The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

Start Free Trial

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

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5447

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 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...

(This entire section contains 5447 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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: 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 introduce all 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