Summary of Spenser’s book 1 of Faerie Queene (Canto wise)

Book I Canto i-

The Redcrosse Knight, Una, and a dwarf are riding along a plain till rain forces them into a wood, they become somewhat lost and happen upon Error whom the Redcrosse Knight defeats after a struggle. They find their way out of the forest and then happen upon an aged sire who is really Archimago (Anti-Christ or the Pope). He tricks them back to his home where he causes the Redcrosse knight to have a lustful dream about Una, he then creates a false Una who comes to the Redcrosse Knight’s bed, tries to seduce him without success, and angers him.

Book I Canto ii-

Archimago changes one spirit into a squire and puts him and the falls Una into bed then calls the Redcrosse Knight to show him the seeming unchastely of Una. The Redcrosse knight is so upset he abandons Una at dawn. He then haps upon Sansfoy and his lady who calls herself Fidessa, but who is really Duessa. (Duessa is the Roman Catholic church, the Great Whore of Babylon). The Redcrosse knight defeats Sansfoy in battle and takes up with Duessa. She tells him she had a fiance, a “prince so meek” (Christ), but he died before they married. The Redcrosse knight and Duessa come across two enchanted trees one of which tells the Redcrosse Knight how Duessa caused him to abandon his lady. When the enchanted knight finally realized Duessa’s corruption he tried to escape but Duessa transformed him into a tree as she had already done to his love. The Redcrosse Knight, unaware that the woman he is with is Duessa, and Duessa leave the trees when Duessa pretends to faint.

Book I Canto iii-

Una continues to search for the Redcrosse Knight. She encounters a lion which willingly submits to her because is senses her goodness. Una and the lion find the House of Abessa and Corceca and the lion forces entrance so Una may sleep there for the night. (Corceca, as she endlessly does her rosary, represents the blind superstition of Roman Catholicism, Abessa embodies the abbeys and monasteries which rob the church.) Kirkrapine demands entrance into the house, but is slain by the lion when he enters. Una leaves in the morning and encounters Archimago who is now disguised as the Redcrosse Knight. Una, deceived, travels with Archimags till they chance to meet Sansloy. Sansloy attacks Archimago, thinking him to be the Redcrosse knight. He only realizes it is his friend Archimago when he removes his helmet to cut off his head. He releases Archimago, kills the lion, and forces Una to come with him.

Book I Canto iv-

Duessa leads the Redcrosse Knight to the House of Pride where Lucifera unlawfully rules by “policy” and by virtue of her shity beauty which amaze her court. Lucifera’s counsellors – the seven deadly sins -ride through in procession. Sansjoy comes to avenge the Redcrosse Knigh for killing Sansfoy. Lucifera orders them to battle out their grievance the next morning. That night Duessa comes to Sansjoy and warns him of the Redcrosse Knight’s charmed shield and armour.

Book I Canto v-

The Redcrosse Knight and Sansjoy battle. Just when the Redcrosse Knight seems about to win, a dark cloud hides and saves the wounded Sansjoy. Duessa goes and pleads with Night to help save Sansjoy from his wounds. Night and Duessa take him to Hell where Aesculapius – doomed there because he brought a man back from death – heals Sansjoy. Duessa returns to the House of Pride, while Sansjoy convalesces in Hell, and finds that the Redcrosse knight has left the House of Pride because his “wary dwarf” warned him of the dungeon full of individuals who fell be pride.

Book I canto vi-

Una, having been abducted by Sansloy, is taken by him into a forest where he tries to ravish her. Her cries summon some fawns and satyrs and Sansloy is frightened away. The Satyrs worship Una’s beauty and keep her with them. Satyrane, a half human satyr knight, happens into the forest and becomes devoted to Una. Una escapes the adoring satyrs with the aid of Satyrane. The meet a Pilgrim – really Archimago – who tells them the Redcrosse knight is dead and then leads them to his supposed killer who is Sansloy.

Sansloy and Satyrane battle, Una flees in fright and is pursued by Archimago. Book I canto vii. Duessa leaves the House of Pride and finds the Redcrosse Knight. They “pour out in looseness on the grassy ground” and the Redcrosse Knight also drinks from a charmed spring which weakens him physically and morally. While disarmed and weakened a giant, Orgoglio comes along, conquers the Redcrosse Knight, puts him in a dungeon, and makes Duessa his willing dear. The Redcrosse Knight’s dwarf gathers his arms, finds Una, and tells her what has happened. Una meets Arthur who vows to help the Redcrosse Knight.

Book I canto viii-

Arthur, Arthur’s squire, Una, and the Redcrosse Knight’s dwarf come to Orgoglio’s castle. Arthur opens its doors with a trumpet blast. Orgoglio and Duessa on the many-headed beast come out and battle arthur and his squire. Arthur wounds them with force and then subdues them by unveiling his charmed shield. Arthur enters the castle, unsuccessfully questions Ignorance, then finds the Redcrosse Knight who is debilitated and despairing.

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They try to cheer the Redcrosse Knight and the disrobe Duessa who is revealed to be hideous.

Book I canto ix-

Una and the Redcrosse Knight ask Arthur his history. Arthur says he does not know because, as an infant, he was given to Merlin to be raised. Arthur tells how the Faerie Queene appeared to him as he slept and he has sought her since. Arthur parts from Una and the Redcrosse Knight. They meet Trevisan who tells how he and a friend met Despair who tried to persuade tem to suicide. The Redcrosse Knight demands to meet this Despair to avenge him but Despair nearly convinces the Redcrosse Knight to kill himself. He is saved by Una who snatches the knife from his hand and pulls him from Despair who – foiled – tries unsuccessfully to kill himself.

Book I canto x-

Una, realizing that the Redcrosse Knight is feeble and faint takes him the House of Holiness to recover. The House of Holiness is managed by Caelia, who has three daughters: Fidelia, Speranza, Charissa. The Redcrosse Knight is restored under the guidance of Fidelia, Esperanza, Patience, Amendment, Penaunce, Remorse, Repentance, Charissa, and Mercie. She then takes him to the hospital of the House of Holiness where the seven bead-men reside. From this she takes him to Contemplation who resides on a hill.

Contemplation shows him the New Jerusalem and tells him he is really English and will become St. George. The Redcrosse Knight, after seeing New Jerusalem wants to leave this world – but Contemplation tells him he has work to do her.

Now restored, the Redcrosse Knight gets ready to undertake his quest again.

Book I canto xi-

Una and the Redcrosse Knight approach her parents’ castle which is terrorized by the dragon. In the course of their battle the Redcrosse Knight is mortally wounded twice. The first time he falls into the well of life and revives the next day; the second time he falls near the tree of life and revives the next day. Finally, having wounded the dragon five times in three days, the Redcrosse Knight kills the dragon.

Book I canto xii-

The folk pour out to look fearfully at the dead dragon. The Redcrosse Knight and Una enter the palace with her mother and father. Her father, the king, promises his land and Una to the Redcrosse Knight. The Redcrosse Knight says he must first serve the Faerie Queene for six years. The king is about to formally betroth them when a messenger (the disguised Archimago) enters and reads a letter from Duessa who claims the Redcrosse Knight is already betrothed to her. The Redcrosse Knight and Una explain his previous errors and Duessa’s present deception and have Archimago enchained (but he later escapes). The two are betrothed, then The Redcrosse Knight returns to the Faerie Queene to serve her for six years.



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