The Lady of Shalott Historical Context

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The character Tennyson calls the Lady of Shalott is based on Elaine of Astolat, one of the figures from the legend of King Arthur. Traditionally, she was identified only as "demoiselle d'escalot," the fair maid of Astolat. It was Sir Thomas Malory who gave her the name "Elaine" in his 1485 book Le Morte d'Arthur. Tennyson wrote about her as Elaine, the Lilly Maid of Astolat, in The Idylls of the King published in 1885, but in his poem, "The Lady of Shalott" he has taken liberties, leaving her without a name and changing "Astolat" to the archaic "Shalott." In both versions, the character dies of unrequited love for Sir Lancelot and floats down the river in a barge, to be wondered about by the common people who are going about their daily concerns.

The legends of King Arthur and his knights are mythical, although many researchers have...

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This section contains 1,058 words
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Poetry for Students
The Lady of Shalott from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.