The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Introduction and Book I, Cantos i-iv
1. The Redcross Knight and Una love each other, yet he abandons her because he suspects that she is not chaste. Further, the pair travel together not out of love but because Una has a task she wishes the Redcross Knight to complete. Describe the kind of love they have for each other. Also, the Knight is strong and brave, while Una is wise, careful and in need of protection. These are stereotypes of men and women. How does Spencer use these stereotypes to reinforce his ideas of their kind of love?

2. Duessa deceives Fradubio and then 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 similar? 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.

Book I, Cantos v-viii
1. In Book I, Redcross makes a series of mistakes. First, he battles the monster Error. Then he believes the Archimago’s deception and abandons Una. He rides with Duessa, who is linked to Catholicism and duplicity. He lingers in the House of Pride, fights a prideful battle, and then is captured by Orgoglio. Discuss Redcross’ descent into error as a sign of his inherent sinfulness. Argue for the inevitability of his gradually worsening situation, and then discuss the role of Prince Arthur in saving him.

2. Discuss the possibility of free will and choice in Book I of the Faerie Queen. Did Redcross cause his own entrapment and imprisonment by ignoring Una’s advice and failing to believe in her chastity? Do you think Redcross have avoided all pain if he had listened to and believed in Una from the beginning? Discuss the role of the Archimago’s false vision, Duessa’s call out to Sans joy, and Fradubio’s story as points of choice for Redcross in this Book.

Book I, Cantos ix-xii
1. Redcross spends time with Duessa in the House of Pride, which is ruled by Queen Lucifera. He later spends time with Una in the House of Holiness, which is governed by Dame Celia and her three daughters. Compare the House of Pride and the House of Holiness. Pay particular attention to their effects upon Redcross in terms of his own perception of himself and his ideas about his place in the world.

2. The Redcross Knight is placed to be a hero from the beginning of Book I. However, his weaknesses continue to appear until his stay in the House of Holiness. He is subject to pride, lust, and deception, is unfaithful to the Lady he loves, and even after being rescued by Prince Arthur he walks into the cave of Despair. Defend Redcross as a hero and Christian. Are his failings common to all humans? If so, how can he overcome them at the end of Book I? If he is a particularly weak man, how can he be the hero? Duessa’s role as a symbol of Catholicism means that Redcross betrays Protestantism in the course of Book I. How can a betrayer be a good Christian and later a saint?

Book II, Cantos i-vi
1. Spencer divides the world into those of noble blood and those of common, base blood. In addition, he divides the characters into those of Faerie and those of worldly blood, and those are further subdivided into those of Briton and those of Roman, Pict, or pagan blood. Discuss virtuousness as...

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related to these divisions. Use Braggadocchio, Alma, Pyrochles, and Guyon as examples.

2. The Palmer acts as a reasoned check on Guyon’s behavior. The Palmer tells Guyon the nature of Furor and keeps Guyon from freeing Pyrochles from Occasion and Furor. Does the Palmer’s watch over Guyon decrease Guyon’s ability to demonstrate his own virtuousness? If so, are the other characters in the Book deficient in temperance because they don’t have reasonable guides like the Palmer to help them? If not, how can Guyon be the master of his own self if he requires guidance?

Book II, Cantos vii-xii
1. Although Redcross has to return to the Faerie Queen and postpone his life with Una, Redcross receives a celebratory procession, a feast, the promise of sainthood, the hope of a happy marriage, and the eventual rule of a kingdom at the end of Book I. Guyon simply gets to leave the island where the Bower of Bliss is located in Book II. Neither of these endings are entirely happy, but the Book II ending is much less satisfying. Explain these strangely unhappy endings in terms of the virtue each Knight was striving for. Tie in the role of the Faerie Queen and the motivation for each quest.

2. Prince Arthur saves Guyon from being robbed while passed out from his time in the cave of Mammon. In turn, Prince Arthur is later saved by his Squire during a battle. Each of these instances shows a helpless Knight receiving aid from a surprising source. Show how these instances illustrate Spencer’s religious ideas about helpless sinners and God’s grace. Do both situations emphasize the same parts of those religious ideas?

Book III, Prologue-Canto vi
1. There are several chaste women in Book III. Compare and contrast the motivations for Belphoebe, Florimell, and Britomart’s chastity. Spencer limits comparison to Queen Elizabeth to Belphoebe and not to Florimell or Britomart. Why? Discuss the role of Timias and her birth in the portrayal of Belphoebe’s chastity.

2. Compare the Garden of Adonis to the Bower of Bliss from Book II or the House of Holiness from Book I. Unlike Guyon or Redcross, who visit those locations, Britomart does not actually visit the Garden of Adonis, but she does meet Amoretta who comes from there. Discuss Amoretta’s role in Britomart’s psychological development, and compare and contrast it with the effect of the House of Holiness on Redcross or the Bower of Bliss on Guyon.

Book III, Cantos vii-xii

1. Neither Florimell nor Amoretta give in to the powerful, magical beings who keep them captive, yet neither of them has a man who can rescue them. What motivates their refusal to yield when all the odds are against them? Make a case for not giving in to helplessness even when no possibility of hope can be seen. Does Britomart represent God’s grace when she saves Amoretta? Argue that Britomart’s meeting with Scudamore was not a coincidence.

2. Although several chaste characters are seriously endangered in the course of Book III, neither Malecasta nor Hellenore meets any harm. Compare and contrast Malecasta and Hellenore as examples of lack of chastity and speculate as to why Spencer felt no need to demonstrate their punishment when many chaste characters are imprisoned and/or tortured. Is Spencer suggesting that a lack of virtue leads to a happier life?

Book VI, Proem-Canto vi
1. Briana accuses Calidore of violence, somewhat justifiably. How can courtesy be paired with violence and still be a virtue? Consider the role of religion in your answer.

2. Both Crudor and Turpine are chastised by temperate and courteous Knights in Book VI. Compare their offenses against courtesy and offer an explanation for why Turpine loses the trappings of Knighthood, but Crudor does not. Are there degrees of vice and offense in Spencer? If not, why are the punishments different for each man? If so, what does that say about virtues?

Book VI, Cantos vii-xii
1. The Faerie Queen is heralded as a Protestant poem, but Book VI endorses unchaste behavior, uses violence to enforce the virtue that is its theme, and the embodiment of God’s grace is shown to be deeply flawed. Does Book VI still model Protestant values? If so, in what ways? If not, what explanation or interpretation can you give for why not?

2. Although Spencer explicitly dedicates the Faerie Queen to Queen Elizabeth, this Book contains no mention of her and no praise of her. What plausible explanation can there be for this omission? What role might the Blatant Beast and Sir Walter Raleigh play in that explanation? Include the proem and final stanzas of Book VI in your answer.


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