Study Guide

The Defence of Guenevere Appearances

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Guenevere's physical appearance is emphasized throughout the poem, both by the narrator and by Guenevere herself.  She uses her beauty as a point in her own defense: how can anyone so beautiful be guilty?  Then again, her beauty could also be used as a point against her, since she admits that her own beauty drove her "half mad" in the garden with Launcelot. 

Questions About Appearances

  1. How does Guenevere's beauty work in her defense?
  2. How does her beauty work against her?
  3. The poem is filled with vivid descriptions of the way things appear to the senses.  Are things ever as they appear in this poem?
  4. How has Guenevere's beauty seemed to affect other characters in the poem (the narrator, Sir Gauwaine, Mellyagraunce, Launcelot)?

Chew on This

Guenevere's beauty is a double-edged sword: it both excites sympathy in her listeners and incites the jealousy that leads to the accusation against her.

Guenevere's beauty has a surreal quality to it that can drive people mad – including Guenevere herself.

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