The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Questions and Answers: Book I, Cantos ix-xii

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1. Why is Prince Arthur, who is from Earth, in Faerie Land?

2. What is Prince Arthur’s quest? How did he come by it?

3. What does the episode with Despair reveal about the Redcross Knight?

4. How does the House of Holiness prepare the Redcross Knight for his battle with the dragon?

5. What two miraculous events save Redcross during his fight with the dragon? How do they reveal the presence of God?

1. Prince Arthur was sent to Faerie Land because he was too young to assume the throne when his father died, although he was the rightful heir. His mother worried that the uncle who took over the kingship would kill the Prince to keep his claim to the throne, and so sent him to Faerie Land. Merlin watched over him, gave him spectacular gifts like his armor and shield, and a stepfather named Timon watched over him.

2. Prince Arthur seeks Gloriana, the Faerie Queen. She came to him while he was resting, and he fell in love with her. Before he met her, he was a cold and rude young man, but after falling in love with her he has become a steadfast and true Knight.

3. The Redcross Knight has just endured the physical trial in Orgoglio’s dungeon, but Despair shows him that he is also susceptible to emotional and logical manipulation that can endanger his life just as much. Despair reminds him about God’s vengeance and justice, but does not mention God’s mercy. This harsh portrayal of God leads Redcross to bemoan all of his sins and fall prey to self-pity. Only Una’s influence saves him.

4. The House of Holiness gives Redcross a sense of identity and religion. It clarifies his mission in life and gives him the courage, strength, and acceptance of God to complete his quest with Una. He accepts God’s grace and his own destiny as a saint.

5. A well of healing water and the sap from a healing tree revive Redcross from near-death states and give him extra strength and stamina to battle the dragon. Since a plunge into healing waters can easily be tied to baptism, particularly in such a religiously laden work, and the tree is explicitly named as the tree of life, God’s presence is indicated by both events. Furthermore, the tree of life is right next to the tree of knowledge, suggesting that Una’s land is in Eden. If Eden is a physical locale, the Bible may be taken literally and God’s existence cannot be denied. In addition, the suggestion that God’s grace and sacraments save Redcross from death also strengthens the idea that God is present during the battle.

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