The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 798

Topic 1 1. Duessa deceives Fradubio and the Redcross Knight because she is beautiful and acts as if she is chaste, yet secretly she is ugly and evil. How does the reader know that Una is not the same way? What clues does Spencer provide that Una is good and Duessa deceitful? Discuss their names and the way that the Redcross Knight meets each Lady, as well as her influence upon him.

I. Thesis: In Book I of Spencer’s Faerie Queen, Una’s goodness is unquestionable and displayed in her behavior and her effect upon others. Duessa’s evil nature is revealed by warnings that the Redcross ignores as well as by the idle and lascivious behavior she induces in him.

II. The method of meeting each Lady and the immediately following adventure illustrates the Lady’s nature.

a. Una was supported by the Faerie Queen in her petition for aid, and so receives the highest possible recommendation.

b. In the Forest of Error, Una urges Redcross not to enter the cave but when he does tells him how to kill the monster.

c. Duessa fled Redcross as if she were used to rough society, not nobles. Her companion Sans foy was a brute.

d. Fradubio warns Redcross, but Redcross does not listen.

III. The effect of each Lady on Redcross and others illustrates Una’s nature to the reader.

a. Una moderates Redcross’ enthusiasm and helps him to win battles. She advises him well.

b. Una tames the wood gods and teaches them religion.

c. Una brings Prince Arthur to save Redcross and then heals him in the House of Holiness.

d. Duessa causes Redcross to fight the vain battle with Sans joy.

e. Duessa distracts Redcross by the stream so he is weak and gets captured by Orgoglio.

IV. The appearance of each Lady illustrates her nature, as does her name.

a. Una is in black, aptly mourning for her kingdom.

b. Una is so beautiful she inspires peace and calm in wood gods.

c. “Una” means one.

d. Duessa wears scarlet and is decked in gems like the Whore of Babylon.

e. The reader knows Duessa’s beauty is false.

f. “Duessa” implies “two” and hence duplicity.

V. Conclusion: Una and Duessa’s natures are diametrically opposite. Una embodies goodness while numerous clues mark Duessa as deceitful, duplicitous, and evil.

Topic 2 2. There are several chaste women in Book III. Compare and contrast the motivations for Belphoebe, Florimell, and Britomart’s chastity. Spencer limits comparisons to Queen Elizabeth to Belphoebe and not to Florimell or Britomart. Why would that be? Does Belphoebe have something more than Florimell or Britomart, or is her chastity simply different? Discuss the role of Timias and her birth in the portrayal of Belphoebe’s chastity.

I. Thesis: Although Britomart is omitted from the characters who represent Queen Elizabeth allegorically, this is not because she lacks anything other characters have. On the contrary, Belphoebe lacks an element of chastity that Queen Elizabeth lacks but that Florimell and Britomart have: the desire for healthy sexuality. By limiting Queen Elizabeth’s comparison to Belphoebe, Spencer may be criticizing the Queen’s lack of heirs.

II. Florimell is chaste out of fear.

a. She runs from all men, even Prince Arthur.

b. She accepts witch’s son’s presents out of fear of his nature.

III. Britomart is chaste out of love.

a. Brito mart is androgynous and so is unafraid of lustful men; self-defense.

b. Britomart loves and seeks Artegall.

c. Britomart defends Amoretta and thus true love.

IV. Belphoebe is chaste in a sterile but self-conscious way.

a. She tells Braggadocchio that she works...

(This entire section contains 798 words.)

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for chastity, and likes sweat, wars, and hunting.

b. She can defend herself, so has no fear of lustful men.

c. Raised with women, she may not have felt love or lust for men.

d. She is unconscious of lust in others and nearly kills Timias.

i. She does not know why he continues to sicken

ii. She tries to doctor him traditionally

e. She is born without original sin.

i. Purer than any other human but Amoretta and Christ.

ii. Raised by Diana, a heavenly virgin, and so surrounded by divine grace and example throughout childhood.

V. Book III demonstrates that sexuality can be healthy even in religious context.

a. Garden of Adonis

i. Sexuality in context of love and procreation.

ii. Heavenly Eden.

b. Marriage

i. Like Garden, contextualized and not dissipating.

ii. Sinless in marriage and for procreation.

VI. Conclusion: Belphoebe’s chastity is closer to divine chastity than it is to Protestant or religious chastity. Britomart and Florimell’s chastity seeks the unity of married love and healthy sexuality. Britomart’s behavior is more pure because it comes from positive thoughts and action rather than fear.


The Faerie Queene


Critical Overview