Faerie Queen Essay, Research Paper Edmund Spenser is considered by many to be the next great poet after Geoffrey Chaucer (Renwick, 483). No other poet since Chaucer s time had such a command for both ancient and modern languages nor could his range of learning be touched by his fellow writers of that era (Ward, 117).
Faerie Queen Essay, Research Paper
Edmund Spenser is considered by many to be the next great poet after Geoffrey Chaucer (Renwick, 483). No other poet since Chaucer s time had such a command for both ancient and modern languages nor could his range of learning be touched by his fellow writers of that era (Ward, 117). Some view Spenser as a love and pastoral poet but others consider him to be a classical author (Fowler, 121). Regardless, Spenser remained a dedicated writer throughout his life – his writing never stopped until his death (Waller, 1). He was an inspiration to many later poets and writers such as Crowley, Wordsworth, Milton, Yeats, and even T.S. Eliot (Fowler, 121). Spenser s life ran almost identical to the Elizabethan Age. Not much is known about his early years, but it is thought that he was born in London to a family of humble means (Heale, 1). Although his family was poor, they claimed ancestry to the affluent Spencers of Altrop. Later in life, Edmund would dedicate poems to honor the daughters of this prestigious family. They, in turn, supported him during his literary life (Heale, 1). Even though Edmund did not have the monetary means, he somehow managed to attend the well-known Merchant Taylor s School for eight years. Here he learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He was also taught music and perhaps English (Fowler, 122). After leaving Merchant Taylor s, he enrolled at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge as a sizar, which meant he received an allowance from the college for doing menial jobs. This enabled him to attend the school (Fowler, 122). He received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge. He would have studied Greek language and literature, Latin, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music ( The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 87). Religion played a very important role in Spenser s education and life. He was caught up in the turmoil between the Protestant New Church of England and the old Roman Catholic Church. England under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was a Protestant nation. There were constant threats and uprisings from factions both inside and outside the kingdom who wanted Catholicism made the national religion once more. Spenser was a Protestant although not a puritanical one. He saw England as a Protestant champion whose duty it was to suppress Catholicism . Spenser s Protestantism plays a major role in the characters of his epic, The Faerie Queene (Heale, 5, 6). Protestantism required the poet to have religious justification for his writing. Total allegiance was demanded from every man and woman. The Elizabethan Protestant s God was an angry, determined God who demanded much from His followers. A believer knowing that his nature was inherently evil, had to constantly look toward God for redemption and salvation. Much of Spenser s poetry reflected the Protestant belief (Waller, 22, 23). While at Cambridge, Spenser befriended Gabriel Harvey who became one of England s intellectual leaders. Through Harvey, Spenser was introduced to Sir Phillip Sidney another great English author and courtier. Both Harvey and Sidney encouraged Spenser to write which he did with great aplomb. Sadly, much of this early writing has been lost (Waller, 13-16). Spenser became a part of a poetry group called Aeropagus due to his friendship with Sidney (Waller, 16). He gained political as well as literary contacts through his association with the group. Sidney introduced him to a family friend, Lord Grey who was made the new lord deputy of Ireland, an English colony, in 1580. Grey in turn made Spenser his secretary and they left for Ireland which was in constant danger of invasion by a Catholic Spain (Erhard, 778). Grey s policies in Ireland lost him favor with the queen. His military actions while trying to keep the Catholic Irish under control were considered to be too harsh and bloody. After many requests made to the queen from Grey, he was granted permission to return to England. Spenser stayed on in Ireland (Waller, 56-58). He had fallen under the spell of the beautiful, wild country. He returned to England only twice during his tenure of twenty years in Ireland (Erhard 778). It was there that he began work on his famous Faerie Queene (Heale, 3). Spenser, while under the service of Lord Grey, was granted Kilcolman Castle in Munster (Waller, 60). He lived there with his family and went on to become the High Sheriff of Cork. He spent his time writing and planting (Waller, 59) and, in fact, wrote most of his poems while living in Ireland (Waller, 57). Sir Walter Raleigh visited Spenser at Kilcolman and was the one who encouraged Spenser to continue his work on The Faerie Queene. He even accompanied Spenser to England in order to get the epic published (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 87). Spenser was married twice in his lifetime. He married Machabyas Childe in 1579. They had two children, a son, Sylvanus and a daughter, Katherine (Fowler, 123). They accompanied him to Ireland when he was appointed secretary to Lord Grey. Machabyas died in 1594 (The New Enclyclopaedia Britannica, 87). He took a new wife, Elizabeth Boyle, for whom he wrote the famous Amoretti and Epithalamion (Heale, 3). They lived at Kilcolman until Irish rebels burned it in 1598 (Fowler, 124). He, his wife, and his daughter escaped with their lives but their infant son died (Shepherd,101). The family returned to England in December 1598. Due to illness, Spenser died on January 13, 1599 and was buried next to Chaucer in Westminster Abbey (Fowler, 124). The real person Spenser was can be debated as he spent so much of his life in isolation. Through his poetry one possibly can get a glimpse of the man. It can be reasoned that he was loyal, patriotic, amorous, and very imaginative (Renwick, 485). It is also said that he was perhaps the first English writer of his time to embrace change or mutability as can be detected in the last cantos of The Faerie Queene. He enjoyed order and tradition just as any other Elizabethan, but he also saw change as a creative process (Fowler, 140). Of the many poems Spenser wrote, he is most noted for the allegorical epic The Faerie Queene. With this work, he introduced the Spenserian stanza. It is a stanza of nine iambic lines rhymed ababbcbcc. The first eight lines are pentameter, but a sixth foot is added to the final line, making that line an alexandrine (Beckson, 262). The Spenserian stanza became the next great literary device since the sonnet and blank verse for the following few generation of English writers (Ward, 122). The Faerie Queen contains six books and a fragment of a seventh. Each book except for the last contains twelve cantos. With each book a virtue is introduced and then a story unfolds to explain how the hero of that particular book obtains the virtue as his ultimate prize. The virtues are holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice, and courtesy (Erhard, 778). Spenser felt that the true gentleman would have all these virtues. The focus of this paper will be on Book One and the virtue of holiness. Queen Elizabeth I was the dedicatee of The Faerie Queene for which she gave Spenser a royal pension of fifty pounds a year for life (Murphy, 972). The character of Gloriana actually represented the queen and Faeryland was in reality his beloved England. Spenser was, of course, intending to flatter his queen in hopes of advancement, but he also wished to idealize her as she represented the sovereign, virtuous woman he so admired (Heale, 10). The reasons Spenser wrote the fanciful epic was first of all to glorify what he held dear Queen Elizabeth, England, Protestantism, and English poetry. Secondly, he wanted to create a poem that represented the example of a perfect gentleman. He knew it would be a challenge but he felt compelled to do so. Consequently, he created a masterpiece that more than any other poem of that time exemplified the Elizabethan Age (Waller, 95-102). Thirdly, he wanted to relate to his reader the dangers of falling away from the true church – the Protestant Church of England. He consistently presented the Catholic Church, the Pope and his clergy, and his followers as evil throughout the poem (Heale, 26-43). Spenser called upon several historical, biblical, and literary models to aid him in writing The Faerie Queene. Obviously, the Holy Bible was a major resource he used quite often especially while writing Book One. The book of Revelation is often alluded to. Most of the characters in the first book have a biblical meaning or represent a biblical person. The other sources he relied on were the Legend of St. George, The Aeneid (Heale, 20-26) and the history of King Authur (Spenser, 1069). The language of The Faerie Queene is archaic which tends to make the reading difficult for the first time reader (Daiches, 170). Therefore, it is wise to read the story through more than once to understand all the hidden meanings. The more one reads the epic the easier it is for the words to flow and make sense. Actually, Spenser s use of the archaic vocabulary keeps the story line which is centered around a medieval knight s quest for holiness pure (Heale, 11). According to A. C. Hamilton, the entire structure of Book One is based on the Holy Scriptures. One can take the book of Genesis which tells about the fall of man and go all the way through to the book of Revelation where the Son of God s return restores man to God and relate it to the entire story contained in Book One (Hamilton, 647). The epic is an allegory within an allegory within an allegory. Spenser pointed out in a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh that The Faerie Queene was a darke conceit and only by careful reading could one arrive at the true meaning and glorious message contained in the story line (Waller, 104). The three types of allegories that Spenser employed were the moral allegory, the political allegory, and the religious allegory. The moral allegory is simply good versus evil. The political allegory is the Protestant Church versus the Roman Catholic Church. The religious allegory is the fall of man (Fowler 138-139). Certainly not all three types were used in each cantos by usually at least one can be found (Waller 111-112). The characters themselves are allegories as well. The same character may at any one time represent one or all three allegories. Careful reading and contemplation will reveal the deeper meanings contained in the verses (Fowler, 139). Spenser also used symbolism and imagery as well throughout his romantic poem. A good example of imagery is found in his description of the evil character Duessa (Heale, 30). A goodly Lady clad in scarlot red, Purfled with gold and pearle of rich assay, And like a Perian mitre on her hed She wore, with crownes and owches garnished, The which her lavish lovers to her gave; Her wanton palfrey all was overspred With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave, Whose bridel rung with golden bels and bosses brave. (ii. 13)One can almost see her vulgar, garish opulence. Symbolism is quite easily discerned in the description of the chaste Una. A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside, Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow. Yet she much whiter; but the same did hide Under a vele, that wimpled was full low; And over all a blacke stole she did throw, As one that inly mournd: so was she sad, And heavie sat upon her palfrey slow; Seemed in heart some hidden care she had, And by her in a line, a milke whit lambe she lad. (i. 4)She represents truth and purity. (Heale, 27). Spenser was the first great allusive poet in English (Fowler, 133). He used many resources in creating his characters and plots. While reading the poem, the reader can quite easily comprehend that Spenser alludes to other literary works, historical events, and biblical occurrences throughout the epic. Another interesting point brought out by Brookes-Davies in his modernized selection of The Faerie Queene is the parallel between characters and cantos. The characters of Una and Duessa parallel each other. Una represents truth and Duessa represent deceit. Redcrosse who stands for holiness parallels Archimago who stands for evil. Cantos I finds the characters wandering in a dark wood where they meet with many dangers. Cantos 11 and 12 parallel this with the land of Eden where happiness prevails. Duessa s decent into Hades to seek healing for Sansjoy is paralleled by Redcrosse s ascent up the mountain to the House of Holiness where he is healed (Brookes-Davies, xxxi). Book One is centered around the virtue of holiness. Although holiness might not be thought of as a virtue that a knight might wish to attain, it is known that throughout the Middle Ages it was stressed whether it be by books or sermons, that Christians had to put on the whole armor of God to fight evil (Heale, 20-22, 33-34). The hero of the story is a young, untried knight named Red Crosse who is trying to obtain this virtue. The armor he is wearing represents the whole armor of God. Canto One In the opening verses the characters of Red Crosse, Una, and Gloriana are introduced. Gloriana, the Faerie Queene sends Red Crosse, the hero of the story, on a mission, to rescue Una s parents and their kingdom from a terrible dragon. This is the knight s first adventure although the armor he wears is old and used. However, the aged armor is enchanted and will protect him in many upcoming battles. The red cross upon his chest and shield represents the Christian faith. Una, Red Crosse s lady love, is perfect in every way. She is chaste and beautiful. She dresses completely in white with a black veil covering her face as if in mourning. The whiteness of her attire represents truth and the veil stands for the fact that sometimes the truth is hidden. Una stands for the one true religion. She holds a pure white lamb and rides upon a white ass. She is attended by a dutiful dwarf. After riding for a while the threesome seek shelter in a wood from a hard rain. At first the wood seems innocent enough but they eventually become lost and happen upon the cave of Error. Red Crosse decides to investigate despite the better advice of Una to stay away from the dark place. Inside the cave, the knight meets with a horrible dragon, Error. She is half woman and half beast and represents lies. She despises light so the glimmer form the knight s armor enrages her. They are immediately embroiled in a battle. The dragon s tail wraps around the knight who becomes helpless. Una screams for the knight to have faith and strangle the monster. Listening to her enables him to do just that. The dragon starts vomiting books and blind frogs and toads. This symbolizes the false books and teachings of the Catholic Church. The blind frogs and toads are those victims who blindly followed the teachings. Error also spews out her offspring that lie hidden in her innards. They immediately start to attack the knight but are more of an annoyance than an actual threat. The knight manages to cut off the dragon s head that causes her blood to gush forth. Her children stop hindering Red Crosse and start lapping up her blood instead. They gorge themselves to the point that they burst. This could represent the sin of gluttony or it could also represent the death of innocents when they feed upon the words of false prophets. Red Crosse looks on in amazement at the terrible sight. Una praises her hero who would have been lost had she not screamed at him to fight back. Her counsel is representative of listening to the true word so it can set you free. The dragon also represents the many obstacles man must face on his road to redemption. She lives in darkness which means she turns away from the truth and light. The cave could represent the Catholic Church that is Error s domain. The knight is the Protestant Christian battling evil. Una represents truth and faith. It is because of her that the knight is able to fight and defeat the dragon. His mere strength and courage were not enough to overcome the dragon. He had to have faith and Una gave him that through her encouragement and guidance. After praising her hero, Una and the group move on. After finding their way out of the wood, they meet up with a kindly old man who appears to be a hermit. The knight asks him if he has heard of any adventures or does he know of any dragons. The old man answers yes and that he knows of a man who is terrible and has no right to live. He promises to show Red Crosse where the man lives. Una responds with the fact that they are all in need of sleep. The old man readily offers lodging at his house for the night. Although the old hermit seems innocuous and accommodating, he hides a sinister and evil character. He is in reality Archimago, the arch-magician. He despises Una for her goodness and purity and wishes her harm. He plans to mislead Red Crosse and cause his eventual downfall. He represents hypocrisy on the moral level as he tries to cover his evilness with goodness. On the political level he stands for the Pope as he leads innocent people away from the true church. On the biblical level he is Satan because he helps in the downfall of man. After the group has fallen asleep, Archimago begins to work his evil magic. He calls up two sprites to aid him in his devilish plans for Una and Red Crosse. One sprite he transforms into the image of Una and the other he sends on a mission to Morpheus, the god of sleep, to obtain a sensuous and misleading dream to trick Red Crosse. The first sprite posing as Una approaches Red Crosse as he lies sleeping and tries to seduce him. Being honorable, Red Crosses turns her away and sends the false Una back to her own bed. He is puzzled by her wanton behavior and is somewhat disappointed. Nevertheless, he is pledged to her and will honor that vow. He again falls asleep and the thwarted second sprite returns to his evil master, Archimago. Canto Two Archimago tries yet another tactic to deceive the unsuspecting Red Crosse and to undermine the gentle Una. He again employs the help of his two sprites. One stays disguised as Una and the other Archimago turns into lusty young squire. He creates a very shameful scene with the two and then quickly summons Red Crosse to the secret room so that he might observe his unfaithful ladylove in the throes of illicit passion with another man. Red Crosse becomes enraged and would have killed them had Archimago not restrained him. Following a very tormented night, Red Crosse rides away with the dwarf leaving an innocent sleeping Una behind. This scene represents Red Crosse being deceived by falsehood and hypocrisy. He is not yet capable of distinguishing what is false from what is true. His leaving Una behind symbolizes his turning away from the truth. It also represents man turning his back on the true church and following the false church s doctrines and rhetoric. Red Crosse s goodness which is representative of the once prevailing goodness of man is now marred by Satan who led him astray. Archimago again represents hypocrisy. He also is the instrument used by the false church to lead man astray. Una awakens in the morning to find Red Crosse has left her with no explanation. She must travel on alone and confused. Ever the faithful one, she goes in search of the man she loves. Meanwhile, back at the hermit s lowly home, Archimago congratulates himself on separating the lovers. He now devises another plan. He disguises himself as Red Crosse. The real Red Crosse and his travelling companion, the dwarf, meet up with another foe, a pagan knight named Sansfoy. A beautiful woman is riding with the pagan and encourages him to fight Red Crosse. The Christian knight easily defeats and kills the pagan knight. He rewards himself with Sansfoy s shield as a token of his victory over the pagan. Red Crosse very gallantly takes the much-distressed damsel under his protection. Little does he know that she is actually Duessa, an evil witch. Duessa, disguised as the Lady Fidessa, spins a tale of woe. She claims that Sansfoy forced her to accompany him when in reality she had entertained him all along the way. She claims to be the daughter of an emperor. The noble knight unable to see through the lies believes her story. They travel onward. In this scene Red Crosse defeats the pagan Sansfoy (without faith) because only strength and courage were needed and not the faith required for him to defeat the dragon Error. He has completely abandoned truth (Una) and turned toward a false love, Duessa. The scorching heat forces the three travelers to take shelter in the shade of two trees. The knight wanting to make his new ladylove a garland plucks a bough form one of the trees. From the branch spurts blood and the tree shrieks in pain. The tree whose name is Fradubio starts talking with the knight. He tells the story of how he and his true love were turned into trees. As a young knight he had been traveling with his true love Fraelissa when they encountered another knight riding with a gentle lady. Both knights declared their own ladies the most beautiful and a fight ensued. Fradubio killed his foe and took the dead knight s fair lady into his protection. Little did he know that the fair maiden was really the evil witch Duessa. The young knight then begins to compare the two ladies and tries to decide who is the most beautiful. Duessa takes the matter out of his hands and turns Fraelissa into a tree. She then convinces Fradubio that his first love had really been a witch all along. He takes Duessa as his new love.On the day that all witches have to do penance, Fradubio chanced upon Duessa and saw her for what she really was. Before he could escape her, she turns him into a tree as well. Red Crosse asks is the spell can be undone and Fradubio responds that he and Fraelissa must first bathe in the well of the living. Duessa hearing the tree s tale is afraid he will guess who she really is and pretends to faint so that Red Crosse is distracted. He kisses the lovely lady and soon forgets all about the trees. They journey on. Here again is another story of yet another knight who is misled by falsehood and deception. The method for reversing the spell is to be bathed in the living well, which represents baptism and rebirth. Canto Three Una searches diligently for her knight. She has traveled hard and has grown weary. She lies down to take a rest. As she sleeps a fierce lion rushes out of the wood. Instead of devouring her, he is taken with her beauty and innocence and becomes her protector. In biblical terms the lion almost always represent God. Here we have God protecting truth. At first, Una is a little leery of the lion, but she soon realizes he means her no harm. She relates her sorrowful tale to him and they become traveling companions. They come upon a woman carrying a pot of water. Una asks her if she knows of a place that she and her friend might stay for the night. The woman does not answer her but sees the lion and runs away in fear. Una and the lion follow her to the house where she lives with her mother. The lady runs into the house and slams the door but the lion soon knocks it down. Una and the lion find the lady and her mother who continuously prays cowering in the corner. It turns out that the woman with whom Una tried to speak is deaf. Her name is Abessa. In the story she represents the abbeys and monasteries (Spenser, 1084). Her mother is Corceca, superstition (Spenser, 1084). She constantly recites prayers and Ave and three times a week she sits in ashes. Night approaches and the women fall asleep. The lion stands guard over the gentle Una. Abessa and Corceca sleep but they are in constant fear of the lion. In the middle of the night, there is a knock at the door. It is Kirkrapine, a friend of the mother and the lover of Abessa. He is a lowly church thief. He was probably returning from one of his night raids and wanted to share his wealth with the two women. When his knocks are not answered, he barges in and is instantly killed by the lion. The women hear the squirmish but are too afraid to investigate so they go back to sleep until morning. With the morning light, Una and the lion leave and the two women discover that Kirkrapine is dead. The mother immediately begins to pray. They chase down Una and throw abuses at her. The mother tries to put spells on the guiltless maiden but to no avail. This whole scene represents the abuses of the Catholic Church. The women accept dirty money from a man who robs from churches to line his and their pockets. They turn deaf ears and blind eyes to his evil deeds. Kirkrapine stands for greed on the moral level and for all the Church officials who use the Church to obtain ill gotten gains on the political level. The lion killing Kirkrapine represents how nature works with grace, according to A.S.P. Woodhouse in his criticism of The Faerie Queene. He points out that the lion represents nature and Una represents grace. The lion slaying the church robber symbolizes the harmony that exists between nature and true religion. Together they join forces to fight worldly corruption. As the two women turn toward home, they happen to meet a knight who is actually the evil Archimago disguised as Red Crosse. They tell him their sad story and he goes in search of Una. He catches up with her and Una is overjoyed at seeing her true love. After asking why he left her, he concocted a story that she willingly believed. She was simply relieved to have him back at her side once more and so they ride on together with ever-faithful lion running along side. They do not get too far before they meet up with Sansloy, the brother of the fallen Sansfroy. When the pagan knight sees the cross upon the Christian knight s chest he assumes he has met up with the killer of his brother. The two fight and the Christian knight is wounded in the battle. Before Sansloy which means without law delivers the deathblow he removes the fallen knight s helmet only to discover it is Archimago, a friend of his. Sansloy is ashamed because Archimago is an old man. Una is overcome with shock. Sansloy seeing her is filled with lust and tries to attack her. The lion comes to her defense but is killed by the pagan. Sansloy then puts Una on his horse and rides away. Canto Four Red Crosse and Duessa still disguised as Fidessa approaches a beautiful castle known as the House of Pride. The roadway to the palace is wide and much traveled. The palace is ruled by Lucifera a woman who is very proud and vain, but breathtakingly beautiful. Her kingdom is magnificent but it is built upon a sandy foundation that will some day make the entire building fall into total destruction. The bodies of those who have died from having too much pride and giving into vices because of pride are strewn along the way. This represents the worldly pride of man. Too much pride can destroy a man. The wide roadway is representative of the fact that the pathway to destruction is wide and often traveled. Lucifera is of course pride or vanity. Lucifera is so full of self-love that she only rarely looks down and she does so with much effort. Most of the time she is looking at herself in the mirror. She rides along in a gilded carriage drawn by six unequal beasts. Each beast carries a rider and all together they represent the seven deadly sins. Idleness rides upon a slothful ass. Beside him rides Gluttony on a filthy swine. Next comes Lechery upon a bearded goat. Avarice follows on a camel laden with gold. Envy rides upon a ravenous wolf. Lastly comes Wrath carried by lion. Each sin comes with deadly vices and diseases and is horrendous in appearance. Satan rides with them all upon wagon beam. He constantly lashes out at the lazy team. All along the way, crowds of shouting people hail them. These verses are self-explanatory. The seven deadly sins are presented and the price one pays for giving in to them. The next verses bring the third pagan brother Sansjoy (without joy) into the picture. He has arrived at the House of Pride and is furious because he has spied the shield of his fallen brother in the possession of Red Crosse. He snatches the shield away and immediately challenges the Christian knight to a fight to the death. They begin to battle but Lucifera orders them to stop until the next day. That night after all the feasting and merrymaking, Duessa visits the pagan knight and warns him of the Christian knight s armor. It is enchanted and protects the knight in battle. She also declares her love for his fallen brother. Here again the duplicity of Duessa is shown. She is forever deceiving all she meets. She promises all things to all people but is faithful to no one. Red Crosse is still under her spell. The truth is still hidden from him. She is betraying him to another. On the political level this stands again for the Catholic Church. It promises redemption and salvation while it is actually deceiving its innocent followers. Brookes-Davies brings out an interesting point in his editing of the poem. When Sansjoy is introduced, Red Crosse is a very different knight from the one he was at the beginning of the epic. He was at first a joyful, untried knight. He was not yet aware of the ways of the world. After killing Sansfroy, he lost his faith. Now that he is doing battle with Sansjoy he is without joy. Faithlessness leads to joylessness, which is a worldly sorrow. Canto Five Sansjoy and Red Crosse begin to fight. Red Crosse s worldly pride has gotten in the way of his holy quest. He is now fighting for the sake of a mere shield. He has completely turned away from his faith and is traveling a very treacherous road toward destruction. Again, this is representative of fallen man turning away from the true faith and bowing down to graven images. The shield has become more important to Red Crosse than his mission of righteousness Both men are seriously wounded. Suddenly Sansjoy disappears just as it seems that Red Crosse is about to defeat him. He has been hidden in a dark cloud. Red Crosse is declared the victor and the shield is returned to him. He declares his service to the queen, Lucifera. Red Crosse is taken to a bed and treated for his wounds. The evil Duessa stays by his side weeping and worrying over him until night falls. She then makes a hasty getaway so she can take the fallen Sansjoy into the bowels of the earth where she can find someone to heal his wounds. The Goddess of the Night aids Duessa in bringing the fallen pagan warrior to Aesculapius, a famous Greek physician who resides in Hades. He ministers the wounds of Sansjoy and helps heal him.
The entire episode of Duessa s decent into Hades makes for interesting reading. There is really no allegorical significance to the verses. Her trip downward in search of healing will parallel with Red Crosse s trip upward in search of help in a later Canto. While Duessa is on her mission, the dwarf very wisely searches the magnificent castle where he and Red Crosse are guests. He discovers a deep, dark dungeon beneath the House of Pride filled with men and women who have fallen victims to the Seven Deadly Sins. They are in constant agony. He quickly informs his master. Although Red Crosse has serious wounds he knows he must escape before he too falls victim to Lucifera. He and the dwarf leave immediately and as they are departing he spies mounds of dead bodies. They are the corpses of the many who lost their souls to the House of Pride. Duessa returns from her hellish trip and finds her lover gone. Canto Six Una is about to be ravaged by Sansloy in the forest. Hearing her pitiful screams, creatures of the wood, the fauns and the satyrs come to her rescue. Sansloy has never before encountered such a monstrous, misshapen group and makes his escape. The rescuers are so taken with Una s beauty and purity that they want to worship her a god. She refuses their adorations so they turn their attentions to her white ass. Here again Una represents the truth and purity. She will not allow herself to be idolized because there is only one true God. Also, nature plays an important role again. The woodland creatures come to the rescue of the damsel in distress. The fauns and the satyrs also represent man the pre-Christian state (Spenser, 596) Visiting the satyrs is a warrior, Satyrane, who is half-animal and half-human. He has been away fighting wars and has returned to visit his family. He meets the beautiful Una and befriends her. She tells him of her many sad adventures and of the quest she and her true love were sent on. He helps her escape her adoring but overly zealous woodland creatures. Even though Satyrane falls in love with Una he knows her heart belongs to another and he vows to help her. Una has remained steadfast. On a religious level, Una represents the one true church. She never wavers and is true to her course. As they are traveling across the plain, they meet up with an old, dusty pilgrim. They ask him if he has seen the red cross knight. He sadly tells them that indeed he has. He relates the story of the fight between Red Crosse and Sansjoy. He claims he saw both knights fall and that Red Crosse died. Una is overcome with emotion. The pilgrim goes on to say that the pagan knight is now at a nearby fountain washing the blood from his wounds. Satyrane immediately leaves upon hearing this. He wants to confront the pagan knight and challenge him to battle. Satyrane finds the knight and of course thinks it is Sansjoy. Actually it is Sansloy who had fought with the disguised Archimago. Sansloy tells Satyrane that he did not kill Red Crosse but wants to. Regardless of the mix-up of the brothers, Satyrane and the pagan fight. Una is left with the old pilgrim who is in fact the deceitful Archimago in yet another disguise. As she walks away from the fearful fight, the evil magician follows. Here again, Archimago weaves his stories of deceit and lies. He stirs up trouble wherever he goes and the truth is not in him. On the political level he represents the pope. People listen to his rhetoric and are misled. On a moral level he is deceitful and hypocritical. On the religious level, he represents Satan leading man father away from his once perfect world. Canto Seven Duessa searches for Red Crosse. She finds him lying beside a well. He has unwisely taken his armor off and without its charmed protection he has put himself in grave danger. Red Crosse s action of taking his armor off is significant in that it represents he has shed the whole armor of God. He is now vulnerable to the wickedness of the world. He has also been drinking water from the fountain that had a curse put upon it by Diana. Whoever drank from the water would loose his strength. Duessa takes advantage of Red Crosse s weakness and they wantonly embrace. Red Crosse has now turned his back completely on truth and purity represented by Una and partaken of fleshly delights represented by Duessa. He is no longer an innocent knight. The giant Orgoglio finds them and attacks. Due to his weakened state, Red Crosse is no match for the strong foe. Just as the giant is about to kill the knight, Duessa intervenes and suggests that the giant make Red Crosse a slave. This will add farther to the fallen Christian knight s humiliation. She in turn promises to become the giant s lover. Orgoglio agrees to this and throws Red Crosse in the dungeon at his castle. He makes Duessa his queen. He clothes her in vulgar richness and gives her a beast to ride upon. Orgoglio represents Satan on the religious level. Man has to constantly battle against him at all times or he will win. On the moral level he represents pride. Rather than a fleshly, worldly pride as exhibited with Lucifera he symbolizes spiritual pride. All the spirit has gone out of Red Crosse. He is more or less defeated. Orgoglio has taken the very last of his pride away. There is nothing left. On the political level Orgoglio represents the Catholic Church trying to win out over the Protestant Church. There were many people during the medieval era that wanted to see Catholicism as the national religion in England once again. Duessa represents the Whore of Babylon. The description that Spenser gives of the evil witch in his poem is almost identical to the one given of the sinful woman in Revelations. She is sinful to the core and represents false religion. The dwarf watches the one-sided battle between Red Crosse and Orgoglio. He witnesses the complete defeat of his master. He gathers the fallen knight s armor and goes in search of help. The dwarf meets up with Una and relates the sorrowful story. Una is overcome once more with grief about her fallen hero. Not only has Red Crosse abandoned her but he has also sought the favors of another woman. The dwarf ever vigilant supports her through her grief and they leave for the castle of Orgoglio. Una is still determined to find the man she loves and free him if possible. As the two journey along they are met by a brave and gallant knight dressed in splendor and his squire. He carries a magical diamond shield given to him by Merlin the magician. He keeps it covered because of its brilliance and power. Any mortal that looks upon it is turned to stone, the stone to dust, and the dust to nothing. Monsters that behold its awesome powers are defeated. Everything about him exudes light and goodness. He sees that the gentle lady is distressed and asks why. At first Una is reluctant to tell what has happened. Eventually she explains the situation to him after much coaxing on his part. When she finishes the story she starts to faint. The knight comforts her and vows to rescue her hero. They all leave together with the wise dwarf leading the way. Even though Una has been abandoned, misjudged, and betrayed by the man she loves she remains steadfast. She still loves him and wants to free him from his bondage by the giant. On a moral level here she still represents purity and truth. She has never wavered from either although her errant lover certainly has. On the religious level she represents the true church. She is forgiving and welcomes home the worst of sinners. On the historical level she is the Protestant Church. She is the one true religion and all who come to her will be forgiven and find peace. The shining knight represents the perfect gentleman. He seemingly has all the virtues needed to be a good and faithful knight. Perhaps he has already been tried before. Obviously he has won all his battles because now he is bathed in light, goodness, and virtuousness. Canto Eight The four brave travelers arrive at Orgoglio s castle. With Una safely out of way, the knight and the squire approach the gates only to find them securely locked. No one will answer their calls so the squire takes a magical horn he carries at his side and blows upon it. The sound is so shrill that it blasts the door open. Orgoglio who is trysting with Duessa rushes out in a rage. Duessa follows riding upon her beast. The knight and Orgoglio begin a fierce battle. The giant miscalculates a blow and falls to the ground burying his club in the earth. The knight takes advantage of the situation and chops off the giant s left arm. Blood gushes forth from the wound and Orgoglio bellows in pain. Hearing her lover s scream, Duessa takes out her wrath on the squire. From a golden cup, she sprinkles a secret poison on him and he is immediately overcome and looses all his strength. Her beast then jumps upon the poor defenseless squire. The knight sees what is happening, leaves the giant, and goes to help his friend. He attacks the beast and cuts one of its seven heads off. The beast writhes in pain and almost unseats Duessa. Orgoglio comes to her rescue. He once again swings his club at the knight and hits instead his shield knocking the warrior to the ground. As he falls, the shield is uncovered. The brilliance from the magical weapon blinds the beast and it falls helpless to the ground. Duessa also falls and calls out to Orgoglio for help but he too has succumbed to the magic of the shield. The knight severs the giant s head and nothing is left of the beast except an empty bladder. Duessa tries to escape but she is captured. Una is overjoyed and praises both the brave knight and the dwarf for their wondrous deeds. She vows her service to them forever more. The Bible is alluded to in these verses with the battle between the giant and the knight. One is reminded of the battle that David and the giant, Goliath, fought. Goliath was very sure he would win an easy victory over the boy. His pride was very great. Orgoglio s pride was just a great. He was a mighty and feared fiend and felt sure that he would win the battle over the mere knight. On the moral level the fight between the two foes represents good fighting evil once more. On the religious level, Orgoglio is Satan fighting a Christian defender for the lives of innocent victims. On the political level, Orgoglio represents the Catholic Church fighting the Protestant Church represented by the knight. Duessa again represents the Whore of Babylon. The way she dresses, the beast she rides upon, and even the golden cup she carries identify her as the biblical harlot. She symbolizes lies, deceit, and wantonness as well. Una hears her true love pitifully calling out from somewhere inside the castle. The knight enters the palace in search of Red Crosse. He first encounters an old, blind man named Ignaro. The man carries with him a bunch of unused, rusted keys. He is misshapen, as his head is backward on his shoulders. The knight questions him about Red Crosse but the old man is ignorant as well as mute and is no help. The knight continues his search through the lavishly appointed castle. There is splendor everywhere, but the floors are filthy with the blood and ashes of innocent victims the giant has murdered. He finds an altar where true Christian blood has been spilt. Underneath the rock their voices cry out for vengeance. As last, the knight finds the door to the dungeon. He tears it open and finds the emaciated body of Red Crosse. He is barely alive. Aided by the knight, Red Crosse leaves the castle. Upon seeing him, Una runs to him and gathers him close in her arms. She is thankful he has finally been found and rescued. As for Duessa, it is decided she is to be stripped of all her finery and clothes and exposed for what she really is. Underneath the rich garb, she is hideously ugly and deformed. Her appearance is so uncouth that the knights are amazed. They let Duessa go and she flies away to hide her shame. The five friends remain at the castle for a while to rest themselves. The last verses are full of symbolism as well. Ignaro represents ignorance. His head is on backwards because he turns away from all the wrong he sees going on. After being questioned by the knight, he does not answer because he is mute. He does not want to be involved. Another interesting parallel is that he is the last of the trio see no evil (Corceca), hear no evil (Abessa), and speak no evil . The blood and the ashes are representative of the innocent victims killed for their beliefs in the one true church. The voices crying out from the stones are the martyrs of the true faith pleading for vengeance. The character of Una still represents truth and purity. She has remained steadfast to her true love. She lovingly gathers him into her arms when he is finally found and comforts him. This alludes to the return of the prodigal son. He too was welcomed back home when he returned a broken, hopeless man. Una represents the true church on the politcal level. She welcomes back to her fold all those who have been misled by the false church. Lastly, Duessa is exposed for the deceitful woman she is. Without the embellishments of all her finery she is an ugly, deformed hag. Falsehood is also ugly when it is finally exposed for what it is. Canto Nine Red Crosse thanks the knight for rescuing him. However, it is pointed out that anyone in need deserves help. Nor aid envy him in need that stands, (Canto IX, book I, page 126). Una, then knight, and Red Cross become linked in a golden chain of friendship. Each swears loyalty to the other. Una then asks the knight about his family. He replies that he does not know who his parents are but he does know that he is son to a king. The magician Merlin has told him that much. The wizard also told him that someday all would be revealed. When he was a baby, he was taken away from his parents and given to an old knight named Timon who brought him up to be a knight. Merlin came later to take charge of his education. Una then declares he is Prince Authur. Authur goes on to say that one day while he was riding his horse, he happened to feel tired so he chose a nice spot on the grass to lie down. He fell asleep and started to dream. In his dream a beautiful woman came to him and lay down beside him. She asked him to love her and he gladly did. Before she parted she told him that she was the Faerie Queene. When Authur awoke he found the grass beside him empty but the impression of a body had been left where his ladylove had been. He is now searching for her as he has fallen in love and had made her his quest in life. He has searched for her for the last nine months but all to no avail. Red Crosse tells the love-stricken knight that he knows of the queen and that she is a good woman. He suggests to Arthur that he serves the queen loyally and that she may in turn love him. The sun is setting so the friends part. Arthur goes on his way to find his true love. These verses confirm that the shining knight is really Prince Arthur. The history of the fabled man is told in brief but poetic form. The only variation from the usual history associated with the fabled king is that he is in love with the Faerie Queene. Arthur represents the perfect gentleman. He has all the virtues that Spenser thought necessary to achieve this goal. The Faerie Queene again represents Queen Elizabeth I. Only she would be virtuous enough to deserve a man like Arthur and only Arthur would be good enough to deserve a woman like the queen. Una and Red Crosse are together again after many trials and tribulations. They travel along peaceably until they see a man fleeing as if for his life. His face is white with fear and he has a rope around his neck. Red Crosse stops him and asks him what his troubles are. The terrified man stops but says that he fears that death might catch up to him. He explains that his name is Sir Tervisan and that he and his friend, Sir Terwin, had been traveling together when they happened upon a cave. They both enter into it and meet a ghastly old man named Despair. He starts talking to them and convinces both of them that ending their lives would be better. He points out that they are just going to keep making mistakes all through their miserable lives which will make their judgements much worse in the end. Despair hits Sir Terwin at his weakest point. He mentions the fact that Terwin cannot even win the woman he loves. Sir Terwin takes the rusted knife that Despair offers him and kills himself. Sir Trevisan was given a rope to end his life. He was about to kill himself when he realized what he was about to do and ran. Red Crosse becomes very angry and decides to punish the evil Despair. He convinces Trevisan to show he and Una the cave. When they get there, they see the dead bodies of victims lying about who have fallen victims to Despair. Red Crosse enters the cave and confronts the old man. He angrily asks him why he convinces people to do harm to themselves. Despair answers that he actually is doing them a favor. He says if they did not already feel guilty about their misdeeds then they would not feel the need to end their lives. Despair then turns his deadly attention to Red Crosse. He reminds him of all the sins he has only recently committed. He recounts how Red Crosse abandoned his true love for a false one who turned out to be a witch. Why should Red Crosse condemn him, when he is the one guilty of so many sins? Despair tells him that God kills all sinners so why not save Him the trouble by killing himself? Red Crosse is upset by this speech. It affects him so greatly that he starts to draw a dagger on himself. Una cries out in fright and snatches the dagger away. She scolds him and tells him that God will forgive those that forgive themselves. Red Crosse regains his composure and leaves with Una. Depair is so upset that he failed in his attempt to make Red Crosse commit suicide that he kills himself. This part of the poem is fairly easy to interpret. Despair represents man s conscience. Red Crosse is fully aware of his many sins. He has been prideful and unfaithful. He has committed wanton acts with a sinful woman. He almost gave in to the feeling despair when confronted with his misdeeds but Una reminded him that forgiveness comes from the Heavenly Father. God grants grace to those who seek it. Acknowledging one s sins is the first step toward forgiveness and salvation. Giving up because of one s sins leads the person into despair and hopelessness. Una, representing truth, helps Red Crosse find the right path once again. Canto 10 Una sees that Red Crosse is in no shape to fight the dragon holding her parents captive. He is physically drained and mentally beaten. Until he can revive his faith in himself, hope is lost. Una takes the knight to the House of Holiness where his wounds can be treated and the Holy Spirit returned to him. The door is locked to the beautiful house but as soon as they knock a porter lets them in. The house is run by an old woman named Coelia. She has raised three wonderful daughters who live with her. They are named Fidelia, Speranza, and Charissa. Red Crosse is instructed by each of the daughters and from them he learns faith, hope, and charity just as their names signify. A doctor named Patience cares for the knight s diseased soul. He helps cure Red Crosse s conscience. The knight fasts and his sins are plucked out of his skin by pinchers. After this painful treatment, he was wrapped in sackcloth and ashes and left to fast and pray. However, some of the wounds remain so bitter Penance is called in. He whips and disciplines the knight every day. Remorse follows. He pricks at the knight s heart. Then Repentance adds his remedies. He washes the filthy blots of sin away by using salt water. Red Crosse endures much pain during the healing process because his spirit is so low. Often times he tears at his own flesh because of the guilt he feels. Una wants to go to him but very wisely and patiently lets him go through the healing on his own. It is the only way he can be saved. Eventually, with his conscience now clear, Red Crosse comes to Una and embraces her. Then an ancient Matron instructs him in the ways of Mercy. The elderly lady takes the knight to a holy hospital where he is introduced to seven beadsmen. They are all in service to the high heaven king. They spend their days doing good deeds for others. They provide food, clothing, and shelter for those in need. They visit with prisoners and the sick. They take care of both orphans and the dead. After visiting these goodly men, Red Crosse is introduced to an old holy man named Contemplation. His home is up on a high hill where he spends his days and nights in meditation. The old man shows Red Crosse a wondrous and beautiful place that provides peace, rest, and bliss after one s life is done on earth. The road to the distant heavenly city was steep and long. The walls to the city were strong and high and built of precious gems and stone. Angels were going to and fro from the haven. Great joy surrounded the city. Contemplation tells the knight it is the New Jerusalem, which God has built. He chooses those who will dwell in the city. Those He chooses will be purged from guilt by the precious blood of the unspotted Lamb. Red Crosse declares it is the most beautiful place he has ever seen and that he hopes to go there. Contemplation assures him that some day he will enter the city and that he will be known as St. George, the patron saint of England. Red Crosse finds that hard to believe because he considers himself to be such an unworthy wretch. The old man tells him that the others who have attained the place have gone through similar circumstances such as he. Red Crosse want to go to the city then but Contemplation reminds him of his mission and vow to Una. The knight agrees he must see his promise through but that he will look forward to returning to the beautiful city of joy and peace. Red Crosse returns to Una and they leave to complete the quest the Faerie Queene sent them on. Interpretations of this Canto are easy to comprehend. Red Crosse is brought to the House of Holiness so he can receive forgiveness for all his many sins. He can only do this through total purification of his sinful soul. He suffers through the cleansing process and finds redemption and salvation in the end. Red Crosse has found his way back to the true church and the one true religion. His faithful and true lady has led him back to the right path. Canto Eleven Feeling completely healed in both body and spirit; Red Crosse leaves the House of Holiness along with Una and the dwarf. They travel onward to Una s homeland. As they approach the castle where her parent s are kept imprisoned by the dragon, the monster comes rushing out to meet them. Red Crosse tells Una to run for safety on a nearby hill. The dragon is a terrible sight. His wings are like sail, his scales are made of brass, and his tail has long sharp deadly spikes. His claws are even sharper and deadlier. His jaws have three rows of iron teeth and sulphurous smoke pours from his mouth. Red Crosse lifts his spear and boldly rides toward the advancing menace. Man and beast fight the entire day. Neither will back down. Finally, the knight wounds the dragon under his left wing. The beast roars with pain and manages to unseat Red Crosse from his horse. As the warrior tries to fight the dragon again, the monster breathes fire at him. The flames turned the knight s armor into an oven and he is grievously burned. As Red Crosse stumbles backward in his torment, he luckily falls into an ancient well which turns out to be the well of life . The waters are healing and he lies in them throughout the night. As it is the end of the first day and the dragon thinks he has killed his foe, he rests. Una spends the night praying for her hero as she saw him fall in battle and does not know if he is dead or alive. The next day Red Crosse is fully restored to health. The dragon thinks he is facing a new foe and another fight begins. The knight immediately strikes a blow to the monster s head. The dragon flies over the knight s head and manages to sting him with his tail. Red Crosse, suffering greatly from his wound, cannot remove the stinger and eventually cuts off five joints of the beast s tail. In a rage, the dragon snatches at the knight s shield and both hold on to it with determination. Red Crosse severs the fiend s paw. Once again, the dragon breathes deadly flames at the hero. The exhausted knight backs away from the lethal flames and once more slips in a mire. This time he falls into a blessed tree that God had planted years before. It is none other than the tree of life and from it flows a balm that heals all wounds. The knight is bathed in the healing sap all night and wakes up ready to fight for the third day in a row. With his awful mouth gaping open and intending to swallow the hero, the dragon rushes toward Red Crosse. The knight raises his weapon and sticks it down the beast s throat. The dragon crashes to the ground and dies. Thanking God, Una runs to meet her hero and bestows praises on him for his heroic victory. Red Crosse has freed the kingdom of Eden. On the moral level good battled evil in this canto and won. On the religious level, the dragon represents Satan. He has held the land of Eden captive. Red Crosse represents a Christian saint. He fights Satan, wins the battle, and frees fallen man once more. On the historical level, the true Church of England if restored to its rightful place over the false church, the Roman Catholic Church. Red Crosse being bathed in the well and the sap represents baptism. Each time he is healed and revived when this happens. Canto Twelve A watchman on one of the castle walls runs to tell the king that the dragon is dead. The king ventures forth to see if what he has been told is true and rejoices when it turns to be so. He orders the gates that have been locked for so long to opened. Soon a huge crowd is gathers around the hero, Red Crosse. Girls dance and sing all about him. When the merrymakers spy Una they dance around her too. The King praises the valiant knight for his heroic deed. Villagers gather around to stare at the dead fearsome beast that had terrorized them so. Some still worry that he might come back to life. Others are too afraid to touch it. A huge feast is held to honor Red Crosse and to celebrate the return of Una. Her parents are very thankful to see her again after being separated for so long. Una and Red Crosse become betrothed. Suddenly a messenger disrupts the merriment to give the king a letter. It states that Red Crosse is already pledged to Fidessa. The king asks the knight if this is true. He admits that he knew the Fidessa and at one time had loved her but that he had never pledged himself to her. Una supports what Red Crosse says and tells her father the true story concerning Fidessa. She tells him that the maiden was really the evil hag Duessa and that she had deceived the knight. Una also rightly accuses the messenger of being Archimago in yet another disguise. It turns out she is right. He was sent by Duessa to spoil the banquet. The arch-magician tries to escape but he is caught by guards and thrown into a dungeon. The celebration continues. Even though they are now pledged, Red Crosse will have to leave Una for a while because he has vowed he would return to the Faerie Queene to carry out his service. Red Crosse has obtained his goal and achieved the virtue of holiness. He also found friendship and love along the way. The reappearance of Archimago is a warning to all Christians to be ever on their guards because Satan can appear at any time. Also the point is made that no one s work on this earth is ever done. There are moments of merriment and joy but there is work to be done as well. There will always be another problem to face. There will always be another foe to conquer. On the moral level, good always triumphs over evil but one has to be ready to battle evil again. On the political level, the Protestant Church triumphed over the Catholic Church but there would be more confrontations. On the religious level, fallen man found salvation and redemption, but Satan is ever vigilant. One can read The Faerie Queene as a simple fairy tale and enjoy the story as such. However, Spenser meant for his masterpiece to have a deeper meaning. He was quite adept at using the allegory. Each Canto with its archaic words offers the reader a challenge. His use and skill with ancient language coupled with his creation, the Spenserian stanza presents the reader with a delightful look at Medieval England. The monumental task of penning over 36,000 lines of perfectly rhymed prose is an amazing accomplishment for any writer. Spenser truly was a poet s poet. Work Cited Beckson, Karl and Arthur Ganz. Literary Terms. HarperCollins : New York, 1989. Brookes-Davies, Douglas. The Fairy Queen. Everyman : Vermont, 1996.A. C. Hamilton. The Faerie Queene. Chelsea House Pbl. : New York, 1986.Daiches, David. A Critical History of English Literature. The Ronald Press Co. : New York, 1960. Encyclopedia Britannica. Edmund Spenser . Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc : Chicago, 1990. Erhard, Thomas A. World Book Encyclopedia. Edmund Spenser . World Book, Inc. : Chicago, 1988. Fowler, Alastair. British Writers. Charles Scribner s Sons : New York, 1979.Heale, Elizabeth. The Faerie Queene : A Reader s Guide. Cambridge University Press : Great Britain, 1987. Murphy, Bruce. Benet s Reader s Encyclopedia. HarperCollins : New York, 1996. Renwick, William L. The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition. Grolier Incorporated : Connecticut, 1987. Shepherd Sandy. Illustrated Guide To Ireland. The Reader s Digest Asc. Lmt. : London, 1992. Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. Penguin Books Ltd. : England, 1978.Waller Gary. Edmund Spenser. St. Martin s Press : New York, 1994.Ward A. C. Illustrated History Of English Literature. Longmans Green and Co : New York, 1953.aa
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