Tennyson's Poems

Forms of Enclosure in Tennyson's "Ulysses", "The Lady of Shalott" and "The Palace of Art" College

Enclosure or entrapment is a prominent recurring mode throughout the poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. This essay largely focuses in the implementation and development of enclosure in The Lady of Shalott and then explores the relationships and diversity that is shared within other uses of forms of enclosure in the poems of Ulysses and The Palace of Art, drawing on critical readings that chart the development of this technique through Tennyson’s career. It addresses the tacit nature with which all of the subjects in these poems accept their situation and the fragmentations of self that either lead to entrapment or their eventual liberation.

In The Lady of Shalott the eponymous heroine is confined to a tower on a river-island, cursed to remain and weave beautiful images she gleans from a mirror. The entrapment in this poem is very literal and physical, as the Lady cannot leave her tower room due to some authoritative, albeit unexplained, mystical force; the Lady, however, appears content to continue her work: ‘But in her web she still delights / To weave her mirror’s magic sights.’

Despite her happiness in her task, the poem is clear in stating that the sights are those of the mirror and not of the Lady, who actually has no personal...

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