"The Lady of Shalot" Notes
The Lady must never look directly out
of her window (She does not know this.) She weaves a tapestry with designs
she gets by viewing the surrounding world by looking into a mirror.
Cursed to spend her life away from humanity, she weaves the images she
sees in her mirror all day long. She is tempted by the shadows from the
window, of frequent passerbys.
The lady is far removed from reality.
If the outside world is reality, she sees a shadow of it in a mirror &
makes a shadow of a shadow in the tapestry. She is a state somewhat like
the inhabitants of Plato's cave, who think the shadows they see on the
wall are reality and only gradually understand that reality lies outside
the cave. They symbolize us, as does the Lady. She is safe
as long as she lives outside of reality. But when she becomes aware
of Sir Lancelot, the mirror cracks; she falls under a spell and finally
dies. Becoming aware of Lancelot is in part becoming aware of herself
and of her emotions, especially those of love and sexuality. Thus
she is cursed by growing up and losing her innocence. She can't have
Lancelot because he already loves Guinevere, and he's never even aware
that she exists until the end, when he sees her dead.