Disscuss the art of characterization by Edmund Epenser in "The Faerie Queene".

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Spenser develops characterization in The Faerie Queene in accord with principles of allegory: Each of the twelve knights of The Faerie Queen represent the twelve "private" (individual) virtues, as does each of the Books of the allegory. Additionally Spenser's characterization includes the composition of each character, which encompasses describing various aspects of: physical traits and qualities, such as hair, clothing, stance, walk; moral traits and qualities, such as honesty, unscrupulousness, deceit, loyalty; occupation and related traits or qualities, such as merchant, fairness, greed; and personal traits, such as ambition, motive, goals. These can be described directly by the narrator pointing out specific features or indirectly through thoughts, conversation, vocabulary and syntax, tone, emotional setting, reactions, etc.

Spenser gives the composition of his characters (per above) then shows how this composition becomes fragmented in the midst of the conflicts, finally leading his characters to metamorphosis, or change (called character development), through learning the allegorical lesson at hand. Spenser thereby characterizes so his characters both embody (allegorically) and underscore (through fragmentation and metamorphosis) his main points and themes. Ultimately, in The Faerie Queene, Spenser's characters allegorically represent the virtues and vices that are integral to humanity's quest for goodness. (It is ironic that our present society seems to have in large part,though not entirely, abandoned this quest for goodness and focuses instead on a quest for opposition to goodness.)