Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Appearances

By Edmund Spenser

Appearances

Appearances are tricky in The Faerie Queene. There are a bunch of artificial objects (and even artificial people, like the False Florimell) floating around. This shows us that becoming overly attached to what you see, instead of what you know or believe, can often lead down a path that is no kind of good.

But just to keep us on our toes, Spenser throws in some instances where appearances aren't deceiving. The magic mirror of Merlin, for example, that shows Britomart the face of her destined love, Arthegall. Appearances are tricky in this book… because they aren't always tricky.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Other than the episode of the mirror of Merlin, can you think of other examples of moments that connect romance and appearances? Are these moments generally good or generally bad?
  2. Do appearances seem to be a problem more associated with women, with men, or are they equally between both?
  3. Make a list of all the places in the poem where appearances seem to be a particularly important issue. What do these places have in common, if anything?

Chew on This

In Spenser, you pretty much are what you look like. Appearances are only deceptive if you don't know how to judge them properly.

Appearances are such a changing and unstable aspect of The Faerie Queene that there's really no way to offer a unified account of them in the poem as a whole.

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