning may not be as clear. Even though he uses the word when talking about the song she was singing the reader will associate the word with death. This makes you think that she knew she was dying however if he had not used this word this effect may not be so. When thinking about whether Tennyson chose this word especially the reader may also wonder whether the Lady of Shallot meant to be mournful or whether it was just a coincidence.