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Rossetti, Hunt and the Lady of Shalott: A Project

  • Look at the two illustrations of Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott: Make a list of similarities between the two images in terms of imagery and technique.
  • Read the poem ‘The Lady of Shalott.’ Find lines from the poem that might have inspired these pictures.
  • What do you know about Camelot? Make a list of the kind of people, homes, places, activities you associate with the word Camelot?
  • In a fairy tale world, what do knights/men do? What do damsels/women do?.
  • Listen to the poem being read aloud. As it is being read, make a note of what fairy tale ingredients you can spot.
  • Underline the words that would not be used nowadays in conversation. Tennyson probably didn’t use these words either. Why do you think he includes them in his poem?
  • Re-read each part and give it a draft chapter title.
  • Part I. Look at rhyming words and alliteration and see how they relate to the chapter title you chose for the part.
  • Part II. By the end of part II, write down the words that have described the Lady of Shalott? Do you know what she looks like? Jot down what you now know of the world of Camelot?
  • Part III. Underline the words to do with light and fire. What are they describing? In the last verse, what happens and why?
  • Part IV. Underline the rhymes in the first verse. What is their effect? Compare this with the first verse of the poem. Compare the description of the Lady of Shalott with that of Lancelot.
  • The poem was published in 1832 and Tennyson made changes when he published it again in 1842. Mark the differences in ll 6-9 and the last lines. Why do you think he made these changes?
    a) Write the story of the poem in about 300 words. Describe the setting, the people of Camelot, the Lady of Shalott and Lancelot. Or
    b) Use your notes in 4. to write about how Tennyson uses language in the poem.
    c) How could you bring the story up to date?

A Little Bit Extra

  • The Lady of Shalott inspired a great many artists in the 19th century. See if you can find images of the pictures that John Waterhouse painted. Find out about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
  • John Ruskin summed up what many Victorians thought was proper behaviour for men and women in Sesame and Lilies (Of Queen’s Gardens)
  • The Faerie Queene was a very famous poem of the 16th century. This happens at one point: ‘The wondrous myrrhour, by which she in love with him did fall. Eftsoones there was presented to her eyes A comely knight, all arm’d.’ She then languishes’Till death make one end of my dayes and miserie.’ Can you tell what this says? What does Tennyson use?
  • The lady of Shalott was published in 1832 when Tennyson was only 23. He had recently left university having had a very isolated childhood and youth.What do you know about Camelot? What kind of people, homes, places, activities do you associate with that word? In a fairy tale world, what do men do and what do women do?
  • Tennyson said that he got the story of the Lady of Shalott from a 14th century Italian fable called Donna di Scalotta. Say the words ‘Shalott’ and ‘Scalotta’ What’s the difference in sound? What would you expect from the poem with this sound in the title? (Tennyson said that he added the ‘web, mirror, and island’ to the story.
  • Write the story of the poem.

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Last updated: 8 March 2011

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