Mental Disruption

            In “The Lady of Shalott,” we have a hermit who is terrified of leaving her loom because some person said she would be cursed if she ever left. Although she has no idea what the curse is, it has scared her enough to never leave. So here she is, day after day, weaving fabric for a curse that is possibly false. The Lady states, “I am half sick of shadows” (71). She here explains that she is half sick of weaving and watching people walk by. They get to enjoy their lives, while she is forced to make fabric every day. The other half of her is terrified that the curse will come true if she leaves. Therefore, she is torn on which act to follow. Then, alas, one day she hears the lovely song of dashing Lancelot (he sure does cause a lot of problems in English literature). She is instantly mesmerized by his song and is basically hypnotized to walk to the mirror. In this act, the Lady leaves her responsibility for curiosity the possibility of love. Once she gets up from the loom, it is clear that she becomes consumed not only with Lancelot, but also with herself. The repetition of “she” (“she left…she made…she saw…she looked”)(109-113) explains that she no longer cares for her responsibilities because she has become consumed with her own desires. When this happens, the mirror cracks. This is when the Lady realizes she is in BIG trouble. At this point, she assumes the curse has begun. So, she thinks that she might as well go find Lancelot because the curse is coming for her anyway. This increases her curiosity as to what lies outside of the castle. It is clear from the Lady’s repetition of “Camelot” that is in wonder of this city. Therefore, she decided to visit it, as she assumes the curse is coming for her. She then floats down the river to Camelot and dies for a love that she will never get to experience. But hey, at least Lancelot thinks she is pretty and says a prayer for her!

            Switching to Robert Browing, I must say that “Porphyria’s Lover” and “My Last Duchess” are my favorite poems for this week. Apparently I am feeling a little dark this week. During the Victorian era, women were supposed to be subordinate to men. This idea was conflicting with the truth that a woman reined over the country. These two poems exemplify the power struggle between men and women during he Victorian period. Both of these men obviously have some severe mental issues. Their significant other brings these issues forward. Both of the women in the poems are strong females, who the men think to be dominant in the relationship. In “Porphyria’s Lover,” the man becomes angry when she puts his head on her lap. She professes her love for him, and he replies with, “too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor, to set its struggling passion free” (22-23). He is angry that she asserted dominance, so he professes that she is weak. We also see a male dominance struggle in “My Last Duchess.” The Duke states, “She thanked men-good! But thanked somehow-I know not how- as if she thanked my gift of nine-hundred-year-old name with anybody’s gift” (31-34). The Duke presumes that she is promiscuous for being friendly to people. After all, she is only supposed to be friendly with him, or so he thinks. The two men in the poems believe that their women have the power, and this obviously cannot do! Women during this period were supposed to be subordinate to men (even though a woman was reigning). In order to regain that power, the men kill the women. This immediately makes the men more dominate, which ultimately rights the females’ injustices.

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3 thoughts on “Mental Disruption

  1. I loved your description of the Lady as a hermit. Since we receive no other information about the curse, I felt this was something of her own doing. Maybe she has anxieties or fears about life, and she locked herself up in the tower, refusing to leave, trying to justify her self-imprisonment with a tale of a curse, it says she “heard a whisper say,” (2027) possibly her own? So the curse isn’t really what she’s afraid of, she is scared of the real world, and she’ll only look at it through a mirror and her loom. You say she’s consumed with Lancelot and I agree, by his description I think we could also argue that he’s on a pedestal as well. His shield “sparkled,” his bridle “glittered” likes stars, his helmet and feather “burned like one burning flame together,” and he sang like a bird. It’s a pretty magnanimous description of a man by the narrator, and the Lady only catches a glimpse him as he rides past, but it’s enough to rock her world.

    I feel we can also compare the Lady to Laura in “Goblin Market,” and how succumbing to their desires is their ultimate undoing. But did Tennyson and Rossetti have the same messages about gender roles?

  2. Consumed with her own desires…interesting read. And I love how you state “she assumes the curse has begun”. It is interesting how each of us stands in our own ways of living a happy life, due to our fear. Do you think it is possible that the Lady simply did not leave her safe and, for a better use of the word, comfortable tower because she did not know what was to come? I mean if I was told I could not leave or else a curse would come, I would be a little hesitant to leave the tower as well. Is this a commentary on how we live our lives? Or a warning on what is to come if we do not start to live our lives? Or none of the above? Interesting….very interesting, so much can be analyzed from such few words.

  3. This was a great post. I laughed a lot at your thoughts of the Lady. And that Lance causes a lot of problems in English Lit. Good men were hard to come by, so it’s only fitting that the best night of Camalot is also the downfall for so many women. I think your right though, this curse might be self inflicted. But as you say, she dies before she gets there but at least Lance liked her. So close yet so far. I can see her spirit floating nearby saying SERIOUSLY!!!??? lol

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