The Faerie Queene: Summary and Analysis Book I


The Faerie Queene: Summary and Analysis

Summary and Analysis: Introduction and Book I, Cantos i-iv

Book I: “The Legende of the Knight of the Red Crosse, or Of Holinesse”
New Characters
Abessa: The pious, prayerful mother of Corecca, who does not mind her dating a thief.
Archimago: A magician who disguises himself as an old man.
Corecca: The deaf and dumb daughter of Abessa, who is dating Kirkapine the thief.
Dwarf: The carrier of belongings, a lackey for the Lady and the Knight.

Error: A vile monster with a long, poisonous tail and many offspring.
Fidessa/Duessa: An ancient and ugly sorceress (Duessa) disguised as a beautiful young maiden (Fidessa).
Fradubio: Once a man, now bewitched into a tree.
Fraelissa: Fradubio’s Lady, also bewitched by Duessa into a tree.
Gloriana: The Queen of Faerie Land and an allegorical representation of Queen Elizabeth.
Kirkapine: Corecca’s lover, who steals money and jewels from priests and churches.
Knight of the Red Cross: The hero, a good and true Elfin Knight who fights for honor and is in the service of the Faerie Queen and Una.
Lucifera: The daughter of gods and creator of her own kingdom, which she rules by her own whims and a strong police force.
Morpheus: The god of sleep.
Queen Elizabeth: Queen of England in the sixteenth century and the person to whom the Faerie Queen is dedicated.
Sans joy: The youngest brother of Sans loy and Sans foy, a Paynim Knight and a Sarazin.
Sans loy: The middle brother of Sans foy and Sans joy, a Paynim Knight and a Sarazin.
Sir Walter Raleigh: A contemporary and friend of Spencer’s.
Spencer: The author of Faerie Queen.
Sprites: Spirits, some of whom do the bidding of the Archimago.
Sans foy, or the Sarazin: The eldest of three brothers, protector to Fidessa.
The Faerie Queene: Summary and Analysis 6
The Lady Una: A beautiful royal woman whose land and fortunes have been destroyed by a dreadful fiend, and who has pressed the Knight into service to remedy the disaster.
Summary
The Faerie Queen is Edmund Spencer’s unfinished epic poem about Knights, chivalry and England that opens with a dedication to Queen Elizabeth, the English ruler at the time of his writing. In an introductory letter intended to avoid confusion about the subject matter and clarify references within the poem, Spencer explains to his friend Sir Walter Raleigh that the poem is intended to be an allegory and alludes to many contemporary people and the state of England at the time of his writing. Spencer tells Raleigh that he wrote the poem like an adventure story to make it easy to read, but that it is really intended to instruct men on how to become virtuous. The Faerie Queen is based on the legendary figure of King Arthur while he was still young and not yet a king. Spencer clarifies that the setting of the book, Faerie Land, is meant to symbolize England under Queen Elizabeth’s rule. The characters of Gloriana, Belphoebe, and Diana are allegorical representations of Queen Elizabeth.
Spencer then uses the letter to tell the story prior to Book I’s beginning. A gangly young fellow presented himself at the Court of Queen Gloriana and asked to be a Knight on the same day that a beautiful young Lady, Una, came to ask Gloriana to send aid to her kingdom where a dragon was terrorizing her people and her parents. Una had brought armor with her for a Knight to wear. The young man begged for the role, but both Gloriana and Una expressed reservations. However, Una declared that if the Christian armor she had brought fit the young man, then he could be the Knight. The armor fit, and so Una and the Knight set off to save her kingdom. Spencer describes two more incidents in which someone petitioned for aid and a Knight stepped forward from the Court, and then begs Raleigh to remain his friend and read the poem.
The Faerie Queen is broken up into six finished Books and one unfinished Book, Book VII. Each finished Book tells the story of a Knight trying to complete an adventurous quest and is broken down into twelve Cantos, or sections, composed of stanzas. Many of the Cantos in each Book include brief musings by the author on the broader, philosophical aspects of the work. Book I opens with one such passage, in which the author reveals his wish to tell stories of praise about Knights and Ladies, stories he believes have been neglected for far too long. However, Spencer believes that he needs the help of the gods and pleads with them to aid his writing, thoughts and style.
Canto i: The story opens with a gentle Knight riding across a plain in his battered but mighty armor. Across the Knight’s breast and shield is a red cross, which symbolizes the (now dead) Lord to whom the Knight had dedicated his life. The Knight is on an adventure given to him by Gloriana, the Queen of Faerie Land, in order to win her favor.
Beside the Knight rides the fair Lady Una on a white ass. She is beautiful, but is in a state of distress. The Knight’s mission is to destroy the fiend who laid waste to the kingdom that is the Lady Una’s by right and heritage. A dwarf follows far behind the Knight and the Lady, carrying the gear.
As they ride, a storm descends upon them. Worried for the Lady Una, the Redcross Knight looks for shelter. He guides them to a forest where the branches are so broad and high that all of the sky is blocked out, and it is perfectly dry. They pass through the wood, listening to the birds, but when the storm ends and they try to find their way out they cannot. They follow a well-marked path, assuming it must lead to something, and eventually reach a clearing. In the clearing, the Knight dismounts and approaches a cave, but the Lady issues a warning about such rash behavior. Una declares that they are in the wandering wood and that there is a vile monster nearby, and that they should flee rather than confront it. However, the Knight yearns to prove himself in battle, and so he goes directly into the dark hole before them. His armor lights his way, and before him he sees the terrible monster Error with an enormous tail tipped with poison. A thousand monstrous infants suckle at her body, but when the Knight enters, they crawl into the monster’s mouth. The terrible monster Error rushes out of the cave, but is terrified by the light and tries to retreat. The Knight, however, uses his spear to keep her from re-entering the cave and begins the fight.
Error’s first maneuver, however, is to wrap him in her tail so that he can move no limb, and the monster then begins to strangle him. The Lady Una cries out that he must strangle the monster, and with that the Knight manages to grab the monster so tightly she loosens her grip.
However, Error then begins to spew poison from her mouth and the Knight has to let go. Following the poison, her spawn begin to come out of her mouth along with a wretched smell. The Knight’s courage begins to fail as the deformed baby monsters crawl all around him.
However, the Knight is more afraid of exhibiting shame than of the actual danger, and so he makes a terrible stroke with his sword and cuts off the monster Error’s head. The infants gather about the mother and suck up her blood.
After vanquishing the monster, the Knight and Lady travel in search of more adventure. Eventually, they meet an old man dressed all in black, with a rosary and black-bound book. His scholarly, priestly appearance encourages them to trust him, and they listen while the old man tells of a strange man, a cursed creature, who lays waste to the all the country. He then promises to take him to the very spot where this creature lives. The Knight and Lady follow the old man to his home to stay the night, and they fall asleep.
The old man immediately begins to weave evil spells. He sends a sprite, or spirit, to Morpheus, the god of sleep, who is sound asleep. The sprite wakes him after great effort and conveys a message from his Archimago, or arch-magician, the old man. The Archimago asks for a false dream to confuse sleepers, which Morpheus agrees to. Meanwhile, the Archimago has created another sprite in the image of the Lady. The Knight then dreams that the Lady Una has come to seduce him. When he awakens, he finds the image of The Lady (the sprite) before him, and she weeps and begs him to love her as she loves him. Although he cannot imagine why she approaches him so, the Knight does not fall prey to this. Disturbed at her bizarre behavior and apparent lack of chastity, the Knight cannot sleep.
Canto ii: Later that night, the sprites return to the Archimago to confess that they have failed. The Archimago turns one of the sprites into the image of a young Squire, and the other to the image of the Lady, and puts them together to “joy in vain delight.” He then wakes the Knight and brings him to see the Lady (the sprite), ruining her honor. The Knight is too enraged and furious to fall back asleep. At dawn the Dwarf comes to him, and they leave the castle together. When the Lady Una wakes, she finds herself alone, with neither Dwarf nor Knight, and rides after them as fast as she can. The Knight is far away, however, and chances across another Knight, a Sarazin with the words “Sans foy” written on his shield. With him is a beautiful Lady dressed all in red, purple and gold, who urges battle.
The Sarazin fights well, but the Knight of the Red Cross triumphs, and the Lady flees. The Knight follows, and the Lady bids him be merciful with her gentle person. She tells the Knight how Sans foy had protected her and was the eldest of three brothers. She calls herself Fidessa, and the Knight agrees to protect her. As they ride, the hot sun beats upon them. When the Knight sees a glade of trees, he rides to it seeking shade. There he believes that Fidessa is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, and tries to weave a garland for her hair. When he plucks a bough, however, blood rolls out of the tree and a sorrowful voice yells. The tree tells him that it was once a man, Fradubio, and the other tall, beautiful tree in the glade was once a woman. Fradubio tells the Knight that a sorceress named Duessa transformed him and his Lady. This enchantment was wrought because Fradubio bested Duessa’s Knight and then held a beauty contest between his Lady, Fraelissa, and Duessa. Duessa cast a spell to make Fraelissa look as if she was truly ugly and only enchanted to look pretty (which was true of Duessa, not Fraelissa), and so won the contest. Fradubio took Duessa as his Lady. But one day he saw her in her proper form and was astonished by her hideousness and deformities. When Duessa realized what he had seen, she transformed him into a tree beside Fraelissa. The Knight plunges the tree limb into the ground and covers the wound in the tree with clay and then turns back to the fair Fidessa, who is in a false swoon. The Knight kisses her back awake and they ride off together, though he still does not know her true nature, which the author reveals as the evil and base Duessa.
Canto iii opens with a lament by the author for the wretched unfairness of beautiful, chaste women being brought to calamity and misfortune. Una’s plight brings tears to the author’s eyes as he describes her lonely, wandering state looking for the Knight. Her steadfast determination and solitude wrings the heart of the author, especially after her beauty calms a savage lion. The lion follows Una, protecting her. Una wanders the desolate country, and when she sees a woman bearing a pot of water, she tries to get her attention. The woman does not respond, but when the lion walks up next to her, she panics, drops the water jug, and runs away. Una realizes that the woman, Corecca, is deaf and dumb, and she follows her to a small hut. The inhabitants do not respond when she knocks, so the lion breaks down the door. Abessa, a pious old woman and the mother of the girl, is the only other person inside. Una stays the night there. The lion watches her while she cries and weeps for the Knight, not understanding why he has left her. In the night, a thief creeps into the house with stolen church jewels and clothing, intended for Corecca. Thinking the thief is an intruder, the lion kills him.
In the morning, the Lady and the lion leave. Corecca and Abessa soon thereafter discover the body of the thief, who was their sole means of survival. Abessa declares that they will take revenge on Una, and they chase her. Abessa howls curses at her. When Abessa realizes that her curses are useless, she returns toward her home. On the way, she runs into the Archimago disguised as the Knight of the Red Cross, and he asks her if she has seen a Lady. Abessa tells him exactly where she is, and the Archimago finds her.
Una is fooled by the Archimago’s Knightly disguise and begins to apologize for whatever she has done. The Archimago tells her that he was fighting a felon, but has now returned to her side. Una forgives him because “true love has no power / to look back; his eyes be fixed before. / Before her stands her Knight, for whom she toiled so sore.”
They ride together, and she tells him of the lion. Then they see a Knight approaching in the distance, with “Sans loy” written across his shield. Mistaking the Archimago for the Knight of the Red Cross who killed his brother, Sans loy defeats the Archimago, who falls to the ground gushing blood. Una cries out for Sans loy not to kill him, but Sans loy is not swayed by these words. However, when he removes the helmet he sees the old, gray head of the Archimago, and he recognizes what he has done.Leaving Archimago near death, Sans loy takes Una as booty. The lion tries to defend her, but is bested by Sans loy. Una begs him to let her free, but he hears nothing, as he is caught up in his beastly rage and lust.
Canto iv: Before continuing the Redcross Knight’s story, the author admonishes young men about changing their beloved Lady too quickly, as the Redcross Knight has done in abandoning Una and taking up company with Fidessa. The Redcross Knight has demonstrated fickleness in love.
The Redcross Knight and Duessa ride towards a massive, decadent house surrounded by troops of people traveling towards it. Few return in the other direction.
As they approach the City of Pride, they see a magnificent throne and an even more beautiful Queen sitting atop it. She is Lucifera, the daughter of gods, who had named herself a Queen and rules her kingdom not with laws, but with police. The court is filled with admirers and servants. Everyone recognizes Duessa and tries to flatter and impress her. But when Lucifera rises and leaves her throne, every courtier and admirer turns to worship her. Lucifera rides in a coach with her six advisors, and the coach is pulled by six animals that resemble her six advisors. The first is Idleness, who rides a slothful ass, carries an unread book of prayers, and sleeps through much of his days. The second is Gluttony, an enormously fat man clothed in vine leaves and riding a swine. The third is Lechery, who rides a bearded goat and is rough, black, and filthy but somehow appealing to women. Avarice is the fourth, who rides a camel laden with gold and coffers of money but wears threadbare clothing. Envy rides upon a ravenous wolf and nurses hatred even for Lucifera because of her wealth. Wrath rides a lion and wears bloodstained clothing. These six correspond to six of the seven deadly sins, but the seventh is Satan himself, who with a whip lashes the other six onwards. Duessa chooses to ride next to Lucifera, flaunting her status in this City of Pride. However, the Knight does not consider this company fit for a warlike man, and so he rides behind them as they take the air in the fields. As the company returns to this House in the Kingdom of Pride, an enraged Knight with ”Sans joy” written on his shield rides up and spies the Faerie Knight of the Red Cross holding the shield of Sans loy. They fight until Queen Lucifera demands that they stop and have a proper tournament the next day. The Paynim Knight apologizes profusely, telling her of his great grief and sorrow at the death of his brave brother and the shame of his brother’s Lady (Fidessa) being in the care of his brother’s killer. The enraged Elfin Knight throws down a gauntlet and promises to fight Sans joy the next day.
That evening is spent feasting and courting, and then sleeping it off, under the care of Gluttony and Sloth. When Morpheus causes the whole company to fall into deep sleep, Duessa goes to the Paynim Knight. She finds him awake and planning his battle. Duessa tells him how much she misses and loves Sans foy, enflaming the poor Knight with ever greater desire to win the battle. She lies to Sans joy, telling him that the Knight of the Red Cross had pressured her to have sex with him, and that she loathes him and her life with him. She implies that she belongs to Sans joy as an inheritance right and insists that she likes Sans joy almost as much as she liked Sans loy. Sans joy swears to take revenge for Sans foy and kill the Knight of the Red Cross, but Duessa states that she is afraid of the “fickle freaks of fortune false, and odds of arms in field” and raises doubts in the mind of Sans joy. She suggests that the Elfin Knight might carry a charmed shield or enchanted arms. Duessa then promises to subdue the Elfin Knight and protect Sans joy with her “secret aid” before leaving him to sleep.
Analysis
In order to understand the Faerie Queen, Spencer’s intent and stated purpose needs to be clear. As explained in the introductory letter to Raleigh, Spencer intended to write 12 Books that taken together would introduceNall of the virtues that any man needs in order to be happy and good. These virtues were taken from Aristotle’s injunctions about virtue. However, Spencer only completed the first six Books and parts of Book VII.
Although Books I-III were published together, they were only the first installment in Spencer’s grand plan, and were published in 1596 with the inscription, “Disposed into twelue bookes, Fashioning XII Morall virtues.” In an attempt to create a tone similar to Chaucer’s and give the stories a bit of a feel of antiquity, Spencer also affected an archaic method of spelling and vocabulary. Spencer wrote at the same time as Shakespeare, but sought to evoke and resemble Chaucer in his writing. This gives his language an unwieldy, convoluted archaism that can make it difficult to read. However, Spencer’s consistency in this endeavor allows the reader to gradually become more skilled with reading what has come to be known as Spencerian language, so the work becomes easier and easier to interpret the more one reads.
Spencer wrote primarily as a devout Protestant. He worshipped Queen Elizabeth, who reigned directly after Queen Mary—otherwise known as Mary Queen of Scots or “Bloody Mary.” Queen Mary was Elizabeth’s half-sister and a devout Catholic. During her reign, Queen Mary killed Protestants and considered them heretics. Queen Mary ruled capriciously with religion, not politics, as the most important element. When  Elizabeth took over, she inherited conflicted country with a disrupted economy and poor international credit. As ruler, Elizabeth made financial security and stable politics her first priority. In these goals, she succeeded admirably. Spencer was only one of her many admirers, but Catholics in England felt severe loss and sorrow at the disappearance of their Catholic Queen.
Spencer saw anti-Elizabeth propaganda circulated by Catholics, and also noticed the corruption and power that the Church in Rome held over its believers. Since Spencer loved and admired Queen Elizabeth, he wrote the Faerie Queen partially to honor her and partially to malign and show the evils of Catholicism. (Spencer also wanted to have Queen Elizabeth as a patron and so wrote with that in mind as well.) As explained in the introductory letter, Spencer’s poem should be read as adventure story, but should also be read allegorically. An allegory is an extended metaphor in which the fictional components of the text represent aspects of real life. Allegories often convey ideas about religion, politics and virtues. Spencer’s poem is allegorical on several levels. On one level the play conveys the history of England, in that the conquering of savage lands becomes a lawful and chivalrous goal, and Spencer’s interludes explicitly discuss the history of the land itself. The poem is also about the triumph of Protestantism over paganism and Catholicism. In this allegorical level, the Redcross Knight and Una represent different stages of belief, culminating in Protestantism. And on yet another level, Spencer was using Faerie Queen to honor Queen Elizabeth I and Protestants in general. For example, many “good” characters are Protestant, and reinforce the Protestant faith by the end of the book. Most of the “bad” characters can be linked to Catholicism or other religions that threaten Protestantism. The names of the characters often illustrate their allegorical meanings. Gloriana, the Queen of the land that is the setting of the poem, has “Gloria” in her name. Gloria can mean a “halo” and also means “glorious,” while “ana” means “grace.” The character of Gloriana also represents Queen Elizabeth in the political allegory of this work. Gloriana is beautiful, good, chaste, wise and honorable.
She protects the weak, honors the strong, and wields her power benevolently and fairly. Many characters in the poem wish to return to her Court or to meet her, because she is legendary and wonderful. Although we do not meet Gloriana, she is so central to the work that the poem is named after her; Gloriana is the Faerie Queen. This devotion to Queen Elizabeth did not go unnoticed, as Queen Elizabeth responded by naming Spencer poet laureate of England.
Throughout the Faerie Queen there are ruminative interjections by the author that interrupt the plot. These interjections usually introduce important ideas or reflections on the events in the poem. In the prologue, the discourse tells the reader what sort of book this is (an adventure) and what sort of lessons can be drawn from it (moral ones). Further, by calling upon the Muses to guide his writing, Spencer links himself to other epic traditions. The ancient poets Homer and Virgil both begin their books in the same way. However, Spencer carefully places himself within a classical context of writing. He aligns himself with Homer and Virgil in the prologue at the beginning of the first Book and throughout refers to medieval poets and playwrights, the Bible (especially the Book of Revelations), and numerous Greek and Roman myths. These allusions allow Spencer to establish himself as a knowledgeable and informed poet who is well suited to write this work.
The style of the Faerie Queen makes use of an innovative stanza and rhyme scheme that had never been used before. Spencer invented what came to be known as the “Spencerian stanza,” with each stanza comprising nine lines with a rhyme scheme of ababbcbcc. Eight lines are in iambic pentameter. An iamb is a short syllable followed by a stressed syllable, like the word “above” or the word “delay.” Each iambic pentameter consists of five iambs. The ninth line of each stanza is an alexandrine. An alexandrine means that there are 12 syllables making up 6 iambs, with a final syllable that is a caesura. A caesura marks a change in rhythm or a break in rhythm, so the final word in the final line of each Spencerian stanza breaks rhythm, although it maintains the ababbcbcc rhyme scheme.
In the poem, the words Faerie, Elf and Elfin are all used to indicate someone of the faerie race. The Faeries are better than regular humans—stronger, more virtuous and more handsome or beautiful. Thus, the Redcross Knight and Una both have many lines devoted to their praises. Furthermore, the blood-colored cross on his shield also indicates that he wears Christian armor, similar to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about donning Christian clothes. The Redcross Knight can thus be seen as the individual Christian learning about himself and his religion. The Lady Una, whose name means “truth,” represents true faith. The Redcross Knight must not only love and honor Una, but also never doubt her and be humble before her. Only when he has found and accepted true faith will he be a good Christian. In Book I, Una’s character is also meant to represent Queen Elizabeth, and as such she is good beyond compare. She loves the Redcross Knight absolutely, but remains honorable, chaste, and subject to no one. In the first Canto, the Knight and Una first wander into the Forest of Error, meet the Monster of Error and then meet a master of deception, the Archimago. The Archimago can appeal to gods and work with sprites (spirits) to deceive, and he will be the enemy of not only the Knight of the Red Cross, but also of the Knights in other Books. The name Archimago means “arch-image” or “arch-magician,” and it is worth noting that one criticism of Catholics by Protestants is that they are idolaters because they worship images.
 The black clothes and rosary the Archimago carries further links him to Catholicism. Canto ii brings about the separation of Una and the Knight of the Red Cross, and it should be noted that the Knight abandons Una because he doubts her chastity. Una’s name also means “the one;” the Knight is making a terrible mistake not only because he has been deceived by the Archimago, but also because he has doubted the honor of someone so good. The Knight then compounds his error by trusting Duessa/Fidessa, who is actually an evil sorceress and also a master of deception. By the end of Canto II, although he has been warned by Fradubio about trusting the appearances of beautiful women, the Redcross Knight is still with Duessa/Fidessa. It is key that the Redcross Knight is only susceptible to falsehood (in the form of the Archimago’s lies and then Duessa’s deception) when he has been separated from Una, or the truth.
Canto iii introduces another of the Archimago’s fraudulent acts wherein, for the first time, the Lady Una is deceived. She believes the Archimago is the Redcross Knight, and her false belief leads to immediate danger. The Archimago’s loss in battle means that Una is the booty of the Sarazin, who has no respect for her honor. However, the implication of this Canto is not that Una herself is in error, but rather that her true love blinds her to the Archimago’s deception. Even when in error, Una’s steadfast nature shows through. Her goodness is never in question. The Redcross Knight, on the other hand, is clearly blamed for being taken in by Fidessa. He is in the wrong. The Redcross Knight’s error is not just being deceived by appearances; Spencer is far more intolerant of Redcross’ fickleness. By turning his back on Una and taking up with Fidessa, the Redcross Knight shows inconstancy, and that seems to be his true error throughout this Book. He fails to listen to Una in the forest of Error, showing a lack of trust that is tapped by the Archimago. In his heart, the Redcross Knight was not steadfast in his affections toward Una. Since Una represents true faith, the Redcross Knight, as a Christian, has betrayed the most important values a Protestant can have. Further, Duessa appears arrayed in purple and gold robes, which suggests both the Whore of Babylon and the pomp of the Roman Catholic Church. Duessa’s company clearly influences the Knight negatively. Una discourages the Knight from vain battles, like the unnecessary fight with the monster Error. When accompanying Duessa, the Redcross Knight allows himself to be drawn into the vain and prideful battle with Sans joy. This battle is not to redress a wrong or to help anyone. Rather, this battle is over Sans joy’s ruined pride in seeing his brother’s shield as booty, and the Redcross Knight’s proud attitude in refusing to return the shield. The battle does neither of them any good and represents the Redcross Knight’s inability to see the true way. He lets himself be teased into battle through his own pride. When he flees the House of Pride, he does it shamefully because he knows how close he has come to falling into that sin. The Redcross Knight does not seem to realize that he also errs in taking himself too seriously, which is also a form of pride.
 If he was less concerned with appearances and booty, he would have recognized that the fight had no point but solemnity and dignity for the participants. Book I is subtitled “Of Holinesse,” and the explicit discussion of religion begins with the introduction of the Sarazins. “Sans loy” means “without law” and “Sans foy” means “without faith.” “Sarazin” is a French word for a Muslim or an Arab (the English version is spelled ”Saracen”). These brothers, then, demonstrate the weak, hedonistic natures of Muslims in Spencer’s work. One tries to ravish Una, symbol of all that is good and pure, and the other falls for Fidessa’s lies and hot-headedly challenges the Redcross Knight to fight. The lion that protects Una also falls into place when one knows about Spencer’s allegorical intent. The lion is king of the jungle and hence part of the natural law. Even his fierce nature, however, cannot withstand truth and faith. Thus, the lion supports and furthers Una’s importance in the Book as a figure of right and virtue. Even nature bows before faith. Yet this obviously does not hold with weak or wrong faith, as Abessa, Corecca, and Kirkapine demonstrate. Abessa’s name recalls “abbess,” or the head of an abbey. She also has a rosary and prays in the manner of a Christian. Since she is blind and her daughter is deaf and dumb, they represent the failings and self-centered isolation of the Catholic Church. Kirkapine, or church robber, brings them the donations left for the poor as well as objects of wealth from the Church. During Spencer’s time, many people accused Catholic monasteries of keeping the donations given for the poor, and so Spencer brings to light another aspect of hypocrisy in Catholicism. The lion easily kills Kirkapine but does not bother with Corecca or Abessa. Their faith is weak, and natural law easily defeats them and renders them poor. However, because Sans loy is “without law,” the lion cannot defeat Sans loy and Una is taken captive.
Meanwhile, the Redcross Knight explores the House of Pride. Its leader, Queen Lucifera, obviously links to Lucifer, the angel who was thrown out of heaven for his sin of pride and created his own empire. Furthermore, Queen Lucifera rules unjustly and without natural rights to rule. She is, therefore, the antithesis of Gloriana, Una, and, by extension, Queen Elizabeth. Queen Lucifera’s entourage of sins and Satan demonstrate that pride is the primary sin and all others are subservient to it. These sins are primarily Catholic sins, and the entire House of Pride can be linked to the Pope and Rome as having pomp, circumstance, and changing rules as a background for false leadership.
Summary and Analysis: Book I, Cantos v-viii
New Characters
A simple man: The disguised Archimago, who gives Satyrane and Una false information.
: The wind, father of Orgoglio.
Aescalpius: A fantastical healer who, though alive, has been consigned the darkest cave of hell for bringing the dead to life.
Diana or Cynthia: The virginal goddess of the hunt, who lives in the forests with an array of nymphs.
Earth: The mother of Orgoglio.
Hippolytus: A huntsman sent to hell because his father had him brought back from the dead.
Ignaro: Orgoglio’s stepfather, an ancient and blind man.
Jove: The king of the gods.
Summary and Analysis: Book I, Cantos v-viii 13
King of Babylon, King Croesus and Antiochus: Historical figures who are in hell as prisoners of Pride.
Merlin: A great sorcerer.
Night: The goddess of Night, who rides in an iron chariot across the sky.
Orgoglio: The son of Earth and wind, a giant who captures the Knight of the Red Cross.
Pluto: The Greek god of the underworld.
Satyrane: A half-man, half-satyr mix raised in the forest to feel no fear. Seven-headed Monster: The steed
Orgoglio gives to Duessa.
Sylvanus: The lord of a troop of satyrs, fauns and nymphs.
The Prince, or the Knight: A good Knight who bears armor and shield crafted by the sorcerer Merlin and who is revealed to be Prince Arthur in Canto IX.
The Squire: Prince Arthur’s squire.
Troop of satyrs, fauns and nymphs: Minor characters, wood gods living together in the woods and satisfying their lustful urges.
Summary
Canto v: The Knight of the Red Cross spends the night mostly awake and burning with desire to redeem his honor from the lies of the Sarazin. In the morning, the two of them are plied with wine and spices to give them courage. They swear an oath to each other to obey the laws of arms of all Knights. When Queen Lucifera emerges, the battleground is prepared and the winner’s laurels displayed. A trumpet begins the battle, and “with greedy force” the Knights begin to hammer at each other’s shields. The older, stouter Sarazin fights for blood and revenge, while the young, fierce Elfin Knight fights for praise and his good name. They fight so hard that sparks fly from their swords and shields. Their previously shining, glittering shields become stained red with blood, and the audience becomes unsure whom to even cheer for because the wounds are so fearsome and deep.
The Sarazin happens to see his brother’s shield and his rage redoubles. He calls out to the spirit of his brother to tell him that he has taken the shield back, and it will no longer stand as a mark of vanquish and victory. The Elfin Knight falls under the spell and begins to lose the battle. However, Duessa calls out to the Sarazin and the sound of her voice awakens the Knight of the Red Cross from his swooning dream, and he hits the Paynim Knight so hard that he is forced to one knee to avoid death. Then the Knight of the Red Cross raises his sword to deal the deathblow, but a dark cloud sweeps in and the Sarazin vanishes. The Elf calls out to him, but there is no answer. Duessa runs to the field and congratulates the Knight of the Red Cross, telling him to beware the infernal powers that have hidden his foe. She begs him to accept her as his victory prize. The Knight of the Red Cross greedily searches the field but cannot find the Sarazin anywhere. Finally, he returns to Fidessa and falls upon one knee to make a present of his service to her. Fidessa/Duessa and the Knight make the triumphant march home, and he is given medical treatment. Meanwhile, Duessa weeps bitter tears until nightfall. She goes to the home of Night, surprising the goddess, and begs her to wait to hear a message. Curious, Night stays, delaying the onset of darkness in the world. Duessa tells her of the death of Sans loy and the defeat of Sans joy, and how he sleeps in an enchanted cloud of darkness. Duessa calls the brothers Night’s children and demands that Night avenge the death and dishonor of her sons. Night replies that the great Jove must be honoring the sons of the Day and declares that she cannot “turne the streame of destinee” because destiny is tied to Jove’s seat and he would know. Then Night swears vengeance on the Knight of the Red Cross and demands that her visitor tell whom she is, to bring Night information about her own nephews.
Duessa reveals that she is the daughter of the Deceit and Shame, and a descendent of Night herself. Night bows down before her granddaughter and praises her disguise, and then takes to the sky, bringing darkness to the world. The two women come quickly to the Paynim’s hiding place and bind his wounds. While Night touches the ground, dogs continually bay, owls shriek and wolves howl. They bring the Paynim to hell and down to Pluto’s house.
They pass into the deepest, darkest, most woeful cave, where Hippolytus is kept. Hippolytus was the handsome and brave son of the Sea, who scorned his stepmother’s sexual advances. To take revenge, she accused him of treason, and his infuriated father dashed him to pieces on the cliffs. The stepmother then killed herself while avowing Hippolytus’ innocence. The penitent god of the Sea brought Hippolytus to Aescalpius, who was renowned for his medical skill. Aescalpius re-assembled Hipploytus and brought him back to life.
The king of the gods, Jove, was so dismayed at this rupture of natural law that he sent Hippolytus to hide the darkest cave of hell by hitting him with a thunderbolt. Hippolytus lived there with Aescalpius, who continually tries to heal Hippolytus from the wounds caused by the divine fire. Night begs Aescalpius to heal her grandson, Sans joy. The rueful Aescalpius needs serious persuasion to consider repeating his crime of healing the dreadfully wounded, but Night is persuasive. She argues that he has already been excluded from heaven and so has nothing more to fear. If Aescalpius’ punishment is complete and tragic, there is nothing more that can be added to it.
Duessa returns to the hall of Pride. The Knight of the Red Cross has departed, though his wounds are not yet healed. He has been warned by his Dwarf of dungeons that are full of wretched men who had devoted themselves to the Court and are now perpetually tortured by Envy and Wrath. These men are all prisoners of Pride, and include the king of Babylon, who tried to compel all men to worship him as God and for that was transformed into an ox. Also included are King Croesus and proud Antiochus, who desired things beyond mortal reach. Thousands of men and women fill the dungeon, all tortured day and night for their sins of pride. The Dwarf tells his master of souls trapped because they had lingered in idleness and play, and the Knight takes them as an example he must not follow. Instead, he and the Dwarf wake early and flee as furtively as possible, afraid of the wrath of Queen Lucifera. The Knight can barely find his way amongst the foul gathering, but sneaks through the corpses of murdered men and past an enormous dunghill of corpses to flee the “sad house of Pride.”
Canto vi: The Elfin Knight feels enormous relief at having safely escaped the house of Pride. However, he misses the Lady Fidessa, although he misses Una much more. Una has been taken into the forest by the foul Sans loy, who defeated the Archimago. There Sans loy tries to convince her to willingly have sex with him, but she is unyielding. He rips off her veil, and her beauty moves him to lust with or without her consent. The narrator bewails this state of affairs: “Ah heavens, that do this hideous act behold, / And heavenly virgin thus outraged see, / How can ye vengeance just so long withhold, / And hurle not flashing flames upon that Paynim bold?” The heavens do not intervene, but Una’s shrieks are so loud and so dismayed that a troop of fauns and satyrs sleeping in the woods hear her and come to find the source of the ruckus. They terrify Sans loy away, and Una turns from her rapist to find a group of rapacious wood gods. Her fear and despair affects the wood gods, however, and they, “in compassion of her tender youth / And wonder of her beautie soveraine” begin to kiss her feet and bow before her. They bring her before their master, Sylvanus, with great fanfare. Because the beauty and goodness of others pale in comparison to Una, Sylvanus immediately falls out of love with his nymphs. Overcome with envy, the nymphs of the troop flee. From this point forward, the satyrs consider only Una as beautiful, and the “luckeless lucky maid” begins to teach the troop not to worship false idols. Her lessons, however, are mostly in vain.
It just so happens that at the same time a brave and glorious Knight named Satyrane is wandering through the forest looking for his father, a satyr who bewitched and raped a peasant woman. The half satyr, half man-child grew up in the woods with violent and beastly games and pastimes. He was raised to conquer his own cowardice and fear in all things and so rode wild bulls and stole the whelps of lions from the mother’s teat.
As he grew, even his father was afraid of the fearless man Satyrane had become and his talent with yoking beasts that should have been wild. Satyrane is known throughout Faerie land for his power and ferocity. After his adventures in the wider world and successes in many wars, however, Satyrane liked to come home to the forest and visit. He is on such a visit when he first sees Una teaching sacred lore to a group of enthralled, but stupid, satyrs.
In a short time, Satyrane, like the others in the troop, comes to love and worship Una and also understands and accepts Una’s faith and virtues. Unlike the others, though, Satyrane is privy to Una’s secret that she wishes to escape and find her Redcross Knight. Satyrane helps her to do this by conveying her with such speed the wood gods cannot chase her.
Satyrane and Una find a simple, poor man out walking and beg him for news. The man says that he saw the Redcross Knight die only a short time ago. Una faints at this news, but Satyrane revives her, and they continue to question the man.
The man informs them that he saw a Paynim kill the Knight of the Red Cross in open battle. Moreover, he tells them that the killer is still nearby, bathing his wounds. Una and Satyrane ride off in haste and find this Paynim Knight, who turns out to be Sans loy. Satyrane challenges him to a duel. A tremendous battle ensues, and the Paynim Knight tries to pursue Una yet again. Satyrane halts him, and the fight continues while Una flees.
The Archimago watches the battle from his disguise as a simple, poor man, delighted with his latest trick. When Una sneaks away, though, the Archimago follows. Canto vii: The narrator briefly admires Duessa’s skill in pretending to be the truthful, beautiful, young, and chaste Fidessa when she is really an ugly, ancient, and terrible witch. She returns to the house of Pride but finds that the Redcross Knight has fled. She searches and finds him resting by a stream with his armor off and his horse grazing. As usual, she deceives him with fond and kind words and then lays beside him in the shade.
However, the stream has been cursed by Diana. The Knight drinks from these waters, but in the excitement at courting Fidessa, he does not notice the effects. When a loud and repeated noise causes the trees to tremble, the Elfin Knight leaps to his feet and begins to don his armor and weapons. But before he can do so, a giant walks into the clearing. The giant, Orgoglio, is the son of Earth and , the wind. Arrogant because of his godly parents, the giant scorns all powers, including those of Knights. The giant wields an oak tree as a mace and advances upon the undressed Knight, who now feels the weakening effects of the stream and can barely lift his blade. When the giant swings at him, the Knight manages to leap out of the way, but the wind from the weapon moving through the air knocks him to the ground and renders him unconscious. The giant is ready to kill him. Duessa pleads with him to halt for a Lady’s sake and make the Knight his slave and to take her with him. Thegiant obeys, and Duessa willingly crawls into his arms. Orgoglio picks up the still-unconscious Knight, brings him to his castle, and throws him in the dungeon. Orgoglio’s infatuation with Duessa means that she rules as a virtual queen. Orgoglio gives her a fearsome steed to command respect from the people. Her new steed is a seven-headed monster with an endlessly long tail and an iron breast.
While taking care of the grazing horse, the Dwarf had watched the battle with the Giant. He gathers up the Knight’s armor, shield and spear and sets out to tell the story of his captive master. He finds Una as she flees from the Paynim Knight, who Satyrane is keeping occupied in battle. Upon seeing the Dwarf’s burden of shield and armor, Una assumes the worst and falls prostrate in grief.
The Dwarf revives Una, who awakens and speaks a long and morbid lament. Una then faints again, and the Dwarf must revive her three more times before she calms enough to ask him to tell her the story of the Elfin Knight. She reassures the Dwarf that “thy sad tongue cannot tell more heavy plight, / Then that I feele, and harbour in mine hart.”
The Dwarf tells of the Archimago’s deceit and the vision of the unchaste Una, of the adventures with Fidessa and in the House of Pride, the battle with Sans joy and then the defeat and capture at the hands of the Giant. Una listens to what the Knight has endured, and her love of Redcross grows greater and greater. After the tale finishes, she wanders through hills and valleys searching for the Knight again. On her way, she meets a good and shining Knight who carries a precious stone shaped like a Lady’s head. The Knight has a helmet shaped like a Dragon and a glittering tail stretching down his back. His armor is made of gold and covered in precious stones, and his shield looks like it is made of diamond. However, this Knight carries enchanted goods that only resemble such precious substances and in reality are even greater and more awesome. His armor was made and designed by Merlin, the great enchanted sorcerer. It was so beautiful and so well crafted that the Faerie Queen had it brought to Faerie land. This Prince and Knight calls out to Una with pleasantries, but quickly discerns her sorrow. She laments, claiming that neither earthly worlds nor human speech can reach a heart so sorrowful. She announces that her last comfort is her “woes to weepe and waile.” The Knight asks her to tell him her story. The two of them engage in a dialogue in which Una declares that telling her story will only hurt her unless aid is offered, and the Knight tells her to have faith in others. His reasoned and thoughtful speech convinces Una. Una reveals that she is the daughter of a King and a Queen who ruled many territories. However, a terrible dragon despoiled their kingdom and has trapped the King and Queen in a castle these past four years. Many Knights tried to kill the dragon, but none succeeded. So the Lady Una herself went to find a Knight with greater prowess and skill and found the brave and true Redcross Knight. She then describes the Archimago’s false vision of her lack of chastity, and the Knight’s desertion of her. She confesses how much she loves the Knight of the Red Cross and would never give up her body to anyone else. She tells of Duessa’s false charms and then of the captivity at the hands of the Giant. Moved by her story, the Prince swears not to forsake her until he has freed the Redcross Knight. Together, under the guidance of the Dwarf, they set out to do so.
Canto viii: Una travels with the Prince until the Dwarf recognizes a castle as the one where the Redcross Knight is captive. The Prince advances on the castle alone and blows a golden bugle. The shrill sound of the bugle terrifies everyone in a three-mile radius and opens all locked gates and doors. Every door in the Giant’s castle flies open and the Giant emerges to find the source of the noise. Duessa follows on her beastly steed, and the Prince immediately attacks. The Giant lashes out with his club, but the Prince avoids the blow, which causes a mini-earthquake. The club is buried three feet in the ground, and while the Giant tries to pull it out, the Prince cuts off his left arm. The Giant lets out a piercing yell, and Duessa and her monstrous steed try to come to his aid.
However, the Prince’s Squire stands between the monster and the Prince, blade in hand. He does not let Duessa pass him, and so Duessa takes out the items of sorcery and sprinkles the Squire with poisons that sap his courage. He falls down before the beast, deprived of the will to live, and the beast begins to eat him. The sight of his beloved Squire being wounded brings anguish and courage to the Prince, who advances and slices open one of the monster’s seven heads. The Giant runs in, saves Duessa from the monster’s thrashing agonies, and forces the Prince to retreat.
The Giant then raises his club in his one arm and brings it down with a crashing blow. The Prince catches it on his shield but is forced to the ground. However, his glittering shield reflects sunlight and blinds both the Giant and Duessa’s monstrous steed. Duessa cries out to Orgoglio, begging him to help before they all perish. The Giant tries to come to her aid, but in the light from the shield he has seen their end. The Giant’s eyes are dimmed, and his senses daunted. The Prince fights with renewed force and cuts off one of the Giant’s legs. The Giant falls ponderously to the ground, causing the earth to quake. The Prince leaps to the advantage and beheads Orgoglio. Everyone is bathed in the Giant’s blood, but the body shrinks into a tiny bladder as soon as the breath leaves the Giant’s body. Duessa casts down her magical implements and tries to flee, heartbroken at the loss of the Giant who gave her a kingdom. However, the Squire captures her and returns her as booty to the Prince. Una’s delight moves her to offer herself in service to The Prince and his Squire forevermore. In her gratitude, she begs God to praise and love the two as much as she does. Una follows this offer with a plea not to let foul Duessa escape, as Duessa was the one who held her Redcross Knight in thrall.
The Prince tells his Squire to keep the “scarlet whore” carefully while he frees the Redcross Knight. He enters the deserted castle and calls out for someone to aid him. An ancient, blind man comes to him with a spare set of keys. This man, named Ignaro, is stepfather to Orgoglio. The Prince asks him where the other inhabitants are, but Ignaro says that he cannot tell. Angry, the Prince demands that Ignaro answer, but then realizes that the old man is feeble-minded. The Prince takes the keys and enters every room of the great castle. He finds the blood of innocents and a defiled altar. Finally, he discovers a huge, locked iron door with no key. The Prince calls through a grate on the door for anyone behind to answer, and a dreary, plaintive voice responds by begging for death.
At the sound of the voice, the Prince feels enormous pity. The Prince breaks down the door and finds a deep pit on the other side and has to lift the forlorn Redcross Knight, who is too weak to even stand, out of his prison.
When Una sees the Redcross Knight, she runs to him and tells him of her joy at seeing him and her pain at his condition. Una declares “fie on Fortune mine avowed foe” for keeping them apart.
Together, the Prince, Redcross Knight and Squire strip Duessa of her royal garb and find her true, misshapen body, which is not only old and ugly but also has a fox’s tail, an eagle’s claw for one foot and a bear’s paw for the other. They let her go naked into the woods, with her monstrousness revealed. Duessa flees from the company, into the wilderness and hides under rocks and in caves.
Una and her Knight, however, move into the castle to rest and feast.
Analysis
In Cantos v-viii, the Faerie Queen reinforces Protestant values and shows the trouble that ensues when one fails to keep to good faith. The Redcross Knight’s vain battle with Sans joy results in his winning Duessa as a prize. Pride leads Redcross to an unworthy and deceitful booty—Duessa not only worked to defeat Redcross, but also feigns admiration and fondness of him to further her own devices. Duessa is a terrible prize, and Redcross’ inability to recognize that demonstrates how far he is from the truth. Of course, Redcross’ plight becomes worse. The positive act of leaving the House of Pride in search of more worthy adventure is completely negated by Redcross’ repeat performance of being seduced by Duessa. When Duessa finds him by the stream, Redcross lingers and courts her rather than questioning her about the House of Pride, or her intentions, or simply getting up and riding off in search of more worthy pursuits. By taking off his armor, Redcross removes himself from the virtues that Knighthood endows and suggests that he can deal with any eventuality without the armor of a Christian. Redcross succumbs to the desire to rest, relax, and be distracted from the pain of life, and so he essentially gives up on being good and faithful. Because he lets himself be flattered by Duessa, Redcross becomes subject to the stream’s debilitating effects. Orgoglio not only finds Redcross, but finds him weakened and without his armor. Orgoglio finds Redcross when Redcross is at his most prideful, weak, and full of himself. This is at least partially from Duessa’s influence.
While accompanied by Una, Redcross was discouraged from entering into unnecessary battles (like the one with the monster Error) and stayed vigilant against attacks. Una’s penetrating intelligence and vision guided Redcross. Duessa weakens him, however, making him susceptible to sins like pride, and convincing him to dally in unsafe ways. This all results in his entrapment by Orgoglio. Her lies and falsely beautiful appearance mislead him, and he does not listen to Fradubio’s warning. Therefore, the imprisonment by Orgoglio seems to complete the downfall that Redcross’ lack of faith in Una had begun. Without Una, Redcross is subject to temptation, lies, sin, weakness, and defeat.
Sixteenth century Protestants often alluded to the “Whore of Babylon” as a reference to Roman-Catholicism.
Since Duessa is consistently described as wearing scarlet, the color of both the Roman-Catholic church and the Whore of Babylon, Duessa can be seen as a symbol of Catholicism. The House of Pride, with its self-made ruler, also suggests Catholicism. The pomp and falsity of the House of Pride, as well as the entourage of sins and Satan that only Queen Lucifera can command, suggest the Pope and a string of fears he can command.
When Redcross leaves the House of Pride, he effectively rejects Catholicism. However, he allows Duessa to re-enter his life and so shows himself fickle not only to Una and Protestantism, but also in his rejection of Catholicism. This fickleness allows his capture and imprisonment. Since Una represents more than just a Lady or a love—she is also the embodiment of the one truth, the one religion and the one ruler—the author’s admonition in Canto iv against changing one’s Lady too quickly represents only the surface of events. The Redcross Knight fails to respect and honor religion and holiness when he walks away from Una and takes up with Duessa.
Religious themes continue with Una in the forest. She takes wild wood sprites and manages to discipline them and teach them to be good. The main reason she is able to do this is because of her beauty, but she also wins them over by being a holy example and speaking and teaching about religion. Even the most feared wood sprite, Satyrane, becomes her devoted follower. Una embodies the power of religion. Her goodness and her beauty result from her holy life. Una’s beauty is thus starkly different from Fidessa’s. Duessa enchants herself to hide her own ugliness and age. Duessa’s inner hideousness is masked by superficial beauty, while Una’s goodness, chastity, and holiness are revealed in her outer appearance. Redcross’ inability to differentiate between these two types of beauty shows his naïve state. Just as Queen Lucifera is a self-made ruler, Orgoglio too has created a kingdom without the divine authority, lineage, or virtue to justify such an act. Further linking Queen Lucifera and Orgoglio is Orgoglio’s name. In Italian, Orgoglio means “pride.” Duessa causes Redcross to visit the House of Pride and to be captured by Orgoglio. Giants are often associated with rebellion and pride. For instance, the Titans tried to overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Spencer is clearly aware of this, as Book VII is about a giantess descended from the Titans. Furthermore, Orgoglio is born of wind and Earth, and he causes earthquakes. Quite frequently, earthquakes refer to the wrath of the gods. Since Redcross is caught by the symbol of Pride, who causes earthquakes, at the very moment when he most shows voluptuousness and lack of good behavior, Orgoglio seems a punishment wrought by Redcross’ own actions. Redemption and grace enter Book I in the form of Prince Arthur. Prince Arthur’s magical armor and weapons are gifts from Merlin, but Prince Arthur himself is something of a Christ-like figure. He seeks and rescues the lost (in this case, Redcross), removes them from the pit of despair, and returns them to the one right religion.
Furthermore, his horn that causes doors to open and locks to unlock is reminiscent of the horn that Joshua uses to destroy the walls of Jericho in the Book of Joshua (chapter 6) in the Bible. That horn caused the victory to be attributed to God, not mankind. Orgoglio’s very being as a giant with a name meaning pride illustrates his role as a vile unbeliever. However, his castle is also associated with unbelievers in the Bible. Joshua was sent as a representative of God to take over the lands of unbelievers, just as Prince Arthur has been sent to save a potential believer and in the process destroys the castle of unbelievers. Furthermore, Jericho was destroyed because of a harlot, just as Duessa causes Orgoglio’s destruction by convincing him to imprison Redcross. In addition, the harlot that causes Jericho’s downfall is allowed to live, just as Duessa is released once she has suffered for her crimes. The harlot of Jericho also saves the lives of good men as Duessa convinces Orgoglio to imprison rather than kill Redcross. Prince Arthur thus has a link to Joshua, who destroyed the city of Jericho and freed the harlot who caused its downfall. Clearly, Joshua and Prince Arthur both have God at their side in the battle against evil. Orgoglio’s castle is further linked to unbelief and terrible pride through the seven-headed monster that Duessa rides. This beast is similar to a monster described in Revelations 12 and 17, and Duessa herself is dressed in the clothes of the Whore of Babylon and carries a cup similar to the Whore’s. After the defeat, she is stripped naked, made desolate, and sent into the wilderness, a fate similar to that of the Whore of Babylon.
Thus, Orgoglio’s castle was built out of pride, is ruled by pride, and houses the Whore of Babylon. When Prince Arthur takes it over, he symbolically rejects disbelief while saving the wayward soul of Redcross, who had been oppressed by these non-believers. Prince Arthur saves Redcross’ body and soul. Jesus Christ seeks those who might believe in a figurative sense, while Prince Arthur literally opens doors and calls out to find those who believe. Una, who represents truth, takes even the twice-fallen Redcross back as long as he accepts her wholly and no longer believes the Archimago’s lies. In this way, Spencer references the Gospels’ idea of the truth leading to freedom Also present in the Faerie Queen are themes of despair, suicide, and redemption. When Una sees the Dwarf with Redcross’ armor, she cannot think of how that would come to pass but for Redcross’ death, and so she despairs. She begs her eyes to be permanently sealed against the woes of the world and pleads for death to ease her suffering. This yearning for rest from the endless pain of life continues in several other characters throughout the work.
However, when Una survives and waits, her fears are proved unfounded, and instead of dying, she is reunited with the Redcross Knight, and her enemies are defeated. Similarly, when the Redcross Knight hears Prince Arthur’s voice, he calls out for someone to kill him. He pleads for death even in the face of rescue and redemption. When he survives, Redcross discovers that he is free, united with his love, and that his enemies are dead or punished. Spencer writes kindly about the impulse towards suicide—he does not condemn it. But in each instance, he sets out to prove it to be faulty. Spencer’s work implies that despair is natural, as life is full of woe. However, if one remains steadfast and holds to belief, despair will end and redemption will follow.
This theme continues in this Book and other Books of the Faerie Queen. One related theme in the Faerie Queen, which reaches its first full development here in Book I, is that of helplessness in sin and divine grace. The first instance of this is when Redcross wanders in the Forest of Error, fights the monster simply because it is a monster, ignores Una’s admonitions against fighting the monster, and then becomes immobilized in the monster Error’s tail. This act is significant because it is a direct result of ignoring Una’s advice. Una advises Redcross to be faithful and so defeat the monster, but it is his vainglorious pride that gives him strength to defeat Error. Even in defeating Error, Redcross has done so in a way that emphasizes his fall towards sin. This helplessness is exacerbated because his weakness or susceptibility to illusion is exploited by the Archimago. However, the weakness itself is a part of Redcross, at least in the opening Cantos, because he does not fully believe. The prideful battle with Sans joy places Redcross in another position of helpless futility when his opponent disappears. Redcross cannot finish the battle. This inability to act, or forced immobility, is most evident in Redcross’ interactions with Orgoglio. The stream may have sapped Redcross’ strength, but regardless of cause, Redcross cannot avoid death. Only the sinning Duessa persuades Orgoglio to spare Redcross, and she does so not for Redcross’ own sake, but to become a queen. This frustrated inability to act reaches its pinnacle when Redcross is imprisoned in the dungeon.
In fact, only divine grace saves Redcross from his paralysis and sinful hell in the dungeon. Prince Arthur’s Christ-like connotations peak when he pulls the weakened Redcross from the dungeon and lifts him into the light. Without divine intervention, Redcross would have been lost entirely. Yet he only falls into this sort of helpless despair when he ignores Una’s advice and allows himself to be separated from her. Prince Arthur represents a direct intervention of divine grace, but Una is a more constant positive force. Redcross’ quest depends upon Una, not only to gain Gloriana’s favor and his own fame, but also to save his soul.
Summary and Analysis: Book I, Cantos ix-xii
New Characters
Charissa: Dame Celia’s daughter, who is pregnant.
Contemplation: A man who fasts and prays to lower the effects of his body upon his spirit, and who gives
Redcross much information.
Dame Caelia: Runs a holy house for rejuvenation with her three daughters.
Despair: A demon that removes all hope from men.
Dragon: A fearsome creature devastating Una’s land.
Fidelia and Speranza: Dame Celia’s virginal daughters.
King: The lord of the land the dragon was decimating and father to Una.
Mercy: The leader of an order of goodly Protestants who give aid and succor to those who need it.
Messenger: A minion who turns out to be the Archimago.
Obedience: A squire in Dame Caelia’s house.
Summary and Analysis: Book I, Cantos ix-xii 21
People: The people of the Kingdom of the King and Queen.
Queen: The King’s wife and Una’s mother.
Seven Men: Each has a charge from Mercy to dole out various kinds of support and help.
Sir Terwin: A Knight who was in love with a Lady who liked to see him in the throes of anguish.
The Porter, Zele: A minor character at the house.
The Trevisan: The fearful Knight, fleeing from something terrible and a once-companion of Sir Terwin.
Timon: The foster-father of the Prince who has freed the Redcross Knight.
Summary
Canto ix: Una pleads with the Prince to tell his name so that he can forever be honored in story and lore for his success in defeating the Giant and Duessa, and for freeing the Redcross Knight. However, the Prince announces that this he cannot do, as he does not know his lineage. The Prince reveals that he was raised by a foster father, a Faerie Knight (like the Redcross Knight) named Timon who taught him martial arts and virtuous lore. The great sorcerer Merlin visited often to oversee his tutoring, but although Merlin confirmed that Arthur was a Prince he would not reveal the brave young man’s lineage.
Lady Una questions why Merlin would send him on adventures in Faerie land, and the Prince replies, “Full hard it is to read aright / The course of heavenly cause, or understand / The secret meaning of th’eternal might, / That rules mens wayes, and rules the thoughts of living wight.” This discussion of fate and God is similar to Una’s discourse when she thought the Redcross Knight was dead, although Prince Arthur emphasizes that God determines chance and fortune. The Prince, like Una, then becomes more and more enraged as he tells his story. Although previously good and calm, his story becomes more and more emotional. His rage first developed when he was still young, but Timon bade him stay good. However, the young Prince was unable to control his confused emotions, and so he caused trouble, disdained joy, and laughed when others cried. His cold reactions and loose life continued for many years until one day, while he was sleeping in the grass, a royal maid appeared. She told him to love her, and he complied. As she disappeared, she told him that she was the Queen of the Faeries. Upon waking, the young Prince’s dismay at her vanishing took all of his playful coldness and loose life out of him. He vowed to do good labor and find her, and has been searching since with her image in his mind.
Una tells the Prince that his case was not entirely unusual, and the Redcross Knight reassures him that his valor and goodness would make him worthy even of the Faerie Queen, should he manage to find her. The Knights exchange gifts of friendship. Prince Arthur gives a diamond box containing a potion that will heal any wound, and the Redcross Knight gives a book of religious testament. Then they set out on their separate quests, Prince Arthur to find the Faerie Queen and the Redcross Knight to conquer the dragon ravishing Una’s land.
Una wishes to let the Knight recover from his ordeal in the Giant’s dungeon, but as they ride they see a Knight fleeing from something, riding with fearful backward glances and a bloodless, pained expression. He has a rope tied around his neck and no helmet. The Redcross Knight inquires what causes such distress, but this only terrifies the Knight further. The fearful Knight begs the Redcross Knight not to delay him, but he is forced to stay and tell his story. The terrified Knight says that he used to ride with a Knight named Sir Terwin who loved a Lady who liked to see him languish and lament after her. As they rode together, they met a demon named Despair who infected them with hopelessness. Despair provided Sir Terwin with a rusted knife and the Knight with a rope. The
Knight was more scared of death than of Despair, and so he fled from the scene. He entreats the Redcross Knight to let him flee because no man knows if weakness to despair lurks in his heart, and Despair persuades his victims well.
The Redcross Knight ignores this warning and asks the Knight, whose name we learn is Trevisan, to guide him to this demon. Trevisan agrees, but only if he can flee rather than confront the face of Despair again. They ride to a barren, lifeless land and into a cave where a greasy-haired, emaciated man in rags sits in his own blood, which still wells from the wound caused by a rusted knife. The Redcross Knight burns with the desire to avenge this man and the terror of Trevisan, and advances while challenging the villainous demon to pay a debt of his own blood in exchange for Sir Terwin’s.
The demon replies that Sir Terwin’s own mind drove him to kill himself. The Redcross Knight stands by his principle that no man may lengthen or shorten his life beyond what it should be, and that one cannot ignore the death destiny has ordained. Undeterred, the demon tells the Redcross Knight that his misadventures and ordeals, most recently in the dungeon, are signs that death calls for him already. The demon reminds him that he has perjured the Lady Una’s chastity and fallen for an evil sorceress’s lies, and that he will probably acquire yet more sins if he continues to live. The demon concludes that “death is the end of woes.” Affected by this undermining of his confidence, the Knight reviews his ugly acts and beliefs and begins to accept that he is an unworthy and sinful man. Then the demon, sensing his weakness, shows the Redcross Knight a painting of damned ghosts tortured by demons. The sight afflicts the Redcross Knight and he sees only death before him. The demon brings him instruments to kill himself: poisons, ropes, swords, and fire.
Finally, the demon brings out a dagger and hands it to the Knight, whose hand shakes in fear and acceptance. Una snatches the knife from the Knight’s hand and throws it to the ground while reproaching him for his weakness. She tells him to leave with her, feeble as he is, because he fights for justice and so cannot doubt himself without doubting justice, too. The Knight rises and follows her, and the demon tries to kill himself. However, the demon cannot die until his time is up, and so this attempted suicide fails like all the rest.
Canto x: Even given his prowess in battle, the Knight cannot and should not attribute any success to himself. A stanza on thanking the gods makes that clear at the start of Canto x. To heal him from his wounds and starvation, Una takes the exhausted Knight to a house of holiness. The goodly Dame Caelia runs the house with her three daughters. Fidelia and Speranza are virgins, but the third daughter Charissa has many children. The Porter, Zele, opens the door for Una and the Redcross Knight and leads them to Dame Caelia. Dame Caelia immediately recognizes Una’s virtuous, heavenly bearing and welcomes them with open arms. She remarks on the strangeness of seeing an errant Knight in her house, and that “so few there bee, / That choose the narrow path, or seeke the right.” As she welcomes them, her two virtuous daughters enter. Dressed in all white, Fidelia carries a golden cup filled with wine and water, in which a serpent rests, and a book written in blood. Speranza, dressed in blue, has a silver anchor on her arm and stares up at heaven, praying.
Una greets the daughters and asks after Charissa. The daughters tell Una that Charissa is pregnant and so cannot come to welcome her. Dame Caelia calls a squire, Obedience, who takes the Knight to a lodge to rest and take off his armor. After they have rested, Una asks Fidelia to teach the Redcross Knight of her religion. Fidelia agrees to teach him “celestial discipline” and thereby open his eyes. She teaches out of the book written with blood, which contains thoughts “of God, of grace, of justice, of free will.” This teaching changes the Knight’s perception: “such perfection of all heavenly grace, / That wretched world he gan for to abhore; / And mortall life gan loath, as thing forlorn.” Guilt for his wrongdoings make him wish to end his life, but Speranza comforts him and teaches him to take hold of her silver anchor. Distressed by her Knight’s anguish, Una asks Dame Caelia what to do. Dame Caelia advises her to counsel Patience, who can listen to whatever grief eats away at the Knight’s mind and heart. The Knight fasts and dresses in sackcloth to repent his sins, and Speranza takes care of him. Penance, Remorse, and Repentance, Speranza’s handmaids, treat him to a strict way of life. Redcross groans and tears at his own flesh, and Una is so moved by his pain that she too tears her garments, but keeps her patience. Finally, true repentance reaches the Knight and he becomes calm.
Una then brings him to the pregnant Charissa, who is beautiful, graceful, and loving. Many children surround her. Charissa instructs the Knight in behavior and calls to an old woman, Mercy, to take care of him so that he “should never fall” and so “that Mercy in the end his righteous soule might save.” This old woman leads Redcross through a hospital for the poor and needy. Seven men provide all that any soul could need.
Entertainment, lodging, food, drink, and useful clothing are given to those who need it, as well as grace and divine forgiveness. One man rescues prisoners and captives, while another comforts and heals the sick. Yet another aids and dresses corpses, while the last helps widows and orphans after the death of a loved one. All bow before Mercy, the leader of their order. Charissa is the founder.
The Redcross Knight stays at the hospital for a time to rest, and during this time Mercy instructs him in the seven jobs of the seven men so that Redcross can provide help to any who need it. During his time there, Redcross becomes “perfect” and learns how to lead a life of “holy righteousness, without rebuke or blame.” Eventually, Mercy takes Redcross out of the hospital and brings him to a chapel in a hermitage. There, Redcross meets Contemplation, who ignores bodily needs to commune with divinity. His fasting and spiritual thought keep his physical being “low and chast” so that his mind can rule his spirit and stay good. Contemplation forces Redcross into forty days of fasting and praying before he shows him a steep path to a good city made of precious materials. Angels descend from heaven into that city. Breathless, Redcross inquires what city it is, and Contemplation responds that it is “the new Hierusalem, that God has built / For those to dwell in, that are chosen his.” Contemplation continues and tells Redcross that one day he will wash his hands of all bloodshed and sin and will become Saint George. Redcross asks why he may not do that now, and Contemplation replies that he cannot forsake his promise to Una. First Redcross must complete his quest. During the conversation, Contemplation refers to Redcross as a Briton, not as a Faerie descendant. Redcross inquires why, and Contemplation responds that although Redcross does not know his own ancestry, he is descended from Saxon kings and was exchanged with a batch of Faerie children so that, even as a Briton, he could live in Faerie Land. Redcross thanks Contemplation for all the useful information. After this divine episode, Redcross is blinded by the darkness of the earthly realm. He returns to Una, and together they continue their quest to restore her lands.
Canto xi: Una asks the now-recovered Redcross Knight to help free her captive parents. She takes him to her lands and points out the tower where her parents are prisoners. As she rejoices at being near her parents again, a roar fills the air and they spot the dragon lounging in the sun. The dragon’s size makes him resemble a hil rather than animal, a feature of the landscape rather than a foe to be defeated. The Knight urges the Lady to out of the way and bravely turns to face the dragon. The dragon’s scales are so thick that no sword or spear can pierce them and as the dragon moves they make a clashing, ringing sound. His sail-like wings scare even the clouds away, “and all the heavens stood still amazed with threat.” The dragon’s tail is almost three furloughs long and has stingers at the end. However, the dragon’s mouth and claws are his most fearsome characteristics. He has three rows of teeth and sharp claws, and breathes fire. His eyes are full of rage as he approaches the Knight.
The Knight courageously charges the dragon, spear in hand, but the dragon’s scales turn the spear aside easily. The force of the blow, however, angers the dragon, who knocks the Knight over with his tail. The dragon has never felt such a powerful blow, though many Knights have tried to wound him. The dragon takes to the air and uses his massive claws to snatch the Knight, still astride his horse. The Knight struggles even in the air, and after much flying the dragon sets him down. The Knight runs at the dragon again with his spear and tries to hit his scaly neck. The spear slides down the body of the dragon and catches under his wing, in a soft spot where the spear rips into flesh and wounds the dragon. The dragon’s cry is like the sound of stormy seas.
The dragon reaches under his wing and breaks off the spear, and a river of blood floods the plain where they are fighting. His mighty tail wraps around the legs of the Knight’s horse, throwing him to the ground. Enraged at being immersed in the dragon’s blood, the Knight throws himself upon the dragon, hacking at him with his sword. However, the dragon’s scales are so strong that they do not even dent. The blows sting the dragon but do not wound him. Striving to escape the Knight, the dragon tries to fly away, but his wounded wing will not support him. The furious dragon breathes a tongue of fire that scorches and bakes the Knight inside his armor.
Pained and near death, the Knight wishes to die. However, directly behind him a spring bubbles up from the ground. In better times, it was known as the well of life, and it has healing and medicinal powers. The Knight falls into this spring and disappears. The dragon claps his iron wings in victory, and the heart-stricken Una begins to pray. She prays all through the night and keeps a keen eye out looking for her brave fighter. She does not give up hope and so sees when the Knight rises up out of the well, whole and renewed. The Knight smites the dragon on the head so fiercely that he wounds him, although the narrator does not know how this could happen. The dragon lashes out with his tail and one of his stingers pierces the Knight’s shield and lodges in his shoulder. But the Knight is more aware of his honor than of his body, and he continues to fight, hacking off part of the dragon’s tail. The dragon rises and descends on the Knight’s shield, clinging to it with both paws.
The Knight bashes at the exposed parts of the dragon and succeeds in cutting off one paw entirely. The “hell-bred beast” throws back his head and belches fire, darkening the sky with his smoky breath and choking even heaven.The heat of the flames drives the Knight backward, and he slips in the bloody muck and falls to the ground near a tree covered in beautiful, red apples. It is the tree of life, and although its twin tree, a bit further away, gives knowledge, this tree gives health and healing. Balm flowing from the tree saves the Knight from death by the dragon’s flames. He falls to the ground and is covered in its balm, and although he is slow to rise, he is being healed. Una watches fearfully from afar, not knowing what is going on. Another night passes before the
Knight stands, and the wounded, exhausted dragon charges at him with mouth open, intending to swallow him.
The Knight plunges his sword into the soft, unshielded mouth of the dragon, and like a rocky cliff sliding into the sea the dragon falls. The Knight stands beside the dragon and Una runs to him and thanks him for defeating the monster.
Canto xii: When the dragon dies, the watchman on the tower calls out to the King and Queen, who have been prisoners for so many years. The King orders trumpets to sound and a feast prepared. The King and Queen bow before the Redcross Knight and a procession of dancing virgins, playing children, and music begins. They crown Una with a garland and gape at the Knight. Everyone stays away from the body of the dragon, but marvels at his size and invents scary attributes to the corpse, like fire in his eyes or a twitch in his talons.
The King presents endless gifts to the Knight and embraces Una. A feast begins, and when everyone is sated the King asks the Knight to tell his adventures. They listen and “lament his luckeless state, / and often blame the too importune fate, / That heapd on him so many wrathfull wreakes.” The King begs the Knight to enjoy a life of ease and leisure in their kingdom, but the Redcross Knight has promised six years service to the Faerie Queen, and so must decline. With regret, the King says that the marriage of the Redcross Knight to Una must therefore wait six years. He explains that he had promised that whoever killed the dragon would have the hand of his daughter in marriage. He calls to Una, who enters looking like a fresh spring flower and appears more beautiful than ever.
Before she can speak, a messenger bearing letters runs into the room. He falls at the foot of the King and announces that the Knight cannot marry Una because he is already betrothed to Fidessa. Furthermore, since the Knight has made pledges sworn on burning altars, he belongs to Fidessa alive or dead. The King demands an explanation from the Knight.
The Knight tries to explain that Fidessa is really the enchantress Duessa, who fooled him while he was traveling. Una corroborates his story, saying that Duessa is a deceiving, lying woman, and that she guesses that this messenger is no messenger at all, but rather the Archimago in disguise. The messenger is thrown into a dungeon and Una and the Redcross Knight are bound to each other with secret vows and rites, and the celebrations continue.
However, the Redcross Knight must keep his vow, and so he returns to the Faerie Queen and Una is “left to mourn.”
Analysis
Redcross endures many trials. First, Orgoglio’s dungeon subjects Redcross to mortification of the flesh and deprivation of the senses. Trapped in darkness, without food or stimulation, the dungeon denies Redcross any sensual experience but pain. He emerges from the dungeon like a corpse, but his trials are not through. His battered senses only represent one of several levels at which he must change in order to be holy. Directly after surfacing from the dungeon, Redcross must battle with his emotions. The demon Despair represents this challenge. Redcross enters this snare because he is still subject to all kinds of errors—he doubts Trevisan’s strength and suspects Trevisan is weaker than he is. His stated reason for finding Despair is vengeance, but this recalls Sans joy, who clearly was in the wrong as Redcross now acts wrongly. Despair also knows secrets about Redcross and so can attack him at a very personal level. In many respects, Despair seems to be Redcross’ own guilty conscience and fearful thoughts. Despair argues that Redcross escaped the dungeon only through luck, without any mention of grace or divine Providence. The negative slant of Despair’s arguments and the immobile, fearful state that they induce in Redcross are reminiscent of his wish for death. Redcross has already called out for death once, and Despair merely augments this tendency with semi-logical arguments. These personal attacks on Redcross are supported by a general philosophy about God and action. The possibility of sins accruing and never decreasing, dooming one more and more with every act, must be overcome by faith in God and God’s grace. Despair directly attacks Redcross’ weakest point, lack of faith.
However, Redcross meets Despair while in the hands of Una. Una’s truth and simple faith are conveyed to Redcross in just a few words, and she takes him out of Despair’s cave. Una convinces Redcross because she tells him that if he acts for justice, then he can only doubt himself if he also doubts justice. Una provides an intellectual basis for Redcross’ faith, and thereby saves him. The very clear implication is that Redcross would have committed suicide if it were not for the grace of Una’s presence; had he met Despair prior to being reunited with Una, he would have succumbed. Despair’s arguments are only logical on the surface; they ignore and obfuscate important issues. Despair uses God’s judgment to invoke fear, but never mentions God’s mercy or divine grace. The best sophistic trick that Despair uses is to hide and deny anything positive. nThese combined trials call Redcross’ very identity into question. He loses his armor, the symbol of himself as a Christian seeker. Although a valiant Knight, he cannot defend himself against either Duessa or Orgoglio. Redcross requires rescuing, which is a characteristic of damsels, not brave and strong Knights. When he emerges from the dungeon, he cannot even walk—even his humanity is called into question, for men walk the earth while creatures on four legs crawl. When Prince Arthur rescues Redcross, Redcross desires only death, not any part of life. Redcross is unable to save himself from the physical entrapment of Orgoglio’s dungeon or the mental collapse caused by Despair.
Only after this sort of self-demolition and the recognition of his own helplessness can Redcross recognize grace and be open to the true religion, Protestantism. Only after Redcross has been decimated can he be rebuilt as a true Protestant and a completely good man. This work happens at the House of Holiness, under the guidance of Charissa and Mercy. In the beginning of Canto x, Spencer has a stanza about grace being the assurance of victory, not strength. This is the lesson that Redcross has just learned. But he needs to also be cheered and strengthened to do battle with the dragon in Una’s land. That is the role of the House of Holiness—to remake and help Redcross to win his battle against the dragon. It is preparation for a better life with bigger challenges than ever before. In the House of Holiness, as opposed to the House of Pride, Redcross becomes clear about what his quest, his identity, and his religion are and should be. Fidelia teaches Redcross about grace and sin, but this throws him into a state resembling that which Despair induced in him. Only the care of Speranza and her handmaids help him to reconcile with God, religion, and himself. The names of each woman help to indicate their role. Fidelia indicates fidelity, while Speranza is the Latin word for hope.
In these trials, for which salvation is the goal, Redcross must have endurance: the same quality that helped him through the previous trials, as well as his battle with the monster Error. Spencer’s heroic action ultimately comes down to perseverance or endurance in the face of terrible odds. Even Prince Arthur’s victory over Orgoglio can be attributed to sheer endurance. Rather than overwhelm or outthink the giant, Prince Arthur hangs on until the giant’s blow loosens his shield covering and the brilliant light of the shield blinds Orgoglio. Of course, Prince Arthur does more than endure. He also defends himself and makes the most of opportunity when it presents itself. But for Redcross, only perseverance and strength really aid him in any of his trials.
Once Redcross has absorbed the patience, wisdom, endurance, and holy writings of the House of Holiness, action immediately ensues. Secure in his identity and destiny as Saint George, Redcross immediately begins to fight the dragon. The dragon embodies his original quest, the honor he seeks from the Faerie Queen, and all sin. Unlike previous opponents, the dragon can be seen easily. No deception or illusion obscures the Redcross Knight’s quest or how to complete it. Yet the quest is not easy. Rather, the immutability of the dragon is similar to that of land and mountains. Wounding or killing the dragon seems a superhuman feat because of its very construction. But in this fight, no matter how difficult, Redcross has no perceptual challenges to overcome. Only his fighting ability matters, and that, for Redcross, is a straightforward pursuit.
A stray line in Canto x, stanza 45 offers some resolution to the theme of chance, or fortune, brought up in the analysis of the last section of the Faerie Queen. Spencer writes, “It chaunst (eternall God that chaunce did guide).” This suggests that fortune or chance is only perceived as coincidental, and that God directs all action, whether or not humans perceive it. St. George is an important historical and religious figure for Britain. He is the patron saint of England. As depicted in numerous paintings, the main act St. George is remembered for is the slaying of a massive dragon. Several stories exist about the historical St. George, including that he fought against the Roman empire because they persecuted Christians, that he held to his Christian faith despite being tortured for it, and that he tore down an edict demanding persecution of Christians. To those who already know about St. George, Redcross would immediately be associated with him because St. George’s emblem is a red cross on a white background. This emblem was used in many British battles as a marker of British troops, including those against the Scottish and French. The story of St. George and the dragon revolves around a nasty dragon that held a city at bay and demanded human sacrifices to keep from killing the whole city at once. St. George, an avowed Christian who stated his beliefs despite persecution by the Romans, attacked the dragon and saved the city and the princess who was to be sacrificed. By writing the first Book of the Faerie Queen about St. George, Spencer increases the possibility of the poem being a canonical work in British literature, because St. George is so beloved by the nation. Combined with the dedication to Queen Elizabeth, the epic poem gains political and religious approval in the widest circles in Britain. Redcross’ victory over the dragon clearly is due to God’s grace. He would not have survived either being burned alive in his own armor or the heat and blow that cause him to fall. Only the well of healing water and the balm from the healing tree save the Redcross Knight, and those are clearly miraculous items placed by God upon the earth. The healing tree is next to a tree of knowledge, like the one in Eden, and suggests that Una’s kingdom is, in fact, Eden itself. If Eden is a physical locale, then Biblical events are literally true and God’s existence is assured.
The healing water calls to mind the holy rite of baptism, while the tree is the tree of life, the fruit of which gives a happy life to any who eat it. Both are clearly Biblical and obviously reference the acceptance of God into one’s life. Because the Redcross Knight is ready for the battle mentally, physically, and spiritually, he is able to be redeemed through God’s grace and succeed on his third attempt to kill the dragon. This ability to rise from the dead echoes Redcross’ corpse-like emergence from Orgoglio’s dungeon, with the significant difference that this time Redcross needs no human intermediary to receive God’s grace. Instead, he accepts grace himself.
Yet both the well and the balm of the tree illustrate that Redcross cannot claim victory to himself. Redcross’ victory depends upon God and flows from God. The Christian cannot glorify him or herself with action because God guides all actions. Any victory is really God’s victory, with a human as the vessel of God’s grace.
Canto xii wraps up Book I in an odd manner. This Canto is far more literal and realistic than any of the previous Cantos. The characters are less mythical and strange than in previous Cantos, and the dominion of clear perception means that the story is less beguiling and more realistic. People marvel at the dead body of the dragon, and can’t quite shake their fear of it, and the celebratory procession includes many details that make it easier to believe in (playing children, for instance).
When the Archimago and Duessa try to reassert the world of illusion by sending the Archimago to the court, neither Una nor the Redcross Knight are deceived. For the first time, both see through the magical disguise and the Redcross Knight is able to not only see through the enchantment, but also to explain it to others. The implication is that the trials and redemption have fundamentally changed Redcross and made him even more of a hero.
However, Spencer does not let Book I end particularly happily. Although the guy gets the girl (Redcross is betrothed to Una) and wins the battle (Redcross defeats the dragon), before calm peace and happiness can ensue Spencer inserts a delay. Six years of service to the Faerie Queen restrain Redcross from living the happy life he has just discovered. Furthermore, the Redcross Knight leaves his betrothed Una to help the Faerie Queen fight a “proud Paynim king” working against her. Paynims are unbelievers, and so Redcross leaves his beloved in order to help Gloriana, who represents Queen Elizabeth, fight against those who do not embrace Protestantism. Thus, the political and religious allegory links to Spencer’s own time and Queen Elizabeth’s battles to secure her nation as a Protestant stronghold. In addition, although the Archimago is temporarily imprisoned, he soon escapes and is loose for the next Books. So although it seems that the couple is content, the monster defeated, the quest ended, and the enemies subdued, Spencer undoes each of those happy things so that things are left unsettled at the end of Book I. Perhaps this is meant to encourage the reader onward, but it certainly shows that the order restored in Book I is a temporary order, something hard-won but easily lost. The happy ending is a qualified one because Duessa, the proud Paynim King, and the Archimago are still conniving against chivalrous and Protestant Knights and Ladies. Even when presented with seductive, beautiful places for idleness, Guyon’s sense of duty drives him onward.

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