In his letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser outlined his aim for “The Faerie Queene” as a work of epic proportions and profound moral and allegorical significance. Spenser’s primary goal was to create a poem that would serve as a celebration of the virtues of the English nation, while also providing a moral and political guide for the Elizabethan society.
Gentleman the aim set forth by Spenser in his letter to Raleigh is “to fashion a or noble person in the virtuous and gentle discipline. The scheme of the poem is not unfolded in the beginning. It is this: Gloriana. The queen of the fairies. Holds her annual court and feast for twelve days, and on catch day a new wrong is complained of, and a new adventure proposed, and on each day a knight volunteers. And is chosen to right the wrong. Each wrong represents a vice, and each knight represents one of the chief or cardinal virtues. The adventures of each knight were to fill one book, and the whole poem was to have consisted in twelve books. That poem was not completed. Only six books exist.
The first book deals with the adventures of the knight of the Redcross. Who represents Holiness; the second the deeds of Sir Guyon, who is Temperance: the third has a lady, Britomart, as heroine and she represents Chastity: the fourth tells the story of Triamond and Cambell – it is all concerned with Friendship, and also includes the tale of Sir Scudamore who wins the shield of Love: the fifth book is the most complicated one, having a direct bearing upon the Court of Elizabeth – it contains the adventures of Artegall, the Knight of Justice with allegorical reference to such historical events as the defeat of the Spaniards in the Netherlands, the recantation of Henry IV of France, the execution of Mary. Queen of Scots, and-the administration of Ireland of Lord Grey the Wilton: the sixth book has to do with the adventures of Sir Calidore who represents Courtesy.
Prince Arthur who is the hero of a cycle of romances, is chosen by Spenser as the very perfection of virtues the image of a brave knight. Perfected in the twelve. Private virtues, as devised by Aristotle. Arthur is to be a link between the other knights and Gloriana. Spenser’s idea was, if he could have completed the poem, to bring all the twelve knights with Arthur to the Court of Gloriana after the completion of their adventures. Arthur is brought in into the Seventh Canto of the first book.
He rescues the Redcross knight who has been made captive by the giant Orgoglio who is Carnal Pnde. As desired by Una, Arthur tells her his own story – his love for the Fairy Queen and how his quest brought him where he met Una:
“Or that fresh bleeding wound, which day and night
Whilome doth rancle in my riven brest.
With forced fury following his behest.
Me hither brought by wayes yet never found.
You to have helpt I hold my selfe yet blest.” – (IX. 7)
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The first Book of The Faerie Queene, tells the story of the Redcross Knight. The trend of allegory is. Properly kept up. He goes through a scenes of adventures, all directed to his trials and temptations. The Redcross knight is Holiness which means love of God, which needs the aid of Truth, and he is accompanied by Una, and Una is truth in the First Canto the Redcross knight fights with and defeats Error, and it is right that he should defeat Error when he has Truth to aid him. But he falls into the trap of Archimago who is Hypocrisy- and then there is his parting from Truth.
Deluded by a dream, sent by Archimago, he deserts Una’, and he is then taken possession of by Duessa (Falsehood) when he kills Sansfoy (Infidelity) In battle. Duessa who is in the company of Sansfoy offers herself to the Redcross knight under the name of Fidessa (which means Faith). The Redcross Knight is now in the grip of Falsehood. Una, while she wanders about in search of her knight, meets a lion. And the lion is Reason. She comes in contact with Abessa and her mother. Corceca- Abessa is Superstition and Corceca is blind and ignorant Devotion, and they are put to rout by the lion (Reason). The Una meets Archimago in the disguise of the Redcross knight, but he is unmasked when he is encountered by Sansloy (Lawlessness).
Una falls into the hands of Sansloy. In the meantime, the Redcross Knight and Duessa arrive at the Palace of Pride, and Pride with lier six counsellers- Idleness, Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Envy, and Wrath- from the Seven Deadly Sins. Here the Redcross knight meets Sansjoy (Joylessness), and they fight. For Sansjoy must avenge the death of his brother-Sansfoy. The Redcross Knight defeats Sansjoy. Warned by the Dwarf (who typifies Prudence), who has accompanied the knight, the latter escapes from the Palace of Pride, and leaves Duessa behind. Una is then rescued by fauns and satyrs under Sylvanus (and they represent the primitive condition of life with its simplicity and ignorance). These fauns and satyrs readily respond to the teaching of Una (Truth). Then Una is beguiled by Archimago disguised as a pilgrim, who reports the death of the Redcross Knight In a fight with a pagan Satyrane (who stands for Heroism), seeks out the pagan (Sansloy) and bas a long fight with him.
Duessa recaptures the Redcross knight. Now by drinkings of a stream, the Redcross Knight loses all his manly strength and it means his total surrender to the power of Duessa. Then follow his defeat and captivity by Orgoglio. An Orgoglio represents the Pride and Tyranny of the false religion. The Redcross knight Is first ensnared by Hypocrisy and Falschood, and then falls a victim to the Pride and Tyranny of the false religion. The release of the Redcross Knight is made by Prince Arthur (who is Magnificence); Duessa is exposed and expelled. The Redcross knight is reunited with Una, but the final and stable alliance of Holiness or Love of God and Truth is to be effected by a process of spiritual training and discipline. Which purges the Redcross Knight of his defilements, He meets a knight, Sir Trevisan, and the latter leads him to the Cave of Despair. The result is that the Redcross Knight is in the grip of Despair, and would have killed himself if he had not been restrained by Una.
Una then brings him to the house of Caelia (Heavenly Wisdom), where he meets Fidelia (Faith), and Speranza (Hope), and Charissa (Charity), and is aided by them. He is later initiated into the practice of all Christian virtues and then the vision of the New Jerusalem (heavenly life) revealed to him. After the period of discipline, he is fit to rescue the imprisoned parents of Una and it is the accomplishment of the mission on which he has been dispatched from the Court of Gloriana. He has a very tough fight with the dragon (Satan) who has kept Una’s parents imprisoned-and he would have the worst of it, but he is revivified by the Fountain of Life and the Tree of Life, and finally conquers the dragon. In the release of Una’s parents is envisaged the release of the human race from bondage of the Devil- and this is to be effected by the union of Holiness and Truth, which is signified in the wedlock of the Redcross Knight and Una at the end of the First Book.
The interaction between the story and allegory had been closely maintained in the First Book it has been successfully done in the Second Book, but later it breaks down. There is the episode of Fradubio and Fraelissa in the Second Canto which may have some connection with the story But the other one in the Fifth Canto where Duessa and Night carry the senseless body of Sansjoy in the chariot of Night to hell to be cured by Aesculapius has nothing to do with the main story of the Redcross Knight and Una.
Spenser achieved a considerable degree of success in fulfilling the aims he set forth in his letter to Raleigh. “The Faerie Queene” remains a monumental work of English literature, embodying Spenser’s celebration of English virtues, moral and allegorical significance, and his contribution to political and social discourse. While interpretations of his success may vary, there is no doubt that Spenser’s epic poem left a lasting legacy, inspiring subsequent generations of poets and thinkers.