Questions for "The Defence of Guenevere":
- What situation is captured in the opening scene? What details
about Guenevere's appearance does the poem present? What seem to be
- What seems to be Guenevere's attitude towards the "great
lords"? What seems her purpose in telling her audience of a death-bed
illness and the choosing cloths?
- What seems to be meant by the allegory of the cloths?
- What effect is served by the poem's stanza form and rhymes, especially the use of terza rima (rhymes triplets)? The use of enjambment?
- What are some features of Guenevere's speech and behavior?
Are some of these unexpected, and if so, how are these to be explained?
Do you think she is using the most persuasive means to convince her
immediate audience of her innocence?
- If not, why do you think her speech is constructed as it is?
- How does the fact that Guenevere is on trial for her life affect our judgment of her testimony? Does it lend it more or less credibility?
- How do we know what the narrator's attitude toward her is? Is her speech a dramatic monologue?
- What details does she record of her relationship with Launcelot?
What imagery is associated with the memory of his presence?
- What claims does Guenevere make about her marriage? Her
past behavior? What defense does she give for the morality of her
love for Launcelot?
- What is suggested by the metaphor of slipping down a path
to the sea? (ll. 93-103) What is the purpose of the sudden jump to
describing her garden tryst with Launcelot?
- What are some elements of her meeting with Launcelot in
the garden? What seems to be her relation to her own body and to nature?
- What may be her implied answer to the question, "After
that day why is it Guenevere grieves?"
- What argument for her innocence does she make to her accuser
Gauwaine? What personal appeal does she make to his own memories?
- What account does she give of the events which preceded
the capture of Launcelot in her bedchamber? What explanation does
she give for omitting certain facts? What events have allegedly "proved"
Mellyagraunce to have falsely accused her in the past?
- What does the fight with Mellyagraunce reveal about Launcelot's
- What further defense does she make of her cause in ll.
223ff.? Why would she appeal to her beauty as a sign of innocence?
- According to her account, what was the nature of their
relationship and last meeting? What is the significance of the sudden
break in her account, "By God! I will not tell you more to-day"?
- In the poem's logic, why may she be unable to remember
"just that which would save me"? What is the meaning of her reiterated
statement that "Whatever may have happen'd these long years," Gauwaine's
accusations are a lie? Is her definition of innocence a simple one?
- How does the poem end? Do you find this a satisfactory
solution for the issues raised?
- What are repeated patterns of imagery throughout the poem?
How do they affect its meaning?
- In the Morte d' Arthur, Malory makes contradictory claims about the sexual nature of Launcelot and Guenevere's relationship; at one point he says their love was courtly but not sexual, but at other points he describes their lovemaking. How would the view that Morris had accepted one or the other of these versions affect one's interpretation of Guenevere's claims, or is this irrelevant?
- What seems to be the narrator's attitude toward the issue of Guenevere's innocence? Is this innocence argued on moral or literal grounds?
- Would Morris's audience have likely agreed with a defense of the queen's innocence?
- How successful do you think Morris was at creating the inner consciousness of a woman? Was he intending to do this, or may he also have intended to present her from the outside?
- What seems the poem's final claims about the importance
of romantic love? Does the poem have any relevance to social debates
of its time?
Copyright © 2010 Florence S Boos, The
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Page updated: October 15, 2012 20:56