July 23

The Lady of Shalott

‘The Lady of Shalott’ is a ballad, or story poem, written by English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892). It is loosely based on the legend of Elaine of Astolat, from Thomas Malory’s ‘Morte d’Arthur’ (‘The Death of King Arthur’). In the legend, Elaine fell in love with Sir Lancelot, and when her love was not returned, she dies. The poem combines romance, beauty, despair and tragedy all bound up together, as the lady, living under a curse, dies alone in the boat. It’s beautifully written, and its lilting rhythm reminds us of the river itself.

Read more about Elaine’s story and the meaning of the poem in the following sources: Sparknotes, Shmoop (make sure you look under all the tabs at the top of the page), and Wikipedia.


‘The Lady of Shalott’ by John William Waterhouse, 1888 Tate Gallery, London.

Here is a copy of the poem, with notes in the lefthand column.

In celebration of the bicentenary of Tennyson’s birth, WAG Screen made a short filmed dramatisation of his poem, ‘The Lady of Shalott’. Inspiration for the visual imagery came from the Pre-Raphaelite paintings which the poem inspired, especially those of John William Waterhouse.

Artwork inspired by the poem.


Here is another reading of the poem with the text displayed on the screen:

A short lecture by John Stacy about the meaning of the poem:

It’s worth listening to more than one reading of the poem to help you decide how you will recite your verse.

Canadian singer, Loreena McKennitt, sings one of the most beautiful songs based on Tennyson’s poem. It may help you understand the meaning of the poem. The lyrics are here. It’s set to pre-Raphaelite paintings inspired by the poem.

Teaching resources for The Lady of Shalott:
Muchadoaboutenglish – resources by Garry Collins, President ETAQ
Teachit.co.uk resource sheets
Collaborative English
Cummings study guide
Web English teacher resource sheets

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