The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Summary and Analysis: Book I, Cantos v-viii

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 5535

New Characters A simple man: The disguised Archimago, who gives Satyrane and Una false information.

Ǽolus: The wind, father of Orgoglio.

Aescalpius: A fantastical healer who, though alive, has been consigned the darkest cave of hell for bringing the dead to life.

Diana or Cynthia: The virginal goddess of the hunt, who lives in the forests with an array of nymphs.

Earth: The mother of Orgoglio.

Hippolytus: A huntsman sent to hell because his father had him brought back from the dead.

Ignaro: Orgoglio’s stepfather, an ancient and blind man.

Jove: The king of the gods.

King of Babylon, King Croesus and Antiochus: Historical figures who are in hell as prisoners of Pride.

Merlin: A great sorcerer.

Night: The goddess of Night, who rides in an iron chariot across the sky.

Orgoglio: The son of Earth and wind, a giant who captures the Knight of the Red Cross.

Pluto: The Greek god of the underworld.

Satyrane: A half-man, half-satyr mix raised in the forest to feel no fear. Seven-headed Monster: The steed Orgoglio gives to Duessa.

Sylvanus: The lord of a troop of satyrs, fauns and nymphs.

The Prince, or the Knight: A good Knight who bears armor and shield crafted by the sorcerer Merlin and who is revealed to be Prince Arthur in Canto IX.

The Squire: Prince Arthur’s squire.

Troop of satyrs, fauns and nymphs: Minor characters, wood gods living together in the woods and satisfying their lustful urges.

Summary Canto v: The Knight of the Red Cross spends the night mostly awake and burning with desire to redeem his honor from the lies of the Sarazin. In the morning, the two of them are plied with wine and spices to give them courage. They swear an oath to each other to obey the laws of arms of all Knights.

When Queen Lucifera emerges, the battleground is prepared and the winner’s laurels displayed. A trumpet begins the battle, and “with greedy force” the Knights begin to hammer at each other’s shields. The older, stouter Sarazin fights for blood and revenge, while the young, fierce Elfin Knight fights for praise and his good name. They fight so hard that sparks fly from their swords and shields. Their previously shining, glittering shields become stained red with blood, and the audience becomes unsure whom to even cheer for because the wounds are so fearsome and deep.

The Sarazin happens to see his brother’s shield and his rage redoubles. He calls out to the spirit of his brother to tell him that he has taken the shield back, and it will no longer stand as a mark of vanquish and victory. The Elfin Knight falls under the spell and begins to lose the battle.

However, Duessa calls out to the Sarazin and the sound of her voice awakens the Knight of the Red Cross from his swooning dream, and he hits the Paynim Knight so hard that he is forced to one knee to avoid death. Then the Knight of the Red Cross raises his sword to deal the deathblow, but a dark cloud sweeps in and the Sarazin vanishes. The Elf calls out to him, but there is no answer.

Duessa runs to the field and congratulates the Knight of the Red Cross, telling him to beware the infernal powers that have hidden his foe. She begs him to accept her as his victory prize. The Knight of the Red Cross greedily searches the field but cannot find the Sarazin anywhere. Finally, he returns to Fidessa and falls upon one knee to make a present of his service to her. Fidessa/Duessa...

(This entire section contains 5535 words.)

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and the Knight make the triumphant march home, and he is given medical treatment.

Meanwhile, Duessa weeps bitter tears until nightfall. She goes to the home of Night, surprising the goddess, and begs her to wait to hear a message. Curious, Night stays, delaying the onset of darkness in the world. Duessa tells her of the death of Sans loy and the defeat of Sans joy, and how he sleeps in an enchanted cloud of darkness. Duessa calls the brothers Night’s children and demands that Night avenge the death and dishonor of her sons.

Night replies that the great Jove must be honoring the sons of the Day and declares that she cannot “turne the streame of destinee” because destiny is tied to Jove’s seat and he would know. Then Night swears vengeance on the Knight of the Red Cross and demands that her visitor tell whom she is, to bring Night information about her own nephews. Duessa reveals that she is the daughter of the Deceit and Shame, and a descendent of Night herself. Night bows down before her granddaughter and praises her disguise, and then takes to the sky, bringing darkness to the world. The two women come quickly to the Paynim’s hiding place and bind his wounds. While Night touches the ground, dogs continually bay, owls shriek and wolves howl. They bring the Paynim to hell and down to Pluto’s house.

They pass into the deepest, darkest, most woeful cave, where Hippolytus is kept. Hippolytus was the handsome and brave son of the Sea, who scorned his stepmother’s sexual advances. To take revenge, she accused him of treason, and his infuriated father dashed him to pieces on the cliffs. The stepmother then killed herself while avowing Hippolytus’ innocence. The penitent god of the Sea brought Hippolytus to Aescalpius, who was renowned for his medical skill. Aescalpius re-assembled Hipploytus and brought him back to life. The king of the gods, Jove, was so dismayed at this rupture of natural law that he sent Hippolytus to hide the darkest cave of hell by hitting him with a thunderbolt. Hippolytus lived there with Aescalpius, who continually tries to heal Hippolytus from the wounds caused by the divine fire. Night begs Aescalpius to heal her grandson, Sans joy. The rueful Aescalpius needs serious persuasion to consider repeating his crime of healing the dreadfully wounded, but Night is persuasive. She argues that he has already been excluded from heaven and so has nothing more to fear. If Aescalpius’ punishment is complete and tragic, there is nothing more that can be added to it.

Duessa returns to the hall of Pride. The Knight of the Red Cross has departed, though his wounds are not yet healed. He has been warned by his Dwarf of dungeons that are full of wretched men who had devoted themselves to the Court and are now perpetually tortured by Envy and Wrath. These men are all prisoners of Pride, and include the king of Babylon, who tried to compel all men to worship him as God and for that was transformed into an ox. Also included are King Croesus and proud Antiochus, who desired things beyond mortal reach. Thousands of men and women fill the dungeon, all tortured day and night for their sins of pride.

The Dwarf tells his master of souls trapped because they had lingered in idleness and play, and the Knight takes them as an example he must not follow. Instead, he and the Dwarf wake early and flee as furtively as possible, afraid of the wrath of Queen Lucifera. The Knight can barely find his way amongst the foul gathering, but sneaks through the corpses of murdered men and past an enormous dunghill of corpses to flee the “sad house of Pride.”

Canto vi: The Elfin Knight feels enormous relief at having safely escaped the house of Pride. However, he misses the Lady Fidessa, although he misses Una much more.

Una has been taken into the forest by the foul Sans loy, who defeated the Archimago. There Sans loy tries to convince her to willingly have sex with him, but she is unyielding. He rips off her veil, and her beauty moves him to lust with or without her consent. The narrator bewails this state of affairs: “Ah heavens, that do this hideous act behold, / And heavenly virgin thus outraged see, / How can ye vengeance just so long withhold, / And hurle not flashing flames upon that Paynim bold?” The heavens do not intervene, but Una’s shrieks are so loud and so dismayed that a troop of fauns and satyrs sleeping in the woods hear her and come to find the source of the ruckus. They terrify Sans loy away, and Una turns from her rapist to find a group of rapacious wood gods. Her fear and despair affects the wood gods, however, and they, “in compassion of her tender youth / And wonder of her beautie soveraine” begin to kiss her feet and bow before her. They bring her before their master, Sylvanus, with great fanfare. Because the beauty and goodness of others pale in comparison to Una, Sylvanus immediately falls out of love with his nymphs. Overcome with envy, the nymphs of the troop flee. From this point forward, the satyrs consider only Una as beautiful, and the “luckeless lucky maid” begins to teach the troop not to worship false idols. Her lessons, however, are mostly in vain.

It just so happens that at the same time a brave and glorious Knight named Satyrane is wandering through the forest looking for his father, a satyr who bewitched and raped a peasant woman. The half satyr, half man-child grew up in the woods with violent and beastly games and pastimes. He was raised to conquer his own cowardice and fear in all things and so rode wild bulls and stole the whelps of lions from the mother’s teat. As he grew, even his father was afraid of the fearless man Satyrane had become and his talent with yoking beasts that should have been wild. Satyrane is known throughout Faerie land for his power and ferocity. After his adventures in the wider world and successes in many wars, however, Satyrane liked to come home to the forest and visit. He is on such a visit when he first sees Una teaching sacred lore to a group of enthralled, but stupid, satyrs.

In a short time, Satyrane, like the others in the troop, comes to love and worship Una and also understands and accepts Una’s faith and virtues. Unlike the others, though, Satyrane is privy to Una’s secret that she wishes to escape and find her Redcross Knight. Satyrane helps her to do this by conveying her with such speed the wood gods cannot chase her.

Satyrane and Una find a simple, poor man out walking and beg him for news. The man says that he saw the Redcross Knight die only a short time ago. Una faints at this news, but Satyrane revives her, and they continue to question the man.

The man informs them that he saw a Paynim kill the Knight of the Red Cross in open battle. Moreover, he tells them that the killer is still nearby, bathing his wounds. Una and Satyrane ride off in haste and find this Paynim Knight, who turns out to be Sans loy. Satyrane challenges him to a duel. A tremendous battle ensues, and the Paynim Knight tries to pursue Una yet again. Satyrane halts him, and the fight continues while Una flees.

The Archimago watches the battle from his disguise as a simple, poor man, delighted with his latest trick. When Una sneaks away, though, the Archimago follows.

Canto vii: The narrator briefly admires Duessa’s skill in pretending to be the truthful, beautiful, young, and chaste Fidessa when she is really an ugly, ancient, and terrible witch. She returns to the house of Pride but finds that the Redcross Knight has fled. She searches and finds him resting by a stream with his armor off and his horse grazing. As usual, she deceives him with fond and kind words and then lays beside him in the shade.

However, the stream has been cursed by Diana. The Knight drinks from these waters, but in the excitement at courting Fidessa, he does not notice the effects. When a loud and repeated noise causes the trees to tremble, the Elfin Knight leaps to his feet and begins to don his armor and weapons. But before he can do so, a giant walks into the clearing.

The giant, Orgoglio, is the son of Earth and Ǽolus, the wind. Arrogant because of his godly parents, the giant scorns all powers, including those of Knights. The giant wields an oak tree as a mace and advances upon the undressed Knight, who now feels the weakening effects of the stream and can barely lift his blade. When the giant swings at him, the Knight manages to leap out of the way, but the wind from the weapon moving through the air knocks him to the ground and renders him unconscious. The giant is ready to kill him.

Duessa pleads with him to halt for a Lady’s sake and make the Knight his slave and to take her with him. The giant obeys, and Duessa willingly crawls into his arms. Orgoglio picks up the still-unconscious Knight, brings him to his castle, and throws him in the dungeon.

Orgoglio’s infatuation with Duessa means that she rules as a virtual queen. Orgoglio gives her a fearsome steed to command respect from the people. Her new steed is a seven-headed monster with an endlessly long tail and an iron breast.

While taking care of the grazing horse, the Dwarf had watched the battle with the Giant. He gathers up the Knight’s armor, shield and spear and sets out to tell the story of his captive master. He finds Una as she flees from the Paynim Knight, who Satyrane is keeping occupied in battle. Upon seeing the Dwarf’s burden of shield and armor, Una assumes the worst and falls prostrate in grief.

The Dwarf revives Una, who awakens and speaks a long and morbid lament. Una then faints again, and the Dwarf must revive her three more times before she calms enough to ask him to tell her the story of the Elfin Knight. She reassures the Dwarf that “thy sad tongue cannot tell more heavy plight, / Then that I feele, and harbour in mine hart.”

The Dwarf tells of the Archimago’s deceit and the vision of the unchaste Una, of the adventures with Fidessa and in the House of Pride, the battle with Sans joy and then the defeat and capture at the hands of the Giant.

Una listens to what the Knight has endured, and her love of Redcross grows greater and greater. After the tale finishes, she wanders through hills and valleys searching for the Knight again. On her way, she meets a good and shining Knight who carries a precious stone shaped like a Lady’s head. The Knight has a helmet shaped like a Dragon and a glittering tail stretching down his back. His armor is made of gold and covered in precious stones, and his shield looks like it is made of diamond. However, this Knight carries enchanted goods that only resemble such precious substances and in reality are even greater and more awesome. His armor was made and designed by Merlin, the great enchanted sorcerer. It was so beautiful and so well crafted that the Faerie Queen had it brought to Faerie land.

This Prince and Knight calls out to Una with pleasantries, but quickly discerns her sorrow. She laments, claiming that neither earthly worlds nor human speech can reach a heart so sorrowful. She announces that her last comfort is her “woes to weepe and waile.”

The Knight asks her to tell him her story. The two of them engage in a dialogue in which Una declares that telling her story will only hurt her unless aid is offered, and the Knight tells her to have faith in others. His reasoned and thoughtful speech convinces Una.

Una reveals that she is the daughter of a King and a Queen who ruled many territories. However, a terrible dragon despoiled their kingdom and has trapped the King and Queen in a castle these past four years. Many Knights tried to kill the dragon, but none succeeded. So the Lady Una herself went to find a Knight with greater prowess and skill and found the brave and true Redcross Knight. She then describes the Archimago’s false vision of her lack of chastity, and the Knight’s desertion of her. She confesses how much she loves the Knight of the Red Cross and would never give up her body to anyone else. She tells of Duessa’s false charms and then of the captivity at the hands of the Giant.

Moved by her story, the Prince swears not to forsake her until he has freed the Redcross Knight. Together, under the guidance of the Dwarf, they set out to do so.

Canto viii: Una travels with the Prince until the Dwarf recognizes a castle as the one where the Redcross Knight is captive. The Prince advances on the castle alone and blows a golden bugle. The shrill sound of the bugle terrifies everyone in a three-mile radius and opens all locked gates and doors. Every door in the Giant’s castle flies open and the Giant emerges to find the source of the noise. Duessa follows on her beastly steed, and the Prince immediately attacks. The Giant lashes out with his club, but the Prince avoids the blow, which causes a mini-earthquake. The club is buried three feet in the ground, and while the Giant tries to pull it out, the Prince cuts off his left arm. The Giant lets out a piercing yell, and Duessa and her monstrous steed try to come to his aid.

However, the Prince’s Squire stands between the monster and the Prince, blade in hand. He does not let Duessa pass him, and so Duessa takes out the items of sorcery and sprinkles the Squire with poisons that sap his courage. He falls down before the beast, deprived of the will to live, and the beast begins to eat him. The sight of his beloved Squire being wounded brings anguish and courage to the Prince, who advances and slices open one of the monster’s seven heads. The Giant runs in, saves Duessa from the monster’s thrashing agonies, and forces the Prince to retreat.

The Giant then raises his club in his one arm and brings it down with a crashing blow. The Prince catches it on his shield but is forced to the ground. However, his glittering shield reflects sunlight and blinds both the Giant and Duessa’s monstrous steed. Duessa cries out to Orgoglio, begging him to help before they all perish. The Giant tries to come to her aid, but in the light from the shield he has seen their end. The Giant’s eyes are dimmed, and his senses daunted.

The Prince fights with renewed force and cuts off one of the Giant’s legs. The Giant falls ponderously to the ground, causing the earth to quake. The Prince leaps to the advantage and beheads Orgoglio. Everyone is bathed in the Giant’s blood, but the body shrinks into a tiny bladder as soon as the breath leaves the Giant’s body. Duessa casts down her magical implements and tries to flee, heartbroken at the loss of the Giant who gave her a kingdom. However, the Squire captures her and returns her as booty to the Prince.

Una’s delight moves her to offer herself in service to The Prince and his Squire forevermore. In her gratitude, she begs God to praise and love the two as much as she does. Una follows this offer with a plea not to let foul Duessa escape, as Duessa was the one who held her Redcross Knight in thrall.

The Prince tells his Squire to keep the “scarlet whore” carefully while he frees the Redcross Knight. He enters the deserted castle and calls out for someone to aid him. An ancient, blind man comes to him with a spare set of keys. This man, named Ignaro, is stepfather to Orgoglio. The Prince asks him where the other inhabitants are, but Ignaro says that he cannot tell. Angry, the Prince demands that Ignaro answer, but then realizes that the old man is feeble-minded. The Prince takes the keys and enters every room of the great castle. He finds the blood of innocents and a defiled altar. Finally, he discovers a huge, locked iron door with no key. The Prince calls through a grate on the door for anyone behind to answer, and a dreary, plaintive voice responds by begging for death.

At the sound of the voice, the Prince feels enormous pity. The Prince breaks down the door and finds a deep pit on the other side and has to lift the forlorn Redcross Knight, who is too weak to even stand, out of his prison.

When Una sees the Redcross Knight, she runs to him and tells him of her joy at seeing him and her pain at his condition. Una declares “fie on Fortune mine avowed foe” for keeping them apart.

Together, the Prince, Redcross Knight and Squire strip Duessa of her royal garb and find her true, misshapen body, which is not only old and ugly but also has a fox’s tail, an eagle’s claw for one foot and a bear’s paw for the other. They let her go naked into the woods, with her monstrousness revealed. Duessa flees from the company, into the wilderness and hides under rocks and in caves.

Una and her Knight, however, move into the castle to rest and feast.

Analysis In Cantos v-viii, the Faerie Queen reinforces Protestant values and shows the trouble that ensues when one fails to keep to good faith. The Redcross Knight’s vain battle with Sans joy results in his winning Duessa as a prize. Pride leads Redcross to an unworthy and deceitful booty—Duessa not only worked to defeat Redcross, but also feigns admiration and fondness of him to further her own devices. Duessa is a terrible prize, and Redcross’ inability to recognize that demonstrates how far he is from the truth.

Of course, Redcross’ plight becomes worse. The positive act of leaving the House of Pride in search of more worthy adventure is completely negated by Redcross’ repeat performance of being seduced by Duessa. When Duessa finds him by the stream, Redcross lingers and courts her rather than questioning her about the House of Pride, or her intentions, or simply getting up and riding off in search of more worthy pursuits. By taking off his armor, Redcross removes himself from the virtues that Knighthood endows and suggests that he can deal with any eventuality without the armor of a Christian. Redcross succumbs to the desire to rest, relax, and be distracted from the pain of life, and so he essentially gives up on being good and faithful. Because he lets himself be flattered by Duessa, Redcross becomes subject to the stream’s debilitating effects. Orgoglio not only finds Redcross, but finds him weakened and without his armor. Orgoglio finds Redcross when Redcross is at his most prideful, weak, and full of himself. This is at least partially from Duessa’s influence.

While accompanied by Una, Redcross was discouraged from entering into unnecessary battles (like the one with the monster Error) and stayed vigilant against attacks. Una’s penetrating intelligence and vision guided Redcross. Duessa weakens him, however, making him susceptible to sins like pride, and convincing him to dally in unsafe ways. This all results in his entrapment by Orgoglio. Her lies and falsely beautiful appearance mislead him, and he does not listen to Fradubio’s warning. Therefore, the imprisonment by Orgoglio seems to complete the downfall that Redcross’ lack of faith in Una had begun. Without Una, Redcross is subject to temptation, lies, sin, weakness, and defeat.

Sixteenth century Protestants often alluded to the “Whore of Babylon” as a reference to Roman-Catholicism. Since Duessa is consistently described as wearing scarlet, the color of both the Roman-Catholic church and the Whore of Babylon, Duessa can be seen as a symbol of Catholicism. The House of Pride, with its self-made ruler, also suggests Catholicism. The pomp and falsity of the House of Pride, as well as the entourage of sins and Satan that only Queen Lucifera can command, suggest the Pope and a string of fears he can command. When Redcross leaves the House of Pride, he effectively rejects Catholicism. However, he allows Duessa to re-enter his life and so shows himself fickle not only to Una and Protestantism, but also in his rejection of Catholicism. This fickleness allows his capture and imprisonment. Since Una represents more than just a Lady or a love—she is also the embodiment of the one truth, the one religion and the one ruler—the author’s admonition in Canto iv against changing one’s Lady too quickly represents only the surface of events. The Redcross Knight fails to respect and honor religion and holiness when he walks away from Una and takes up with Duessa.

Religious themes continue with Una in the forest. She takes wild wood sprites and manages to discipline them and teach them to be good. The main reason she is able to do this is because of her beauty, but she also wins them over by being a holy example and speaking and teaching about religion. Even the most feared wood sprite, Satyrane, becomes her devoted follower. Una embodies the power of religion. Her goodness and her beauty result from her holy life.

Una’s beauty is thus starkly different from Fidessa’s. Duessa enchants herself to hide her own ugliness and age. Duessa’s inner hideousness is masked by superficial beauty, while Una’s goodness, chastity, and holiness are revealed in her outer appearance. Redcross’ inability to differentiate between these two types of beauty shows his naïve state.

Just as Queen Lucifera is a self-made ruler, Orgoglio too has created a kingdom without the divine authority, lineage, or virtue to justify such an act. Further linking Queen Lucifera and Orgoglio is Orgoglio’s name. In Italian, Orgoglio means “pride.” Duessa causes Redcross to visit the House of Pride and to be captured by Orgoglio. Giants are often associated with rebellion and pride. For instance, the Titans tried to overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Spencer is clearly aware of this, as Book VII is about a giantess descended from the Titans. Furthermore, Orgoglio is born of wind and Earth, and he causes earthquakes. Quite frequently, earthquakes refer to the wrath of the gods. Since Redcross is caught by the symbol of Pride, who causes earthquakes, at the very moment when he most shows voluptuousness and lack of good behavior, Orgoglio seems a punishment wrought by Redcross’ own actions.

Redemption and grace enter Book I in the form of Prince Arthur. Prince Arthur’s magical armor and weapons are gifts from Merlin, but Prince Arthur himself is something of a Christ-like figure. He seeks and rescues the lost (in this case, Redcross), removes them from the pit of despair, and returns them to the one right religion. Furthermore, his horn that causes doors to open and locks to unlock is reminiscent of the horn that Joshua uses to destroy the walls of Jericho in the Book of Joshua (chapter 6) in the Bible. That horn caused the victory to be attributed to God, not mankind.

Orgoglio’s very being as a giant with a name meaning pride illustrates his role as a vile unbeliever. However, his castle is also associated with unbelievers in the Bible. Joshua was sent as a representative of God to take over the lands of unbelievers, just as Prince Arthur has been sent to save a potential believer and in the process destroys the castle of unbelievers. Furthermore, Jericho was destroyed because of a harlot, just as Duessa causes Orgoglio’s destruction by convincing him to imprison Redcross. In addition, the harlot that causes Jericho’s downfall is allowed to live, just as Duessa is released once she has suffered for her crimes. The harlot of Jericho also saves the lives of good men as Duessa convinces Orgoglio to imprison rather than kill Redcross. Prince Arthur thus has a link to Joshua, who destroyed the city of Jericho and freed the harlot who caused its downfall. Clearly, Joshua and Prince Arthur both have God at their side in the battle against evil. Orgoglio’s castle is further linked to unbelief and terrible pride through the seven-headed monster that Duessa rides. This beast is similar to a monster described in Revelations 12 and 17, and Duessa herself is dressed in the clothes of the Whore of Babylon and carries a cup similar to the Whore’s. After the defeat, she is stripped naked, made desolate, and sent into the wilderness, a fate similar to that of the Whore of Babylon. Thus, Orgoglio’s castle was built out of pride, is ruled by pride, and houses the Whore of Babylon. When Prince Arthur takes it over, he symbolically rejects disbelief while saving the wayward soul of Redcross, who had been oppressed by these non-believers.

Prince Arthur saves Redcross’ body and soul. Jesus Christ seeks those who might believe in a figurative sense, while Prince Arthur literally opens doors and calls out to find those who believe. Una, who represents truth, takes even the twice-fallen Redcross back as long as he accepts her wholly and no longer believes the Archimago’s lies. In this way, Spencer references the Gospels’ idea of the truth leading to freedom

Also present in the Faerie Queen are themes of despair, suicide, and redemption. When Una sees the Dwarf with Redcross’ armor, she cannot think of how that would come to pass but for Redcross’ death, and so she despairs. She begs her eyes to be permanently sealed against the woes of the world and pleads for death to ease her suffering. This yearning for rest from the endless pain of life continues in several other characters throughout the work.

However, when Una survives and waits, her fears are proved unfounded, and instead of dying, she is reunited with the Redcross Knight, and her enemies are defeated. Similarly, when the Redcross Knight hears Prince Arthur’s voice, he calls out for someone to kill him. He pleads for death even in the face of rescue and redemption. When he survives, Redcross discovers that he is free, united with his love, and that his enemies are dead or punished. Spencer writes kindly about the impulse towards suicide—he does not condemn it. But in each instance, he sets out to prove it to be faulty. Spencer’s work implies that despair is natural, as life is full of woe. However, if one remains steadfast and holds to belief, despair will end and redemption will follow. This theme continues in this Book and other Books of the Faerie Queen.

One related theme in the Faerie Queen, which reaches its first full development here in Book I, is that of helplessness in sin and divine grace. The first instance of this is when Redcross wanders in the Forest of Error, fights the monster simply because it is a monster, ignores Una’s admonitions against fighting the monster, and then becomes immobilized in the monster Error’s tail. This act is significant because it is a direct result of ignoring Una’s advice. Una advises Redcross to be faithful and so defeat the monster, but it is his vainglorious pride that gives him strength to defeat Error. Even in defeating Error, Redcross has done so in a way that emphasizes his fall towards sin. This helplessness is exacerbated because his weakness or susceptibility to illusion is exploited by the Archimago. However, the weakness itself is a part of Redcross, at least in the opening Cantos, because he does not fully believe. The prideful battle with Sans joy places Redcross in another position of helpless futility when his opponent disappears. Redcross cannot finish the battle. This inability to act, or forced immobility, is most evident in Redcross’ interactions with Orgoglio. The stream may have sapped Redcross’ strength, but regardless of cause, Redcross cannot avoid death. Only the sinning Duessa persuades Orgoglio to spare Redcross, and she does so not for Redcross’ own sake, but to become a queen. This frustrated inability to act reaches its pinnacle when Redcross is imprisoned in the dungeon.

In fact, only divine grace saves Redcross from his paralysis and sinful hell in the dungeon. Prince Arthur’s Christ-like connotations peak when he pulls the weakened Redcross from the dungeon and lifts him into the light. Without divine intervention, Redcross would have been lost entirely. Yet he only falls into this sort of helpless despair when he ignores Una’s advice and allows himself to be separated from her. Prince Arthur represents a direct intervention of divine grace, but Una is a more constant positive force. Redcross’ quest depends upon Una, not only to gain Gloriana’s favor and his own fame, but also to save his soul.


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


Summary and Analysis: Book I, Cantos ix-xii