The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Characters Discussed

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Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, an idealized portrait of Queen Elizabeth. Although she does not appear in the extant portion of the poem, many of the knights set out on their quests from her court, and they often praise her virtue and splendor.

Prince Arthur

Prince Arthur, the legendary British hero, who represents Magnificence, the perfection of all virtues. He rides in search of Gloriana, who had appeared to him in a vision, and, on his way, aids knights in distress.

The Red Cross Knight

The Red Cross Knight, the hero of book 1, in which he represents both England’s patron, Saint George, and Christian man in search of holiness. He sets out confidently to rescue Una’s parents from the dragon of evil, but he is attacked by forces of sin and error that drive him to the point of suicide. He is restored in the House of Holiness by the teachings and offices of the church and, refreshed by a fountain and a tree, symbolizing the sacraments of baptism and communion, he triumphs in his three-day combat with the dragon.


Una (EW-nah), the daughter of the King and Queen of the West, Adam and Eve; she personifies truth and the church. She advises her knight wisely, but she cannot protect him from himself. Deserted, she is aided by a lion and a troop of satyrs. She is finally restored to the Red Cross Knight, who is betrothed to her after his victory over the dragon.

The Dwarf

The Dwarf, her companion, Common Sense.


Error, the Red Cross Knight’s first adversary, a monster who lives in the wandering wood.


Archimago (ahr-chih-MAH-goh), a satanic figure who uses many disguises in his attempts to lure the knights and ladies of the poem into sin and disaster.


Duessa (dew-EHS-seh), his accomplice, whose attractive appearance hides her real hideousness. She represents variously Falsehood, the Roman Catholic Church, and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Sans Foy

Sans Foy,

Sans Loy

Sans Loy, and

Sans Joy

Sans Joy, Saracen knights who attack Una and her knight.


Fradubio (frah-DEW-bee-oh), a knight betrayed by Duessa and transformed into a tree.


Kirkrapine (KURK-rah-peen), a church robber, slain by Una’s lion when he tries to enter the cottage where she has taken refuge.


Abessa (AH-beh-sah), his mistress.


Corceca (KOHR-seh-kah), her blind mother.


Lucifera (lew-SIH-feh-rah), the mistress of the House of Pride.


Malvenu (MAHL-veh-new), her porter.


Vanity, her usher.


Night, the mother of falsehood, to whom Duessa appeals for help.


Aesculapius (ehs-kew-LAY-pee-uhs), the physician of the gods.


Sylvanus (SIHL-vah-nuhs), the leader of the satyrs who rescue Una from Sans Loy.


Satyrane (SA-tih-rayn), a valiant, gentle knight who is half nobleman and half satyr.


Despair, an emaciated creature who drives warriors to suicide with his sophistic recitals of their sins.


Trevisan (TREH-vih-san), one of his intended victims.

Dame Coelia

Dame Coelia (CHEE-lee-ah), a virtuous matron who lives in the House of Holiness.


Fidelia (fih-DAY-lee-ah),


Speranza (speh-RAN-zah), and


Charissa (cha-RIHS-sah), her daughters, Faith, Hope, and Charity.


Contemplation, a holy hermit who gives the Red Cross Knight a vision of the City of God, then sends him back into the world to complete his quest.


Guyon (GWEE -on), the Knight of Temperance, the sternest of the Spenserian heroes, who must violently destroy Acrasia’s power and all of its...

(This entire section contains 2232 words.)

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temptations that lead men to intemperance.


Palmer, his faithful companion, who stands for Reason or Prudence.


Acrasia (ah-KRAY-zee-ah), the Circe-like mistress of the Bower of Bliss. She lures men to their ruin in her world of debilitating luxuriance and turns them into animals.


Amavia (ah-MAY-vee-ah), the desolate widow of one of her victims.


Ruddymane, her baby, whose hands cannot be cleansed of his dying mother’s blood.


Medina (meh-DEE-nah),


Perissa (peh-RIHS-sah), and


Elissa, sisters who personify the mean, the deficiency, and the excess of temperance.

Sir Huddibras

Sir Huddibras (HEW-dee-brahs), a malcontent, Elissa’s lover.


Braggadocio (brahg-ga-DOH-chee-oh), a vainglorious braggart who masquerades as a knight on Guyon’s stolen horse.


Trompart, his miserly companion.


Belphoebe (behl-FEE-bee), a virgin huntress, reared by the goddess Diana, who cannot respond to the devotion offered by Prince Arthur’s squire, Timias. She is another of the figures conceived as a compliment to Elizabeth.


Furor, a churlish fellow whom Guyon finds furiously beating a helpless squire.


Occasion, his mother, a hag.


Phedon (FAY-don), the maltreated squire, who falls into Furor’s hands through his jealousy of his lady, Pryene, and his friend Philemon.


Pyrochles (PIH-roh-kleez) and


Cymochles (SIH-mah-kleez), intemperate knights defeated by Guyon.


Atin (AT-ihn), Pyrochles’ servant.


Phaedria (FAY-dree-ah), a coquette who lures knights to her island, where she lulls them into forgetfulness of their quests.


Mammon, the god of riches, who sits in rusty armor surveying his hoard of gold.


Philotime (fih-LOH-tih-mee), his daughter, who holds the golden chain of ambition.


Alma, the soul, mistress of the castle of the body where Guyon and Prince Arthur take refuge.


Phantastes (FAN-tahs-teez) and


Eumnestes (ewm-NEHS-teez), guardians, respectively, of fantasy and of memory.


Maleger (mah-LEE-gur), the captain of the shadowy forces who attacked the bulwarks of the House of Alma.


Verdant, a knight released by Guyon from Acrasia’s clutches.


Grille, one of Acrasia’s victims. He reviles Guyon and the Palmer for restoring his human form.


Britomart (BRIH-toh-mahrt), the maiden knight, heroine of the book of Chastity. She subdues the forces of lust as she travels in search of Artegall, with whom she fell in love when she saw him in a magic mirror. Her union with him represents the alliance of justice and mercy as well as Spenser’s ideal of married chastity, which surpasses the austere virginity of Belphoebe.


Malecasta (mal-eh-KAS-teh), the lady of delight, beautiful and wanton, who entertains Britomart in Castle Joyous.


Glauce (GLAW-see), Britomart’s nurse, who accompanies her as her squire.


Merlin, the famous magician, whom Glauce and Britomart consult to learn the identity of the knight in the mirror.


Marinell (MA-rih-nehl), the timid son of a sea nymph and Florimell’s lover.


Cymoent (SIH-mehnt), his mother.


Florimell (FLOH-rih-mehl), the loveliest and gentlest of the ladies in Faerie Land. She is pursued by many evil beings, men and gods, before she is wed to Marinell.


Timias (TIH-mee-as), Prince Arthur’s squire, who is healed of severe wounds by Belphoebe. Although he falls in love with her, he can never win more than kindness as a response.


Crysogene (krih-SAW-jeh-nee), the mother of Belphoebe and Amoret, who were conceived by the sun.


Argante (ahr-GAHN-tee), a giantess, one of the figures of lust.


Ollyphant (AW-lee-fant), her brother and lover.

A Squire of Dames

A Squire of Dames, Argante’s prisoner.

Snowy Florimell

Snowy Florimell, Braggadocio’s lady, a creature made by a witch with whom Florimell had stayed.


Proteus (PROH-tee-uhs), the shepherd of the sea, who rescues Florimell from a lecherous fisherman.


Panope (PAN-oh-pee), an old nymph, his housekeeper.


Paridell (PAR-ih-dehl), a vain, lascivious knight.


Malbecco (mal-BEHK-koh), a miserly, jealous old man.


Hellenore (HEHL-leh-nohr), his young wife, who runs away with Paridell.


Scudamour (SKEW-dah-mohr), the knight most skilled in the art of courtly love. He wins Amoret at the court of Venus, but she is taken from him almost immediately.


Amoret (AM-ohr-eht), his beautiful bride, who is taken prisoner at her own wedding by Busirane, who represents her own passions and the confining forces of the rigid code of love in which she has grown up.


Busirane (BEW-sih-rayn), her captor.


Venus, the goddess of love and a personification of the creative force in nature, Amoret’s foster mother.


Adonis (uh-DON-ihs), her lover.


Diana, the divine huntress, the virgin goddess who raises Belphoebe.


Ate (AH-tay), Discord, a malicious old woman who stirs up strife.


Blandamour (BLAN-dah-mohr), a fickle knight.

Sir Ferraugh

Sir Ferraugh (FEHR-raw), one of the suitors of Snowy Florimell.


Cambello (kam-BEHL-loh), one of the knights of friendship.


Canacee (KA-nah-see), his sister, a wise and beautiful lady who is won by Triamond.


Cambina (kam-BEE-nah), Cambello’s wife.


Priamond (PREE-ah-mond),


Diamond, and


Triamond (TREE-ah-mond), brothers who fight for the hand of Canacee. The first two are killed, but their strength passes into their victorious surviving brother.


Artegall (AHR-teh-gahl), the knight of Justice, Britomart’s beloved.


Talus (TAH-luhs), the iron man, his implacable attendant, who upholds justice untempered by mercy.


Aemylia (eh-MEE-lee-ah), a lady imprisoned with Amoret by a villainous churl and rescued by Belphoebe.


Corflambo (kohr-FLAHM-boh), a mighty pagan who corrupts his enemies by filling them with lust.


Poeana (pee-AH-nah), his rude, tyrannical daughter.


Amyas (ah-MEE-ahs), the Squire of Low Degree, Aemylia’s suitor.


Placidas (PLAH-see-dahs), another squire loved by Poeana. Encouraged by Prince Arthur, Placidas marries Poeana and reforms her.


Druon (DREW-on) and


Claribell, pugnacious companions of Blandamour and Paridell.


Thames (TAH-mees) and


Medway, the river god and goddess whose marriage is attended by the famous waterways of the world.


Neptune, the sea god to whom Marinell’s mother pleads for Florimell’s release from Proteus.


Grantorto (gran-TOHR-toh), a tyrant who holds Irena’s country in his power. He is the emblem of the political strength of the Roman Catholic Church.


Irena, his victim, who appeals to the Faerie Queene for help.

Sir Sanglier

Sir Sanglier (SAHN-glee-ayr), a cruel lord who is chastened by Talus.


Pollente (pohl-LEHN-tay), a Saracen warrior who extorts money from travelers.


Munera (MEW-neh-rah), his daughter, the keeper of his treasury.

Giant Communism

Giant Communism, Artegall’s foe. He tries to weigh everything in his scales, but he learns, before Talus hurls him into the sea, that truth and falsehood, right and wrong, cannot be balanced.


Amidas (AH-mih-dahs) and


Bracidas (BRA-see-dahs), brothers whose dispute over a treasure chest is settled by Artegall.


Philtera (FIHL-teh-rah), Bracidas’ betrothed, who weds his wealthy brother.


Lucy, Amidas’ deserted sweetheart, Bracidas’ wife.

Sir Turpine

Sir Turpine (TUR-pih-nay), a knight whom Artegall discovers bound and tormented by Amazon warriors. He refuses aid to Calepine and Serena.


Radigund (RA-dih-guhnd), the queen of the Amazons. She captures Artegall and dresses him in women’s clothes to humiliate him, then falls in love with him and tries unsuccessfully to win him.


Clarinda, her attendant, who comes to love Artegall as she woos him for her mistress.


Dolon (DOH-lon), Deceit, a knight who tries to entrap Britomart.


Mercilla (mur-SIHL-lah), a just and merciful maiden queen whose realm is threatened by a mighty warrior.

The Souldan

The Souldan, her enemy, thought to represent Philip of Spain. He is destroyed by the brilliant light of Prince Arthur’s diamond shield.


Malengin (mah-LEHN-gihn), an ingenious villain who transforms himself into different shapes at will. Talus crushes him with his iron flail.


Belgae (BEHL-jeh), a mother who loses twelve of her seventeen children to the tyrant Geryoneo and appeals to Mercilla for help.


Geryoneo (jeh-ree-OH-nee-oh), her enemy, the power of Spain, who is slain by Artegall.


Burbon, a knight rescued by Artegall as he fights Grantorto’s men to rescue his lady, Flourdelis (France).

Sir Sergis

Sir Sergis, Irena’s faithful adviser.


Calidore (KAH-lih-dohr), the knight of Courtesy, sent to destroy the Blatant Beast, malicious gossip.


Briana (bree-AH-nah), a proud lady who abuses the laws of hospitality by demanding the hair and beards of ladies and gentlemen who pass her castle.


Crudor, the disdainful knight for whom she weaves a mantle of hair.


Tristram, a young prince reared in the forest who impresses Prince Arthur with his instinctive courtesy.


Aldus (AL-duhs), a worthy old knight.


Aladine (AL-ah-deen), his son.


Priscilla, Aladine’s lady.


Serena, a noble lady, severely wounded by the Blatant Beast.


Calepine (KAH-leh-peen), her knight.


Blandina, Sir Turpine’s wife, who tries to assuage his cruelty.

The Salvage Man

The Salvage Man, a “noble savage,” another untaught practitioner of courtesy.


Matilde, a childless noblewoman who adopts a baby rescued by Calidore from a bear.


Mirabella, a proud, insolent lady.


Disdaine (dihs-DAYN) and


Scorne, her tormentors.


Pastorella, a nobleman’s daughter who grows up with shepherds. Calidore falls in love with her and with her rustic life.


Meliboee (MEHL-ih-bee), her wise foster father, who warns Calidore that happiness is not to be found in one place or another but in oneself.


Coridon (KOHR-ih-don), Pastorella’s shepherd admirer.

Colin Clout

Colin Clout, a shepherd poet who pipes to the graces on Mount Acidale.

Sir Bellamour

Sir Bellamour, Calidore’s friend and Pastorella’s father.


Claribell, his wife.


Melissa, her maid, who discovers Pastorella’s true identity.


Mutability, a proud Titaness who challenges the power of Cynthia, the moon goddess.


Cynthia, her rival.


Mercury, the messenger of the gods.


Jove, the king of the gods.


Mollana, a nymph and an Irish river.


Faunus (FAW-nuhs), a satyr who pursues her.

Dame Nature

Dame Nature, a great veiled figure who hears Mutability’s arguments and judges, finally, that order reigns in all change.


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Acrasia is the mistress of the Bower of Bliss. She is Circe-like in her ability to lure men to their destruction. It takes both Sir Guyon and Prince Arthur to destroy her Bower.

Archimago is an evil enchanter, a satanic figure who uses spells and disguises to lead his victims to sin. He represents Spain and the Roman Catholic Church. After the Red Cross Knight defeats the dragon, Archimago is arrested and thrown into a dungeon. Archimago reappears frequently, always in disguise, and always in an attempt to injure or tempt someone.

Artegall is the Knight of Justice. Britomart has seen his face in a magic mirror and is seeking him. Eventually, Britomart and Artegall are united. Later, the Faerie Queene sends Artegall on a quest to rescue Irena (Ireland) from Grantorto (Spain).

Prince Arthur appears initially as a rescuer of first Una, and later, the Red Cross Knight. Much of the Arthurian legend is incorporated, including the story of Merlin and his role in Arthur's birth. Arthur is in love with the Faerie Queene, whom he has dreamt of but never seen, and is on his way to find her when he encounters Una. After saving the Red Cross Knight and uniting him with Una, Arthur continues on his journey with Guyon. Later, Arthur will assist both Artegall and Calidore on their quests. Arthur is excessively moral and virtuous, serving the Faerie Queene with the same ardor as exists in the Arthurian legends.

Belphoebe is a beautiful woman, as beautiful as the goddess Diana, who reared her, or the Queen of the Amazons. Bellphoebe is a virgin huntress, but she remains aloof from Timias, whom she has saved and who loves her.

Britomart first appears disguised as a knight. And like a knight, she is brave and willing to risk her life to do the honorable thing. Britamart has seen a vision of the man she is to love in a mirror, which Merlin has provided, and she is on a journey to find this man, Artegall. Britomart has several adventures, in which she proves that a woman can be as brave and moral as any man. She successfully defeats several men, including Artegall, while disguised as a man.

Calidore is the last knight to appear. He is gentle and courteous, working during his quest to create harmony and to restore compassion to the world.

Contemplation is a hermit, who gives the Red Cross Knight a vision of the City of God and sends him back to complete his quest.

Duessa is an evil enchantress, a partner of Archimago. She appears attractive on the outside, but inside, she is corrupt. Duessa represents several things: falsehood, the Roman Catholic Church, and Mary, Queen of Scots. She reappears in several disguises, but her duplicity is eventually recognized.

The dwarf accompanies Una and the Red Cross Knight on their journey to kill the dragon. The dwarf represents natural reason.

Error is a monster, half woman and half serpent. She represents Eve and the serpent who deceived her. Error is surrounded by thousands of sucking offspring who gnaw at her. She cannot tolerate the light that is reflected from the Red Cross Knight's shield and she attacks him. After she is killed, her corpse vomits books and papers. Error is an important influence on John Milton who uses her as a model for Sin in Paradise Lost.

Gloriana is the Faerie Queene, who orders the Red Cross Knight to undertake a mission to rescue Una's parents. Gloriana is meant to represent Elizabeth I. She is a virgin queen and the knights who fight for her belong to the Order of Maidenhead. Although she has a small role, the Faerie Queene is the motivation for many of the knights' activities.

Sir Guyon is a Knight of Temperance. He must be strong and uncompromising as he seeks to destroy Acrasia's power. Although he is tempted and frequently attacked, by using moderation, Sir Guyon is able to defeat his enemies and succeed in his quest.

The black clad Palmer is Sir Guyon's companion and guide. He represents reason and prudence.

Red Cross Knight
The Red Cross Knight carries a shield that is dented and battered due to the many battles that he has fought. There is a cross on the shield that is the color of blood. The Red Cross Knight is a heroic figure, representing England's Saint George and the generic Christian man. The Red Cross Knight is impetuous and easily fooled, not always able to see beyond the obvious. He is confident of his abilities when he undertakes the mission, but after many confrontations, he is nearly suicidal. The Red Cross Knight is rescued by the teaching of the church in the House of Holiness. He is successful after a lengthy battle with the dragon and is married to Una.

Sans Foy
One of three knights who are Saracen knights that attack Una and her knight. Sans Foy represents lack of faith.

Sans Joy
One of three knights who are Saracen knights that attack Una and her knight. Sans Joy represents lack of joy.

Sans Loy
One of three knights who are Saracen knights that attack Una and her knight. Sans Loy represents lawlessness.

Timias is Arthur's squire, who is healed by, and falls in love with, Belphoebe. Disappointed by love, he becomes a hermit, but is finally healed by love and reunited with Arthur.

Una is a beautiful woman, who is descended from the King and Queen of the West, a daughter of Adam and Eve. She represents truth and the true church. She requests the Faerie Queene's help in rescuing her parents. As she accompanies the Red Cross Knight, she rides a donkey, as did Christ when he arrived in Jerusalem. She also leads a lamb, the Paschal Lamb, a symbol of sacrifice. Una can advise the knight, but she cannot force him to listen to her wisdom, nor protect him from his own impetuous decisions. When she is deserted, she is assisted by the lion who willingly sacrifices his life for her. After Una is reunited with the Red Cross Knight and the dragon slain, she is married to the Red Cross Knight.




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