The Faerie Queene

Interpreting the allegory in Faerie Queene.

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

In many ways The Faerie Queene presents a unique challenge to the English reader. It can be described as epic, romance or fantasy and covers a wide range of topics religious and romantic, political and spiritual, Christian and Pagan. It is also incomplete, leaving the resolution of the separate narrative open for conjecture. Moreover, it is a poem that refuses to reveal itself in one sitting; demanding more of the reader than usual. MacCaffrey describes the challenge to the reader as

“The characters, including the heroes, move primarily in the horizontal plane, but Spenser’s readers have their attention repeatedly drawn to the upper and lower limits of reality which are also the sources of the poem’s truth. This vertical dimension is ordinarily beyond the horizon of the characters, but visible to us; as always when a distance develops between fiction and reader, the effect is to make us aware of fictiveness itself and to ponder the nature and relevance of fictions”

Interpreting the allegory in The Faerie Queene is not simply a task of deciphering a code, but a matter of relating to the Spenserian, Elizabethan and Fairy worlds in order to make sense of and then bring together the carefully structured layers and meanings of the poem.

Both Spenser’s contemporaries and his modern audience are likely to know when they approach The Faerie Queene that what they are reading is an allegory. Allegory as a literary device evolved out of the classical method of interpreting the world through figurative means with Gods and myths, combined with the (somewhat simplistically stated) progression from simile to metaphor to allegory. Allegory was used extensively in the Bible; thereafter the technique was regarded as one of moral intentions and was used throughout the medieval period from Dante and popular romances like The Romance of the Rose to Chaucer. Therefore Elizabethans would have been fully aware of the allegorical style of The Faerie Queene, as are modern readers whose copies are invariably prefaced by Spenser’s famous letter to Sir Walter Raleigh. So we should assume that Spenser was not intending to confuse his readers in any way but use allegory as a technique best suited to espousing his ideas and views on contemporary Elizabethan society.

Therefore the reader has to perform the task of following the narrative in Fairy Land as well as being conscious on another level of Spenser’s aims of “fashioning a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline” based on Protestant Christianity and glorifying, in the same vein, the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

The role of the Redcrosse Knight in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene can be examined to highlight the demands placed on the reader in interpreting the allegory. As MacCaffrey explains, “In the epistemological allegory of Book 1, Spenser compels both his reader and his hero to confront the duplicity of seemings”. This “duplicity of seemings” is mostly represented by the roles and differences of Una and Duessa. The reader already knows that Redcrosse is ‘holiness’ from the prefatory quatrain and must bear this in mind to understand the significance of the problems he has to overcome. Duessa, Abessa and Archimago are, for Spenser, allegorical representations of the Catholic Church – ones that are specifically aimed at deceiving Redcrosse and the reader, for Redcrosse is in many ways the Christian, or more precisely, Protestant everyman. His quest for truth and holy glory is one that Spenser sees as the duty of every man and it is the forces of Catholicism that are placed in the way. But Catholicism is not Spenser’s only evil in the poem; Islam, as represented by the 3 brother “Sarazins”, is seen to be without faith (Sansfoy), without law (Sansloy) and without joy (Sansjoy). There would have been very little problem in interpreting these names for Spenser’s audience as any reader of such a poem would most likely have rudimentary knowledge of the poem’s names Latinate origins; however the modern English reader may not comprehend the name’s meaning without secondary material. Comprehension of the names in The Faerie Queene is always useful at an early stage of reading as they provide a ‘short cut’ to the allegorical significance of the characters.

Another problem for the modern reader is the blatant and consistent attacks on anything non-Protestant, be it the Catholics, the Muslims or the faithless. As a prominent Elizabethan, Spenser was writing with the backing of the political and religious power base, and his views would have been either applauded or opposed quietly. However, modern English readers inhabit a society where multiculturalism is publicly celebrated and religious intolerance officially unacceptable. In Northern Ireland, for example, study of the allegory of The Faerie Queene would be a highly contentious issue as to celebrate the poem would blatantly be an attack on Catholicism in an area of the world where religious differences can cost lives. Similarly unacceptable would be to endorse a poem that condemned Islam as being without law, faith and joy in a British society with an established Muslim community that would be deeply offended. Whilst it is impossible to criticise Spenser for lacking the sensibilities and enlightenment of the 21st century, a new task for the reader is to take Spenser’s targets and give them a universal meaning. This is dangerous in terms of developing an exclusive interpretation (i.e. attempting to publish a book defining a universal interpretation) but the allegory of The Faerie Queene should be interpreted personally so that it means something for each individual reader. This may mean accepting Fidessa-Duessa as being the personification of falseness, but ignoring her being the Whore of Babylon, or perhaps accepting her as the Whore of Babylon but rejecting that figure as a representation of the Catholic Church. Similarly, Sansfoy does not have to be a Muslim in order to represent the folly of being lawless. This selective interpretation may break the ‘completeness’ of Spenser’s poem but the process in itself would be a worthwhile experience.

For such a personal interpretation to occur, firstly the reader must understand Spenser’s intentions fully. The crux of this task lies in the navigation of the “vertical axis” that MacCaffrey mentions. Redcrosse does not symbolise a fixed concept or figure. We have seen that he is allied to the reader in the problems he has to overcome, making him in one respect an ordinary man, but he is clearly not just that. Spenser fashioned him to represent holiness, although this definition should be treated carefully as he is not holiness itself, but a man who has holiness. There are characters, such as Malbecco (Jealousy) in Book 3 who are concepts in themselves and Una as Truth represents this type of allegorical figure. Whenever she is with Redcrosse he has ‘true Christian Truth’; when she is absent he is prey to the evils of Duessa and Archimago. Redcrosse possesses holiness and courage but lacks experience; at the beginning of Book 1 he is described as yearning for glory: “his hart did earne / To prove his puissance in batell brave”. This gives us an impression of youthful endeavour – he yearns for glory in battle, thus suggesting that he has not yet achieved much. The way he is deceived by Duessa is a challenge – one that he initially does not seem able to win as he is led towards Lucifera and the seven sins, but overcomes eventually by way of his holiness and his reunion with Una. The allegory here is not only for the individual man to steer away from deceit and pride towards truth and holiness, but a chronicle of how Christians as an entire religious people were deceived (in Spenser’s eyes) by the Catholic Church. It was only the true holiness of man that enabled him eventually to embrace the ‘true religious faith’ of Protestantism. The religious allegory is the primary concern of Book 1; only with the introduction of Arthur does the political one begin (to be developed later).

When the Redcrosse Knight is revealed as St. George the reader then has a new level on the ‘vertical axis’ to deal with. His role as a Protestant role model is combined with his representation of the British nation. Whilst the device of allegory can be categorised by the different applications, techniques and situations with which it is used, e.g., situational allegory, typological allegory, psychological allegory etc., this need not concern the reader as such a categorisation can prove confusing and unhelpful. Rather, the priority for the reader should be the distinctions between the topics of the allegory, for example when Redcrosse is led up the mountain by Contemplation the reader should consider this an important part of his development in the surface narrative but also bear in mind that Redcrosse signifies a Moses or Christ-type figure; “he leads him to the highest Mount; / Such one, as that same mighty man of God, / That bloud-red billowes like a walld front”, as well as being symbolic of England – at the top of the mountain his destiny as St. George, patron of the English, is revealed as well as contemplation of London and Elizabeth in their allegorical forms of Cleopolis and the Faerie Queene. That Spenser is quite explicit with his references to his referred meaning again demonstrates that he openly intended for those meanings to be apparent to his audience. It is when Spenser is not so open about his intentions that the reader has to juggle priorities in his consciousness.

In conclusion, the task of the reader of The Faerie Queene involves active participation, patience and a compromise between objectivity and subjectivity. The surface narrative, which can be overlooked as a hindrance to understanding the poem, becomes a help when the reader is prepared to follow the fairy story – the battles between Knights and monsters against a backdrop of bleeding trees and mythical creatures. For the narrative of the fairy story is designed to be synchronised with the allegorical developments. Thus the journey to the mountain, led by Contemplation, is the cerebral ‘calm’ before the physical (and allegorically spiritual) ‘storm’ of the dragon battle. If the reader is confused then the enjoyment of the surface narrative will engage the attention so that rereading is possible and fruitful. Keeping the different allegorical strands in mind when reading The Faerie Queene is, however, what makes reading it rewarding; once it is understood the surface narrative becomes subservient to the referred meaning as ultimately it is a vehicle for Spenser’s ideas. In other great epics like, for instance, Paradise Lost, any allegory concerning the English Civil War is essentially subservient to the surface narrative about the ultimate battle of good and evil. But the reader of The Faerie Queene must always have allegory as the priority of their consciousness to fully receive the complete impression of the poem.

Bibliography

Greenlaw, Edwin. Studies in Spenser’s Historical Allegory. London: OUP, 1932.

Kermode, Frank. Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971.

MacCaffrey, Isabel G. Spenser’s Allegory. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1976.

MacQueen, John. Allegory. London: Methuen, 1970.

Parker, M. Pauline. The Allegory of The Faerie Queene. London: OUP, 1960.

Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene, ed. Thomas P. Roche, Jr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978.

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Array and establishment of parallel characters.

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene features an array of characters that appear briefly, usually to influence Redcrosse in a critical moment along his journey. Fradubio is one such character, given sixteen stanzas in a poem of over 600 stanzas. The importance of Fradubio’s character becomes more puzzling considering his stanzas could be removed from Cantos II without discontinuity in the plot line. Why is this talking tree important, both for the literal storyline and the allegorical subplot? Fradubio functions as a parallel character to Redcrosse and contrasts between them pose questions of how grace is loss and obtained. Fradubio’s tale is a succinct preview of the plot come, allowing readers to consider Holiness, Doubt, grace, and other themes before they are fully addressed in later cantos.

Fradubio is easily establish as a parallel character to Redcrosse, through comparison with cantos II and the poem as a whole. In the beginning of his tale, Fradubio is “In prime of youthly yeares, when corage hot/ The fire of love and joy of chevalree” (1.2.35.1-2) similar to the naive Redcrosse, “his hart did earne/ To prove his puissance in battell brave” (1.1.3.6-7). Both men were accompanied by a fair lady: Fraelissa or Una. They meet Duessa through a victorious battle against her former companion. After some form of magic trickery, each man trades the companionship of the fair lady for Duessa. Eventually, her two-faced nature is revealed. After experiencing great hardship, the men hope to acquire the grace of God. The ambiguous inclusive pronoun Fradubio uses includes Redcrosse when he states, “’We may not change,’ quoth he, ‘this evil plight,/ Till we be bath?d in a living well’” (1.2.43.3-4). Fradubio has no way of knowing that Redcrosse will be saved by “The Well of Life” in the last cantos (1.11.29). At the time Redcrosse meets Fradubio in Cantos II, Redcrosse only at the start of this shared story arc. An attentive reader may gain foresight into Redcrosse’s fate and already begin thinking about how faith is lost and recovered.

Nonetheless, Redcrosse fails to see this warning against Duessa or the foreshadowing of his own future in Fradubio’s tale. Redcrosse, identified in Professor Drew Daniel’s lecture as representing Holiness, is repeatedly deceived by ill-willed magic and trickery. Examples include Archimago’s illusions of a fake Una, Duessa’s beauty, the House of Pride, and almost giving in to the arguments of Despair. The space around Fradubio and Fraelissa is so cursed that even shepherdsshund th’unlucky ground,” but Redcrosse cannot sense this animosity (1.2.28.8). When Redcrosse thrusts Fradubio’s bleeding bough into the ground, “That from the bloud he might be innocent”, he seems to be actively denying insight which Fradubio may grant (1.2.44.6). Holiness embodies an innocence that borders on ignorance, which leads to the first fundamental difference between the overly trustworthy Redcrosse as Holiness and Fradubio as Brother Doubt.

Fradubio is identified in the footnotes of the Norton Critical Edition of The Faerie Queene as meaning “Brother Doubt” (Maclean and Prescott, 28). “Brother” denotes Fradubio’s connection with Redcrosse as well as the universal nature of Fradubio’s plight. “Doubt” denotes Fradubio’s allegorical role as someone religiously conflicted, seesawing between truth and deceit, faith and false faith, Protestantism and Catholicism. The first instance of doubt Fradubio has is between the beauty of Fraelissa and Duessa. He makes the mistake of only comparing outward beauty, a category in which Duessa “clad in scarlot red,/ Purfled with gold and perle of rich assay” has appeal (1.2.13.3-4). In the Norton Critical Edition footnote of this passage, Duessa is linked with the “pomp and hypocrisy of Rome [and Catholicism of Rome]” (23). Fradubio praises Fraelissa as “my deare love” (1.2.31.6), “this gentle Lady” (1.2.35.4) along with her beauty, while Duessa is only acknowledged for her outward traits. It may be concluded that seed of doubt and false faith is based in superficial appearances. Also, note that Fradubio and Redcrosse cannot reject true faith without active intervention by Duessa or Archimago. Good men may be susceptible to doubt, but it takes manipulation on the part of false faith to turn the men away from achieving grace.

The next instance of doubt in Fradubio’s story is discovering Duessa’s deception, which may be likened to acknowledging the evils of the Catholic Church. There is an odd contradiction to the scene in which Duessa’s true form in revealed: as Professor Daniel pointed out, Fradubio claims to see “neather partes misshapen, monstruous / Were hidd in water, that I could not see” (1.2.41.1-2). This contradiction is necessary to maintain Fradubio’s role as Brother Doubt. If Fradubio were to incidentally stumble upon Duessa’s true form, there would be no internal development allowing him to see through her deception. Doubt is not reserved for regressions in faith; it allows one to doubt their past misconceptions. Some instance or internal change must have caused Fradubio to question Duessa, such as the “feigned paine” of losing Fraelissa or an instinct that Fraelissa was “turnd to tre?n mould” (1.2.39.7-8). He was then able to “see” Duessa’s true form without literally seeing it. Thus, turns towards true faith require inward growth, rather than fortunate instance of chance.

Returning to the comparison of Redcrosse and Fradubio, the former protagonist’s storyline is fully realized in a return to grace, while Fradubio’s fate is left in state of uncertainty. Fradubio’s tale is such an accurate forecast of Redcrosse’s journey, why not give Fradubio the same end that Redcrosse achieves? With only sixteen stanzas in which to ascertain Fradubio’s character, it is difficult to conclude if Holiness is innately more deserving of grace that Brother Doubt. Fradubio recognizes his own shortcomings: “wretched man…whose nature weake” (1.2.33.4). However, Redcrosse displays the same susceptibility to outward beauty and tendencies towards prideful rage that Fradubio has. As previously discussed, Brother Doubt lacks the innate innocence of Holiness. There are nuances that possibly paint Fradubio’s character as less fit for grace. Fradubio needlessly starts a fight with Duessa’s companion in defense of Fraelissa, who is under no apparent threat. Earlier in cantos II, Redcrosse is attacked by Sansfoy upon Duessa’s urging, and he is forced to defend himself. All in all, such minute differences hardly seem to merit granting grace to one character and not the other.

The main difference between Fradubio and Redcrosse, which might explain the disparity in the conclusions of their plots is waiting versus action. When Fradubio realizes Duessa’s duplicity, he “gan refraine, in minde to slip away, / Soone as appeared safe opportunitie” (1.2.41.6-7). Such half-hearting action against a being he knows to be evil causes the state of inaction Fradubio is forced to adopt indefinitely, after Duessa turns him into a tree. Waiting is certainly a form of suffering, as even the cold and heat of the weather pains Fradubio (1.2.33.6-8). In contrast, Redcrosse is told by Contemplation in the House of Holiness that he has a long time of battles and trials before peace (1.10.61). Even before that, Redcrosse faces constant challenges, such as the Cave of Despair and House of Pride. While the form of trial varies, each man must fulfill his celestial duty: “’Time and suffis?d fates to former kind/ Shall us restore, none else from hence may us unbynd,’” (1.2.43.7-8).

Granted that Fradubio appears for only a small portion of The Faerie Queene, his story functions as a surprisingly complex parallel to that of Redcrosse. The challenge with such a short excerpt is that it will not hold all of Spenser’s beliefs on holiness, doubt, and grace; these will be revealed in depth through the rest of the poem. From Fradubio’s story alone, a reader in Spenser’s time who faces the similar doubts about which religion is true faith, Protestantism or Catholicism, can find comfort in the possibility of God’s grace. It will come with hardship in any number of forms, but one need not be Holiness incarnate or guided by idols such as Arthur to have hope of salvation.

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The impacts of images on meaning of epic simile.

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Spenser’s Faerie Queene fights against reduction; there is no one-to-one correspondence of thing to meaning. Spenser recasts figures and images throughout the poem, allowing meanings to be changed and complicated through the course of reading. Language and form work to divide these moments of action and implication; the space within or between stanzas (or cantos, or books) allows shifts in narrative tone and complications of meaning. As Spenser revises the act of wandering in Book I, Canto I, giving it a moral meaning alongside its spatial one, so he takes an epic simile, and, using a sequence of comparisons, forces it to undergo changes in meaning and intent. In Canto I, this technique is seen in stanzas 20 through 23, in Spenser’s epic similes of the Nile River and the shepherd.

Stanzas 20 through 22 sustain a single image, with variations. It is the image of glut uncontained and spilling. Stanza 20 describes Error’s vomit, “a Floud of pyson horrible and blacke,” containing lumps of flesh, books and papers, and eyeless frogs and toads, who “reeping sought way in the weedy gras”? (20.2-8). Spenser takes care to introduce some idea of life along with the dead and material fragments of the vomit; the frogs and toads, released from Error’s mouth, creep away in the grass in a startling and unexpected image. This allows Spenser to move into his epic simile in stanza 21, in which the sense of life is perverted in the course of the simile. The simile, taken from the natural world, begins by referencing fertility, the healthy abundance and cycle of seasons bringing rain and flood:

As when old father Nilus gins to swell

With timely pride aboue the Aegyptian vale

His fattie wauves do fertile slime outwell

And ouerflow each plaine and lowly dale. (21.1-4)

But in the second quatrain of the stanza, the idea of regeneration is complicated. Like the creatures that creep out and away from Error’s vomit, the swelling of the Nile River leaves “Huge heapes of mudd . . . wherein there breed / Ten thousand kindes of creatures, partly male / And partly female of his fruitfull seed” (21.6-8). This second quatrain continues with the ideas of the first; the “fertile slime,” as it should, produces “fruitfull seed.” But this seed is perverted. The sexual paternity and maternity of the seed are obscured, incestuous or otherwise depraved, and breed “ten thousand kindes of creatures” of mixed male and female orientation. Spenser writes, “Such vgly monstrous shapes elsewhere may no man reed,” recalling the image of Error as half-serpent and half-woman, “Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine”(21.9, 14.6-9). The natural and abundant order of the world, like the natural and rich human acts of wandering and procreation, so quickly becomes tainted. Spenser implies that error is constantly breeding, lying dormant in fertile mud, so that romantic wandering  “non-linear, spatial play within a romantic landscape” too easily becomes epic wandering, which is not innocent but morally suggestive.

The epic simile in stanza 21 runs on to stanza 22, so that it is unclear whether the simile should be read as an exposition of stanza 20 (Error’s vomit) or as an exposition of stanza 21 (Error’s vomit-children). At any rate, it probably does not matter. Spenser links both excretions to the perverse propagation of the river in stanza 21, so that all three stanzas are tied visually and allegorically. Error, like the river’s seed, is “fruitfull.” Spenser writes, “She poured forth out of her hellish sinke, / Her fruitfull cursed spawne of serpents small, / Deformed monsters, fowle, and blacke as inke” (22.5-7). Both the spawne of Error and of the river are “deformed” and unnatural offspring. While these monsters are characterized by their foulness, nearly overcoming the Knight with their vivid stink, the narrator notes that they are harmless, “swarming all about his legs did crall, / And him encombred sore, but could not hurt at all” (22.8-9).

The closing couplet of stanza 22 is the narrator’s interjection, a distancing effect that allows the reader a small release from the epic and narrative tension sustained and built through the three stanzas. We are told that the Knight cannot be harmed, and therefore we are able to enjoy the quality of the poetic image, especially as it takes a comic turn in stanza 23. Here, Spenser uses another epic simile to combat that put forth in the preceding stanzas. Error’s offspring are transformed from the thick and lowly (creeping and swarming) to the light and airy. He writes,

As gentle Shepheard in sweete euen-tide,

When ruddy Phoebus gins to welke in west . . .

A cloud of cumbrous gnattes do him molest,

All striuing to infixe their feeble stings. (23.1-5)

It is still a mob scene, but a gentle one, more of a disturbance than a danger: “From their noyance he no where can rest, / But with his clownish hands their tender wings / He brusheth off, and oft doth mar their murmurings” (23.7-9).

The description of Error’s offspring is enclosed between two epic similes, both taken from the natural world, but with different degrees of threat and therefore different degrees of narrative distance from the Knight. Spenser uses a series of comparisons that introduces different modes of vision throughout the canto, allowing multiple perspectives. Thus, when Una approaches the Knight in stanza 27 to greet his victory, telling him “Well worthy be you of that Armorie,” when in stanza 26 we have just been told that “His foes haue slaine themselves,” we understand that the two statements are not incompatible (27.5, 26.9). From the Knight’s perspective, or perhaps from Una’s, he is worthy, having stood in “certaine perill” (24.2). He has not seen himself as the shepherd brushing flies from his flesh, as we have. Spenser reduces the Knight’s adversary in the space of a stanza, and suggests that bigger and more dangerous battles are yet to come.

The strength of the poetic image, and its malleability in Spenser’s design, is seen in the way it returns later in Canto I. In stanzas 36 through 38, he revisits the simile of the shepherd and the flies. Following the defeat of Error, the Knight and Una take a rest in Archimago’s inn. While the two are sleeping, “[Archimago] to his study goes, and there amides / His Magick bookes and artes of sundry kindes, / He seeks out mighty charmes, to trouble sleepy mindes”(36.7-9). This recalls Error’s vomit in stanza 20, which is filled with the stuff that magic is made of: “great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw . . . bookes and papers . . . loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke” (20.3-7). This symmetry of base materials throws Archimago on the side of evil in the canto, aligning him with Error.

From these books, Archimago chooses a few verses,

And forth he cald out of deepe darknesse dred

Legions of Sprights, the which like little flyes

Fluttring about his euer damned hed,

A-waite whereto their seruice he applyes. (38.1-4)

The shepherd in stanza 23, Redcrosse, has become Archimago in stanza 38, the flies have become sprites, and the epic simile has been freed from the merely metaphorical world to become a real and corporal part of the narrative, anticipating the granting of physical form to allegorical characters as Book I continues. Accompanying this shift from the figurative to the literal is an intensification of degree. The harmless flies, fluttering around an entirely different and less moral shepherd, suddenly become dangerous. Archimago chooses “the falsest twoo” from this swarm, and sends them to the Knight. The swarm is reduced in number, but gains in specificity and threat.

Finally, in stanza 41, Spenser condenses the image to a sound, “the sowne / Of swarming Bees” that surrounds the house of Morpheus (41.4-5). This sound, blended with the sounds of a “trickling streame from high rocke tumbling downe / And euer-drizling raine vpon the loft, / Mixt with a murmuring winde,” lulle “the occupants of the town to slumber soft” (41.1-4). The beautiful aural imagery of the stanza is indulgent and deceptive, lovely but dangerous in the way it diverts Morpheus from his labors. The sound of swarming bees thus prefigures the “fit false dreame, that can delude the sleepers sent,”which Morpheus delivers to Archimago (42.9). Although the image is condensed into a single element, that of sound, it retains its rhetorical power through allusion to its earlier appearances in the canto.

Spenser delights in the limber quality of language and form, the way images and meanings can be altered and complicated in the course of a few stanzas, the way metaphor can come to life. The romantic impulse might mourn the restriction of wandering to a morally problematic act, but the epic impulse “arriving somewhere” forces this to be the case. Both impulses perform in the Faerie Queene, however, as Spenser wanders through language, recasting images with different intents, resting only when his design is exact.

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Women used as steorotypes of gender.

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

“The Faeire Queene” is an epic poem written by Edmund Spenser in the 16th century – English Renaissance, but set in the Middle Ages because of its being a chivalric romance. Aside from religious allegories, juxtapositions, and contradictions, Spenser mentions the place of gender by giving his reader the stereotypes, meaning set of postulated ideas about the specific type of somebody or something, which includes race, ethnicity, religion, culture as well as the gender of that century’s women. Protagonist and antagonist, Una and Duessa, are the representations of two opposite gender stereotypes in a literary sense in the “Faerie Queene”. The writer focuses on the virgin and the whore by combining facts and his ideas about Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, who he aims actually, by giving examples from the bible.

To begin with, 16th century was the era of discoveries, inventions, explorations and great literary works. To exemplify, Leonardo da Vinci constructed a flat-water wheel, Peter Henlein invented pocket watch, Zacharias Janssen – compound microscope, Galileo Galilei invented water thermometer, Isabella Cortese wrote a book about alchemical secrets, and Thomas More wrote his ‘Utopia’… Besides, Elizabeth I was one of the most successful women who was treated as “a female monarch in a male world”; however, it was thought that women were affected by their emotions and passions so they ought to have been housekeepers and dutiful whereas men had a rational way of thinking, which gives them the right of ruling a country. (Norton 541) As it is understood from the instances, there are rarely women who contributed to the history of humanity in this century. This issue is stated confessedly in the book “Who am I This Time?: Female Portraits in British and American Literature” as “Patriarchal society views women essentially as supporting characters in the drama of life. Men change the world, and women help them.” (Pearson and Pope) The reason why almost all are males is that women generally were not allowed to work in such fields as medicine, law or education because they were considered to be weaker than men. There were some socio-cultural stereotypes that women were expected to obey; therefore, their only duty was, customarily, to take care of their family, especially their husbands. These duties consisted of preparing food for them, cleaning the house and having enough knowledge of medicine in case of the sicknesses of the family members. While men had serious jobs, women in 1500’s were supposed to be housewives, washerwomen, milliners, dyers, bakers, nannies, servants… On the other hand, the ones who worked not only got paid less but also were abused from time to time due to their gender.

Furthermore, there are some literary stereotypes attributed to women along with socio-cultural ones. These are used by writers, playwrights and poets in order to touch the audience’s own life conveniently, to help them understand and perceive smoothly, and occasionally, to criticize these clichés. Edmund Spenser wrote this allegoric poem to show the significant virtues and vices by benefiting from these literary stereotypes. Unrefinedly, women were supposed to be either virgin, mother/wife, old maid, or the goddess/whore in the literary texts. In the Faerie Queene, Spenser centred upon two specific stereotypes which were virgin in the face of Una and whore in the face of Duessa so as to represent the actual figures of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

What is more, one of the main characters of the Faerie Queene is Una stereotyping ‘virgin’ in the poem. She is narrated as the ideal Christian woman, who is actually a women whom Spenser wants in his own life. First of all, virginity symbolizes pureness and innocence and Una is described as “so pure and innocent, as that same lambe, / She was in life and virtuous lore,” (Book I, Canto I, Stanza 5, Lines 1&2). Also, her whiteness in her physical appearance is the sign of that purity, which is given in the previous stanza; “A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside, Upon a lowly Asse more white now then snow, Yet she much whiter, but the same did hide Under a vele, that wimpled was full low, And over all a blacke stole she did throw, As one that inly mournd; so was she sad, And heavie set upon her palfrey slow, Seemed in heart some hidden care she had, And by her in a line a milke white lambe she lad.” (Book I, Canto I, Stanza 4) Her innocence is conveyed through the metaphor, which emphasizes the underlying meaning as well as the appearance of her throughout the stanza. ‘Snow’ embodies purity and rebirth in the literature and it is generally used with ‘white’ denoting purity, light and innocence. In the second line of this stanza, the speaker says, ‘more white now then snow’ and the next stanza repeats, “she much whiter”. Snow and white already mean pureness and Una is even more innocent then these images. Besides that, in the last line, “a milke white lambe” refers to her chasteness; however, here, there is an allusion for Christianity owing to ‘lambe’ that is one of the titles of Jesus Christ that is mentioned in the bible, John 1:29 & John 1:36, which compares her to Jesus just like in the previous stanza, “as that same lambe”. Instead of white, ‘fair’ is another word used for her both physically and spiritually. King calls for her daughter like this, too; “Then forth he called that his daughter faire, / The fairest Un’ his onely daughter deare, / His onely daughter; and his onely heyre;” (Book I, Canto XII, Stanza 21)

Moreover, the virgin is the one who stays as a girl and who is untouched, ignorant of earthly concerns, which makes her angelic; she never has to acknowledge sexual intercourse. Afterhand, this figure may turn into mother/wife, or seductress if she falls down her purity and commits fornication like it is mentioned in the Revelation; “And there followed another Angel, saying, Babylon that great city is fallen, it is fallen, for she made all nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (14:8) Una prefers the first one, to become wife, and she conserves her chastity until she gets married to Redcross Knight who mentions her as virgin, too: “Thine, O then,” said the gentle Redcrosse Knight, “Next to that Ladies love, shalbe the place, O fairest virgin, full of heavenly light, Whose wondrous faith, exceeding earthly race, Was firmest fixt in mine entremest case. And you, my Lord, the Patrone of my life, Of that great Queene may well gaine worthy grace: For onely worthy you through prowes priefe Yf living man mote worthy be, to be her life” (Book I, Canto IX, Stanza 17) In addition to the phrase “fairest virgin”, the speaker underlines Una’s innocence one more time by saying “heavenly light”. Light is wielded as a religious allusion, as well, since Una pulls him to the right way like Jesus as it is mentioned in the Bible; “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12) She helps Redcross to find the proper way, the light, in his journey. Likewise, he says, “you, my Lord, the Patrone of my life”, he sees her as the protector of himself, he cannot be a hero without her and he needs her support. Indeed, these can be considered as a socio-cultural stereotype of women together with its literary sense, because women are expected to take care of their mates and help them. Then, in the fourth line, Redcross points out “earthly race”, which refers to the worldly pleasures, her not being besotted with it, and her virginity. Identically, men admire and worship, from time to time, to the virgin stereotype as a result of her beauty and try to seduce her; nevertheless, she cannot be deluded whatever they do since she is the most maiden; “Who, after Archimagoes fowle defeat, Led her away into a forest wilde; And turning wrathfull fyre to lustfull heat, With beastly sin thought her to have defilde, And made the vassal of his pleasures vilde. Yet first he cast by treatie, and by traynes, Her to persuade, that stubborne fort to yilde.” (Book VI, Canto III, Stanza 3)

Conversely, another main character in the Faerie Queene is Duessa who is the stereotype as the whore. She is absolute opposite of the virgin, Una. Even Spenser expresses her as “false Duessa” twenty-two times in the book. Literally, this stereotype is considered as goddess and she is enraptured in men’s weakness by tempting and seducing them through her beauty and sexuality. On the other hand, it is revealed by Arthur that Duessa is not that charming in reality to contrary of what is known when she is captured by him; “So as she bad, that witch they disaraid, And robd of royall robes, and purple pall, And ornaments that richly were displaid; Ne spared they to strip her naked all. Then when they had despoild her tire and call, Such as she was, their eyes might her behold, That her misshaped parts did them appall, A loathly, wrinckled hag, ill favoured, old, Whose secret filth good manners biddeth not be told.” (Book I, Canto VIII, Stanza 46) This ugliness of her is the result of her moral and inner deformity. A verse from the bible counterbalances this circumstance, as well; “And the women was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and gilded with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, and had a cup of gold in her hand full of abominations, and filthiness of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:4) What is essential is not her physical appearance but who she is. Therefore, what Aristotle says comes true; “The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities.” In this quotation, quality may be substituted for her morals. Thus, what Redcross Knight has to do is to choose either Una or Duessa, either good or bad, either virgin or whore…

Additionally, Duessa takes the advantage of female power of seduction for the purpose of teasing men into the defenceless position; “Then bowing downe her aged backe, she kist / … / Did closely lurke; yet so true-seeming grace” (Book I, Canto V, Stanza 27, Lines 1&4) Even though she, even herself, affirms her seductresses; “Duessa I, the daughter of Deceipt and Shame”(Book I, Canto V, Stanza 26, Line 9), she still describes herself as “virgin widow” (Book I, Canto II, Stanza 24, Line 8) who cannot never be reached. She continues to offer herself to people such as Orgoglia; “… hold thy mortall hand for Ladies sake, / … / And me thy worthy meed unto thy Leman [mistress] take.” (Book I, Canto VII, Stanza 14, Lines 6&9). From another point of view, the way Duessa acts is to keep men away from their knightly responsibilities in contrast to Una who helps Redcross Knight. She destructs men and brings them to the failure instead of supporting them. Here, it is seen that she is the paradox of socio-cultural stereotypes, as well. Duessa does not think about wifely or motherly issues while she only cares about sexual pleasure and so she changes her carnal mates very frequently.

In the chivalric romance epic “The Faerie Queene” composed by Edmund Spenser in 1590, the author uses the stereotypes of women in the late sixteenth century. Una and Duessa are personified ingeniously. Spenser achieves his goal, which is to celebrate Elizabeth I, Protestant church and British community. He approaches Queen Elizabeth in terms of virginity, Protestantism, head of the church of England which is the true one and restored by her, her reaching Saint George who is symbolized by Redcross Knight in the poem and her dressing style meanwhile he approaches Mary, Queen of Scots in terms of whoredom, her instigation and infidelity, widowhood, Roman Catholicism which is false church and her execution. The writer substantiates his ideas via verses from the bible time to time in order to be clearer in his expressions.

Works Cited

Brown, Pearl L., and Michele Hoffnung. “Images of Women in Psychology and Literature: An Interdisciplinary Course.” Feminist Teacher, vol. 6, no. 1, 1991, pp. 14–20. JSTOR, <www.jstor.org/stable/40545594>. Carol Pearson and Katherine Pope, Who am I This Time?: Female Portraits in British and American Literature. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976. Cavanagh, Sheila T. “Nightmares of Desire: Evil Women in ‘The Faerie Queene.’” Studies in Philology, vol. 91, no. 3, 1994, pp. 313–338. JSTOR, <www.jstor.org/stable/4174492>. De Beauvoir, Simon. “The Second Sex.” 1949. Greenbelt, Stephen. gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton. 2012. Print. Lambert, Tim. “Life for Women in the 16th Century.” 2016. 20 June 2016. <http://www.localhistories.org/women.html> Robin, Diana Maury, Anne R. Larsen and Carole Levin. Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. California, Colorado, Oxford. ACB-CLIO. 2007. Smith, Roland M. “Una and Duessa.” PMLA, vol. 50, no. 3, 1935, pp. 917–919. JSTOR, <www.jstor.org/stable/458228>. “The North American Review.” The North American Review, vol. 82, no. 170, 1856, pp. 284. JSTOR, <www.jstor.org/stable/25104695>. Spenser, Edmund. The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser in Five Volumes, 1. Volume. Wisconsin-Madison University: W. Pickering. 1825. Savitt, D. Jill. “Female Stereotypes in Literature (With a Focus on Latin American Writers.” Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. 2016. 8 June 2017 <http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1982/5/82.05.06.x.html>. The Holy Bible. Revelation and John. “The North American Review.” The North American Review, vol. 82, no. 170, 1856, pp. 284. JSTOR, <www.jstor.org/stable/25104695>.

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Religious and historical allegory to churches.

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene follows its protagonist Redcrosse on a traditional hero’s journey, all of which is a religious and historical allegory for the conflicts of the church taking place during Spenser’s time. Redcrosse encounters the mysterious Duessa on his journey, a figure who he initially trusts, but who ultimately wants to subvert him. Duessa fills not only the role of villain over the course of the story, she also acts as an allegory for the Catholic church and the biblical temptress, adding to Spenser’s message of the truth of the Protestant Church and the corruption of Catholicism.

Duessa’s constant trickery and deception represent the corruption associated with the Catholic Church. When Redcrosse meets Fradubio, the tree-man explains that Duessa deceived him so that he “took Duessa for my Dame” (805) and engaged in a relationship with her for some time, before he accidentally found her bathing and saw her in her true form, observing that “Her neather partes misshapen, monstrous // were hidd in water, that I could not see // but they did seeme more foule and hideous // then womans shape man would beleeve to bee” (805). Duessa deceives Fradubio into thinking that she’s the beautiful woman he fell in love with, when in fact she’s a deformed witch, and once he figures out who she is, she turns him into a tree. Duessa creates an image of beauty and innocence but is in reality corrupt and bent on destruction, an attitude that transfers into her interactions with Redcrosse. He is close to discovering who she really is after Fradubio tells his story, but as soon as he turns on her, Duessa pretends to faint, manipulating her appearance so she takes on a “pale and deadly hew” (806). Redcrosse is immediately worried for her and forgets any doubts he had; she manages to manipulate him into caring for her again by depicting herself as innocent, meek, and helpless. In taking on this facade that allows her to trick the other characters to further her own plans, Duessa also establishes herself as an allegory for the corruption that Spenser and other Protestants of his day believed was embedded in the Catholic Church. Duessa lures men onto her side by portraying herself as a beautiful, innocent maiden in need of a protector, much like Spenser believed the Catholic Church lured potential worshippers by painting themselves as the one true church, when in reality the institution had considerable amounts of corruption, from religious officials enjoying luxurious goods to high-level clergy members taking bribes. Duessa’s role in The Faerie Queene is to further Spenser’s allegory of the truth of the Protestant Church, a role furthered by the fact that she comes from Rome. She moves into the story as a symbol of the corrupting nature of the Catholic Church; a representative from Rome, she makes quick work of deceiving Redcrosse and others into believing that she holds nothing but beauty and innocence, when in reality she is corrupt and wants only to bring about destruction.

In addition to being a force of corruption and destruction, Duessa’s mission to distract Redcrosse from his true mission furthers Spenser’s allegory that Catholicism distracts from the one truth of the Protestant Church. Redcrosse begins The Faerie Queene on a quest to help Una find her family and save her kingdom from a dragon, but once he meets Duessa and hears her of her “sad plight, friendlesse, unfortunate” (801), he is immediately distracted from his original quest and tells Duessa that “may ye rest // having both a new friend you to aid” (802). While he previously was deeply devoted to Una, all thoughts of her fly out the window as soon as Duessa presents her case. While traveling with her, Redcrosse encounters numerous horrors, from the House of Pride to the giant Orgoglio, and engages in numerous battles in the name of someone who is both cruel and who doesn’t care for him at all, rather than using his strength to fight for good. Duessa distracts Redcrosse so that he is unable to see his actual enemies. When Orgoglio attacks, Redcrosse is attacked “ere he could get his armour on him dight // or get his shield” (857). Duessa makes him let his guard down to the point where he is totally unprepared for potential attacks, and as a result is nearly killed by a monster who is fairly significant. When the giant is finally killed by Arthur, his body “was vanisht quite, and of that monstrous mas // was nothing left, but like an empty bladder was” (873). Orgoglio is described as being a large and formidable enemy, but in reality is simply filled with air and completely insignificant once vanquished. Redcrosse may easily have defeated him, as he’s defeated larger monsters, but because Duessa has weakened him and distracted his mind away from his original mission, he’s unable to defeat even small and insignificant enemies. Duessa is established as the ultimate foil for Una: Una’s name literally means “one”, further establishing her connection to the one truth of Protestantism, but Duessa’s name means “two”, alluding to ideas of duality and deception associated with the Catholic Church. In distracting Redcrosse from his mission of helping Una and weakening him in his fight against his enemies, Duessa establishes herself as a counter to Protestantism, and the truth Spenser and his English contemporaries believed it brought. She is not just an obstacle Redcrosse must content with; she represents the distraction from the truth that Spenser and his fellow protestants believed that Catholicism provided for the people of England after the Reformation.

Duessa’s seduction alludes to biblical seduction and temptation, establishing her as a religious allegory for the temptress. When Redcrosse first meets her she’s dressed in red, “Purfled with gold and pearle of rich assay” (798) and wearing “a Persian mitre on her hed” (798). Duessa is dressed in finery and presents physical beauty, both of which serve in drawing Redcrosse over to her cause: he’s drawn in by the image of a beautiful woman. Her primary method of distracting Redcrosse over the course of the poem is to seduce him: Spenser explains that the two of them are “Poured out in loosnesse” (857) together, implying that they’ve been having sex. Every time Redcrosse grows closer to figuring out who she truly is, she uses her beauty to seduce him into having sex with her. Her seduction eludes to the image of the temptress in the Bible: when she first meets Redcrosse her appearance is also similar to that of the whore of Babylon, who drew in people with her beauty and finery but who was blasphemous. Her temptation of Redcrosse also alludes to Eve, who many readers of the Bible interpret as having tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and caused the two of them to fall from Paradise. Duessa is not just a historical allegory for the Catholic Church: she is also a religious allegory for the figure of the temptress, and in addition to serving as Redcrosse’s enemy, she also serves as a continuation of the Bible’s message that women who tempt men, through their sexuality or through other means, are not to be trusted and will ultimately come to a bad end.

While Duessa serves as a symbol for Catholicism and biblical temptresses, she also fills the role of feared foreigner in a society terrified of differences. Duessa enters the play as an immediately recognizable foreigner: she’s dressed in bright colors and finery, a direct counter to the figure of Una, who’s described as “much whiter” (783) than her white donkey, and who hides “under a vele” (783), as would have been common for high-class English women of the time. Duessa’s bright clothes that don’t cover her entire body are distinctly out of place when contrasted to Una’s wardrobe, and her clothes immediately reveal her to be foreign and “other”. Not only is Duessa foreign, however, she is from the Holy Roman Empire: her father was “an Empererour // he that the wide West under his rule has” (801), and therefore has a connection to the Catholicism that would have frightened readers of the time. Not only is Duessa a symbol of a religion deemed corrupt and untrue, she is also a foreigner who comes from a far away land with distinctly different beliefs and different styles of dress. In a time of such severe religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, anyone who didn’t match the accepted British norms and standards – Protestantism, refinement – was immediately viewed as someone to be feared or ostracized. Duessa fills the role of fearsome foreigner, who Spenser’s contemporaries would immediately have recognized as an enemy because of her similarities to other enemies of the time. She acts as a villain who undermines Redcrosse, and a symbol of Catholicism and temptation in a society that would have recognized and condemned both, but she also represents the foreign and unknown people who her society would have feared because of their separation from the accepted norm.

The Faerie Queene is an epic poem chronicling battles and adventure, but it also serves as a historical allegory for the Protestant-Catholic conflict in England and a religious allegory for the Bible. Within all three of these contexts, Duessa serves as a foil for Redcrosse: as a villain, as a symbol for Catholicism and as a symbol for the biblical temptress. She also represents the fear of foreigners and anyone who strayed from the norms of Spenser’s day, by acting as a person who readers of the time would have already perceived as a villain, but in every possible form, she represents a challenge to be faced and an obstacle to be overcome.

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The Symbolism of Fidessa, Her Saracen Partner, and Her Fiance in The Faerie Queene

September 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

Fidessa’s character in Edmund Spenser’s “The Fairy Queene”, introduced in the second canto of book 1, is essential to the understanding of one of Spenser’s main messages in the poem: the Roman Catholic Church is corrupt and falsely interprets Christianity. Through Fidessa’s and her Saracen’s names, Fidessa’s characterization and dress, and the relaying of the death of Fidessa’s fiance, the reader is able to fully realize and comprehend Spenser’s position on the Roman Catholic Church.Fidessa is superficially characterized as the beautiful young daughter of a Roman emperor. At first glance, Fidessa appears to be the quintessential maiden of the chivalric knight tale. She is a beautiful lady (the knight cannot keep his eyes away from her face [26]) and she is also grandly arrayed (13). She is accompanied by her champion knight, who came into her life after the noble prince to whom she was betrothed died (23-24). With a father who is an emperor (22), Fidessa seems to be the paradigm of a sweet, gentle maiden in need of protection and assistance. However, by looking closely at how Fidessa is portrayed, one sees who Fidessa truly is and what she symbolizes. Fidessa’s ornate, scarlet dress is reminiscent of “the purple clothed woman on the seven hills” found in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, a representation of false religion. The fact that Fidessa’s father is a Roman emperor establishes the analogy of Fidessa as a representation of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, Spenser equates Roman Catholicism with false religion. Spenser does not have a positive view of the Church (which makes sense, seeing as how Elizabeth was a Protestant queen).Spenser employs name symbolism throughout his work to convey what a character is intended to represent. The name Fidessa means “faith”, suggesting that Fidessa is meant to represent faith. However, Fidessa’s real name is Duessa, which means “two-faced”, which informs the reader that Fidessa has a dual nature and does not, in fact, represent faith. Similarly, the fact that Fidessa is accompanied by a Saracen named Sans foy, which means “false faith” or “without faith”, shows that Fidessa is a representation of false faith and false piety. Actually, the fact that her champion knight is a Saracen in the first place should strike the reader as odd and important, because it is ironic that a woman with a name that means faith has an “infidel” for a companion. The reader will learn that Fidessa inspires disbelief, and, unlike Una, Fidessa is insincere. This fact is in keeping with the theme of separating the Redcrosse Knight from the truth, set up by Archimago, who tricks the Redcrosse Knight into thinking that Una is immoral, which causes him to abandon his quest.The main way in which Spenser presents his views on the Roman Catholic Church is through the death of Fidessa’s fiance. Fidessa’s fiance is an emblematic representation of Jesus Christ – a “faithful”, “meeke”, and “debonaire” man (23). This Christ-figure undergoes an “innocent death” and his body is mysteriously removed (24). Fidessa spent many years searching for the corpse of her fiance. If Fidessa’s fiance represents Jesus Christ and Fidessa represents the Church, then, logically, Spenser is saying, through the fact that Fidessa (the Church) and her fiance (Jesus) can never be married, that Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of Christianity, has no place in the Church. There is no “body” of Christ, because Christ ascended into heaven, He rose from the dead. Fidessa’s perpetual search for a body that, as any true Christian should know, does not exist symbolizes that the Roman Catholic Church has based its entire theology on a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religious doctrine. Thus, the Church is invalid and erroneous as a religion.Fidessa is an essential character to Spenser’s “The Faerie Queen” because her portrayal allows Spenser to get across one of the main themes of his poem: the Roman Catholic Church is an erroneous, hypocritical institution. Spenser subtly intersperses his views within his allegorical tale so that the reader is able to enjoy the fanciful tale of a chivalric knight and his travels while she also is able to understand the views of the author, thus understanding the circumstances under which Spenser wrote.

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The Task of Interpreting the Allegory in Spenser’s Faerie Queene

August 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

In many ways The Faerie Queene presents a unique challenge to the English reader. It can be described as epic, romance or fantasy and covers a wide range of topics religious and romantic, political and spiritual, Christian and Pagan. It is also incomplete, leaving the resolution of the separate narrative open for conjecture. Moreover, it is a poem that refuses to reveal itself in one sitting; demanding more of the reader than usual. MacCaffrey describes the challenge to the reader as”The characters, including the heroes, move primarily in the horizontal plane, but Spenser’s readers have their attention repeatedly drawn to the upper and lower limits of reality which are also the sources of the poem’s truth. This vertical dimension is ordinarily beyond the horizon of the characters, but visible to us; as always when a distance develops between fiction and reader, the effect is to make us aware of fictiveness itself and to ponder the nature and relevance of fictions”Interpreting the allegory in The Faerie Queene is not simply a task of deciphering a code, but a matter of relating to the Spenserian, Elizabethan and Fairy worlds in order to make sense of and then bring together the carefully structured layers and meanings of the poem.Both Spenser’s contemporaries and his modern audience are likely to know when they approach The Faerie Queene that what they are reading is an allegory. Allegory as a literary device evolved out of the classical method of interpreting the world through figurative means with Gods and myths, combined with the (somewhat simplistically stated) progression from simile to metaphor to allegory. Allegory was used extensively in the Bible; thereafter the technique was regarded as one of moral intentions and was used throughout the medieval period from Dante and popular romances like The Romance of the Rose to Chaucer. Therefore Elizabethans would have been fully aware of the allegorical style of The Faerie Queene, as are modern readers whose copies are invariably prefaced by Spenser’s famous letter to Sir Walter Raleigh. So we should assume that Spenser was not intending to confuse his readers in any way but use allegory as a technique best suited to espousing his ideas and views on contemporary Elizabethan society.Therefore the reader has to perform the task of following the narrative in Fairy Land as well as being conscious on another level of Spenser’s aims of “fashioning a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline” based on Protestant Christianity and glorifying, in the same vein, the reign of Queen Elizabeth.The role of the Redcrosse Knight in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene can be examined to highlight the demands placed on the reader in interpreting the allegory. As MacCaffrey explains, “In the epistemological allegory of Book 1, Spenser compels both his reader and his hero to confront the duplicity of seemings”. This “duplicity of seemings” is mostly represented by the roles and differences of Una and Duessa. The reader already knows that Redcrosse is ‘holiness’ from the prefatory quatrain and must bear this in mind to understand the significance of the problems he has to overcome. Duessa, Abessa and Archimago are, for Spenser, allegorical representations of the Catholic Church – ones that are specifically aimed at deceiving Redcrosse and the reader, for Redcrosse is in many ways the Christian, or more precisely, Protestant everyman. His quest for truth and holy glory is one that Spenser sees as the duty of every man and it is the forces of Catholicism that are placed in the way. But Catholicism is not Spenser’s only evil in the poem; Islam, as represented by the 3 brother “Sarazins”, is seen to be without faith (Sansfoy), without law (Sansloy) and without joy (Sansjoy). There would have been very little problem in interpreting these names for Spenser’s audience as any reader of such a poem would most likely have rudimentary knowledge of the poem’s names Latinate origins; however the modern English reader may not comprehend the name’s meaning without secondary material. Comprehension of the names in The Faerie Queene is always useful at an early stage of reading as they provide a ‘short cut’ to the allegorical significance of the characters.Another problem for the modern reader is the blatant and consistent attacks on anything non-Protestant, be it the Catholics, the Muslims or the faithless. As a prominent Elizabethan, Spenser was writing with the backing of the political and religious power base, and his views would have been either applauded or opposed quietly. However, modern English readers inhabit a society where multiculturalism is publicly celebrated and religious intolerance officially unacceptable. In Northern Ireland, for example, study of the allegory of The Faerie Queene would be a highly contentious issue as to celebrate the poem would blatantly be an attack on Catholicism in an area of the world where religious differences can cost lives. Similarly unacceptable would be to endorse a poem that condemned Islam as being without law, faith and joy in a British society with an established Muslim community that would be deeply offended. Whilst it is impossible to criticise Spenser for lacking the sensibilities and enlightenment of the 21st century, a new task for the reader is to take Spenser’s targets and give them a universal meaning. This is dangerous in terms of developing an exclusive interpretation (i.e. attempting to publish a book defining a universal interpretation) but the allegory of The Faerie Queene should be interpreted personally so that it means something for each individual reader. This may mean accepting Fidessa-Duessa as being the personification of falseness, but ignoring her being the Whore of Babylon, or perhaps accepting her as the Whore of Babylon but rejecting that figure as a representation of the Catholic Church. Similarly, Sansfoy does not have to be a Muslim in order to represent the folly of being lawless. This selective interpretation may break the ‘completeness’ of Spenser’s poem but the process in itself would be a worthwhile experience.For such a personal interpretation to occur, firstly the reader must understand Spenser’s intentions fully. The crux of this task lies in the navigation of the “vertical axis” that MacCaffrey mentions. Redcrosse does not symbolise a fixed concept or figure. We have seen that he is allied to the reader in the problems he has to overcome, making him in one respect an ordinary man, but he is clearly not just that. Spenser fashioned him to represent holiness, although this definition should be treated carefully as he is not holiness itself, but a man who has holiness. There are characters, such as Malbecco (Jealousy) in Book 3 who are concepts in themselves and Una as Truth represents this type of allegorical figure. Whenever she is with Redcrosse he has ‘true Christian Truth’; when she is absent he is prey to the evils of Duessa and Archimago. Redcrosse possesses holiness and courage but lacks experience; at the beginning of Book 1 he is described as yearning for glory: “his hart did earne / To prove his puissance in batell brave”. This gives us an impression of youthful endeavour – he yearns for glory in battle, thus suggesting that he has not yet achieved much. The way he is deceived by Duessa is a challenge – one that he initially does not seem able to win as he is led towards Lucifera and the seven sins, but overcomes eventually by way of his holiness and his reunion with Una. The allegory here is not only for the individual man to steer away from deceit and pride towards truth and holiness, but a chronicle of how Christians as an entire religious people were deceived (in Spenser’s eyes) by the Catholic Church. It was only the true holiness of man that enabled him eventually to embrace the ‘true religious faith’ of Protestantism. The religious allegory is the primary concern of Book 1; only with the introduction of Arthur does the political one begin (to be developed later).When the Redcrosse Knight is revealed as St. George the reader then has a new level on the ‘vertical axis’ to deal with. His role as a Protestant role model is combined with his representation of the British nation. Whilst the device of allegory can be categorised by the different applications, techniques and situations with which it is used, e.g., situational allegory, typological allegory, psychological allegory etc., this need not concern the reader as such a categorisation can prove confusing and unhelpful. Rather, the priority for the reader should be the distinctions between the topics of the allegory, for example when Redcrosse is led up the mountain by Contemplation the reader should consider this an important part of his development in the surface narrative but also bear in mind that Redcrosse signifies a Moses or Christ-type figure; “he leads him to the highest Mount; / Such one, as that same mighty man of God, / That bloud-red billowes like a walld front”, as well as being symbolic of England – at the top of the mountain his destiny as St. George, patron of the English, is revealed as well as contemplation of London and Elizabeth in their allegorical forms of Cleopolis and the Faerie Queene. That Spenser is quite explicit with his references to his referred meaning again demonstrates that he openly intended for those meanings to be apparent to his audience. It is when Spenser is not so open about his intentions that the reader has to juggle priorities in his consciousness.In conclusion, the task of the reader of The Faerie Queene involves active participation, patience and a compromise between objectivity and subjectivity. The surface narrative, which can be overlooked as a hindrance to understanding the poem, becomes a help when the reader is prepared to follow the fairy story – the battles between Knights and monsters against a backdrop of bleeding trees and mythical creatures. For the narrative of the fairy story is designed to be synchronised with the allegorical developments. Thus the journey to the mountain, led by Contemplation, is the cerebral ‘calm’ before the physical (and allegorically spiritual) ‘storm’ of the dragon battle. If the reader is confused then the enjoyment of the surface narrative will engage the attention so that rereading is possible and fruitful. Keeping the different allegorical strands in mind when reading The Faerie Queene is, however, what makes reading it rewarding; once it is understood the surface narrative becomes subservient to the referred meaning as ultimately it is a vehicle for Spenser’s ideas. In other great epics like, for instance, Paradise Lost, any allegory concerning the English Civil War is essentially subservient to the surface narrative about the ultimate battle of good and evil. But the reader of The Faerie Queene must always have allegory as the priority of their consciousness to fully receive the complete impression of the poem.BibliographyGreenlaw, Edwin. Studies in Spenser’s Historical Allegory. London: OUP, 1932.Kermode, Frank. Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971.MacCaffrey, Isabel G. Spenser’s Allegory. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1976.MacQueen, John. Allegory. London: Methuen, 1970.Parker, M. Pauline. The Allegory of The Faerie Queene. London: OUP, 1960.Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene, ed. Thomas P. Roche, Jr. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978.

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The Beneficence of Despair

July 26, 2019 by Essay Writer

The consequence that Spenser faces in casting the Redcrosse knight as the obvious hero of The Faerie Queene is that all who oppose him throughout the poem are immediately branded as inherently evil figures. Such is the case with Despaire, whose encounter with the Redcrosse knight on the surface looks like a cruel and conniving attempt to make the hero of the story commit suicide. Upon closer analysis, however, Despair can be seen as “that cursed man” (I, ix, 308), not because he embodies evil, but rather because he is himself cursed and endures a more miserable fate than those who stumble upon him.Spenser sets Despair apart from characters such as Duessa or Archimago, who actively pursue the Redcrosse knight for the sake of bringing him to ruin, as well as from Errour and the Dragon, whose horrendous physical appearance and prowess suggest their potential to do great harm to the knight. Despair, unlike the knight’s other opposition, neither pursues him nor poses immediate physical danger. Rather, the knight comes seeking Despair at his cave, and at a purely physical level, the only threat to him comes from his own hand (since Despair does not do the actual killing).When Despair is first introduced, the description of his physical appearance resonates with that of the knight only one canto earlier, when he was in the dungeon of the Giant (I, vii, 357-369). Particularly when Spenser describes how Despair’s “raw-bone cheeks through penurie and pine, / Were shronke into his jawes, as he did never dine” (I, ix, 314-315), he sounds very much like the picture of the malnourished knight, “whose feeble thighs, unhable to uphold / His pined corse, him scarse to light could beare, / A ruefull spectacle of death and ghastly drere” (I, viii, 358-360). This resonation has the affect of reminding the reader that the fate Despair faces could have fallen upon any man, including the knight himself.Having brought Despair to the same level of humanity as the knight, Spenser further nullifies the notion that Despair is a malicious enemy and emphasizes his doomed state on Earth with the description of his surroundings. The image of him confined to a cave where “beside there lay upon the gras / A drearie corse, whose life away did pas, / All wallowd in his owne yet luke-warme blood, / That from his wound yet welled fresh alas” (I, ix, 319-322) paints a vivid picture of his miserable situation. It is hardly the portrait of a bloodthirsty villain who triumphs over every life ended by his rhetorical power, or over the sight of his latest visitor’s fresh blood.His act of persuading people to commit suicide somehow reduces the evil attributed to him, as opposed to if he were presented physically murdering his visitors. Spenser somehow finds a perfect balance between the craftiness of Duessa and Archimago and the physical brutality of the Dragon or Errour. Despair cannot be blamed for craftiness or deceit because he does not disguise his intent to drive people to suicide. At the same time he cannot be blamed for inflicting physical harm on people. Spenser cleverly created a character who could be admired for his rhetorical ability and who cannot be wholly blamed for the destruction of lives. Despair also escapes blame because he does not do nearly as much harm to the knight as any of the other “villains.” In fact, the knight escapes from the cave unscathed.Despair’s response to the knight’s departure is also crucial to the portrayal of his character. When the knight leaves, he does not pursue him because the knight is not the true victim in this scene. What ensues the knight’s departure reveals the true victim: Despair, who “when…[he] saw his guest / Would save depart, for all his subtill sleight, / He chose an halter from among the rest, / And with it hung himselfe, unbid unblest. / But death he could not worke himselfe thereby; / For thousand times he so himselfe had drest, / Yet nathelesse it could not doe him die, / Till he should die his last, that is eternally” (I, ix, 479-486).The sense of comfort in human companionship invoked by the use of the word “guest” suggests the loneliness of Despair in the midst of his interminable life in the cave. Despair’s response upon the knight’s departure reveals his belief that suicide truly is the best escape from the despair that he suffers. Given this conclusion, the fact that he persuades others to take their lives no longer appears as an act of evil, but rather an attempt to spare others from his own miserable fate.If it were his passion to ensnare men and persuade them to take their lives, he would be outside of the cave pursuing after victims, possibly wearing an effective disguise such as Duessa and Archimago, that would win him credibility. Instead he sits in a hollow cave with festering corpses. Surely anyone who stumbles upon him would be suspicious of him, thus making his job of luring them to suicide more difficult. His condition, his dwelling, and his candidness suggest that he is not doing this job out of his own volition or zeal, but rather because this is the fate that has been allotted to him by some unmentioned, greater supernatural power.This sense is strengthened by the mention of his numerous unsuccessful suicide attempts. If his fate were in his hands, then he should have no problem taking his own life; instead, “death he could not worke himselfe thereby” (I, ix, 483). There is a sense that Despair operates under the authority of a greater power which spares his life in each suicide attempt and propels him into the continuous doom in the cave. His role as an advocate for suicide suddenly turns into a life that he has been unfortunately fated with rather than a malicious endeavor of his own volition. As the canto comes to a close, Despair’s grim fate invokes far more pity than the knight’s momentary danger, from which he escapes unharmed.

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The Malleability of Image in Spenser’s Faerie Queene: Fruitful Seed

July 19, 2019 by Essay Writer

Spenser’s Faerie Queene fights against reduction; there is no one-to-one correspondence of thing to meaning. Spenser recasts figures and images throughout the poem, allowing meanings to be changed and complicated through the course of reading. Language and form work to divide these moments of action and implication; the space within or between stanzas (or cantos, or books) allows shifts in narrative tone and complications of meaning. As Spenser revises the act of wandering in Book I, Canto I, giving it a moral meaning alongside its spatial one, so he takes an epic simile, and, using a sequence of comparisons, forces it to undergo changes in meaning and intent. In Canto I, this technique is seen in stanzas 20 through 23, in Spenser’s epic similes of the Nile River and the shepherd.Stanzas 20 through 22 sustain a single image, with variations. It is the image of glut uncontained and spilling. Stanza 20 describes Error’s vomit, “a Floud of pyson horrible and blacke,â€? containing lumps of flesh, books and papers, and eyeless frogs and toads, who “creeping sought way in the weedy grasâ€? (20.2-8). Spenser takes care to introduce some idea of life along with the dead and material fragments of the vomit; the frogs and toads, released from Error’s mouth, creep away in the grass in a startling and unexpected image. This allows Spenser to move into his epic simile in stanza 21, in which the sense of life is perverted in the course of the simile. The simile, taken from the natural world, begins by referencing fertility, the healthy abundance and cycle of seasons bringing rain and flood:As when old father Nilus gins to swellWith timely pride aboue the Aegyptian valeHis fattie wauves do fertile slime outwellAnd ouerflow each plaine and lowly dale. (21.1-4)But in the second quatrain of the stanza, the idea of regeneration is complicated. Like the creatures that creep out and away from Error’s vomit, the swelling of the Nile River leaves “Huge heapes of mudd . . . wherein there breed / Ten thousand kindes of creatures, partly male / And partly female of his fruitfull seedâ€? (21.6-8). This second quatrain continues with the ideas of the first; the “fertile slime,â€? as it should, produces “fruitfull seed.â€? But this seed is perverted. The sexual paternity and maternity of the seed are obscured, incestuous or otherwise depraved, and breed “ten thousand kindes of creaturesâ€? of mixed male and female orientation. Spenser writes, “Such vgly monstrous shapes elsewhere may no man reed,â€? recalling the image of Error as half-serpent and half-woman, “Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaineâ€? (21.9, 14.6-9). The natural and abundant order of the world, like the natural and rich human acts of wandering and procreation, so quickly becomes tainted. Spenser implies that error is constantly breeding, lying dormant in fertile mud, so that romantic wandering — non-linear, spatial play within a romantic landscape — too easily becomes epic wandering, which is not innocent but morally suggestive.The epic simile in stanza 21 runs on to stanza 22, so that it is unclear whether the simile should be read as an exposition of stanza 20 (Error’s vomit) or as an exposition of stanza 21 (Error’s vomit-children). At any rate, it probably does not matter. Spenser links both excretions to the perverse propagation of the river in stanza 21, so that all three stanzas are tied visually and allegorically. Error, like the river’s seed, is “fruitfull.â€? Spenser writes, “She poured forth out of her hellish sinke, / Her fruitfull cursed spawne of serpents small, / Deformed monsters, fowle, and blacke as inkeâ€? (22.5-7). Both the spawne of Error and of the river are “deformedâ€? and unnatural offspring. While these monsters are characterized by their foulness, nearly overcoming the Knight with their vivid stink, the narrator notes that they are harmless, “swarming all about his legs did crall, / And him encombred sore, but could not hurt at allâ€? (22.8-9).The closing couplet of stanza 22 is the narrator’s interjection, a distancing effect that allows the reader a small release from the epic and narrative tension sustained and built through the three stanzas. We are told that the Knight cannot be harmed, and therefore we are able to enjoy the quality of the poetic image, especially as it takes a comic turn in stanza 23. Here, Spenser uses another epic simile to combat that put forth in the preceding stanzas. Error’s offspring are transformed from the thick and lowly (creeping and swarming) to the light and airy. He writes,As gentle Shepheard in sweete euen-tide,When ruddy Phoebus gins to welke in west . . .A cloud of cumbrous gnattes do him molest,All striuing to infixe their feeble stings. (23.1-5)It is still a mob scene, but a gentle one, more of a disturbance than a danger: “From their noyance he no where can rest, / But with his clownish hands their tender wings / He brusheth off, and oft doth mar their murmuringsâ€? (23.7-9).The description of Error’s offspring is enclosed between two epic similes, both taken from the natural world, but with different degrees of threat and therefore different degrees of narrative distance from the Knight. Spenser uses a series of comparisons that introduces different modes of vision throughout the canto, allowing multiple perspectives. Thus, when Una approaches the Knight in stanza 27 to greet his victory, telling him “Well worthy be you of that Armorie,â€? when in stanza 26 we have just been told that “His foes haue slaine themselves,â€? we understand that the two statements are not incompatible (27.5, 26.9). From the Knight’s perspective, or perhaps from Una’s, he is worthy, having stood in “certaine perillâ€? (24.2). He has not seen himself as the shepherd brushing flies from his flesh, as we have. Spenser reduces the Knight’s adversary in the space of a stanza, and suggests that bigger and more dangerous battles are yet to come.The strength of the poetic image, and its malleability in Spenser’s design, is seen in the way it returns later in Canto I. In stanzas 36 through 38, he revisits the simile of the shepherd and the flies. Following the defeat of Error, the Knight and Una take a rest in Archimago’s inn. While the two are sleeping, “[Archimago] to his study goes, and there amides / His Magick bookes and artes of sundry kindes, / He seeks out mighty charmes, to trouble sleepy mindesâ€? (36.7-9). This recalls Error’s vomit in stanza 20, which is filled with the stuff that magic is made of: “great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw . . . bookes and papers . . . loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lackeâ€? (20.3-7). This symmetry of base materials throws Archimago on the side of evil in the canto, aligning him with Error.From these books, Archimago chooses a few verses,And forth he cald out of deepe darknesse dredLegions of Sprights, the which like little flyesFluttring about his euer damned hed,A-waite whereto their seruice he applyes. (38.1-4)The shepherd in stanza 23, Redcrosse, has become Archimago in stanza 38, the flies have become sprites, and the epic simile has been freed from the merely metaphorical world to become a real and corporal part of the narrative, anticipating the granting of physical form to allegorical characters as Book I continues. Accompanying this shift from the figurative to the literal is an intensification of degree. The harmless flies, fluttering around an entirely different and less moral shepherd, suddenly become dangerous. Archimago chooses “the falsest twooâ€? from this swarm, and sends them to the Knight. The swarm is reduced in number, but gains in specificity and threat.Finally, in stanza 41, Spenser condenses the image to a sound, “the sowne / Of swarming Beesâ€? that surrounds the house of Morpheus (41.4-5). This sound, blended with the sounds of a “trickling streame from high rocke tumbling downe / And euer-drizling raine vpon the loft, / Mixt with a murmuring winde,â€? “lulleâ€? the occupants of the town to “slumber softâ€? (41.1-4). The beautiful aural imagery of the stanza is indulgent and deceptive, lovely but dangerous in the way it diverts Morpheus from his labors. The sound of swarming bees thus prefigures the “fit false dreame, that can delude the sleepers sent,â€? which Morpheus delivers to Archimago (42.9). Although the image is condensed into a single element, that of sound, it retains its rhetorical power through allusion to its earlier appearances in the canto.Spenser delights in the limber quality of language and form, the way images and meanings can be altered and complicated in the course of a few stanzas, the way metaphor can come to life. The romantic impulse might mourn the restriction of wandering to a morally problematic act, but the epic impulse — arriving somewhere — forces this to be the case. Both impulses perform in the Faerie Queene, however, as Spenser wanders through language, recasting images with different intents, resting only when his design is exact.

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Art as Satan and Savior: The Dual Roles for Women in The Faerie Queene

July 5, 2019 by Essay Writer

The work of art is a central image in The Faerie Queene, though it rarely appears as a neutral force. On the contrary: art often seems to act as a tool of the post-lapsarian world, dragging once-pure characters into earthly knowledge and moral descent. Specifically, in the house of Busirane, art acts initially as an aid to Eve’s original sin as well as, in more secular terms, the loss of sexual innocence in the mythological women Leda and Danae. The tapestries on Busirane’s walls depict the means by which, through artistic transformation or ornamentation, women especially are deceived or invaded. However, while the power and invasiveness of Busirane’s art is clearly emphasized, art seems far from wholly evil in the narrator’s view. As strong as the attempts of Busirane are to display, reenact, or remember female falls in the history of man, so strong (if less often stated) is the work of art’s function as a redeeming force. Just as, in contemporary Christianity, the Old Testament fall is somehow “reversed” through the New Testament redemption of Christ, so too does The Faerie Queene suggest a narrative of fall and ascent. Spenser does not wish the work of art to disappear altogether; rather, he wishes to present a counterexample to both the mimetic and lapsarian views. Through the cases of Eve, Danae, and Leda, the work of art will be seen not only as an accomplice to lapsarian acts, but also as a saving, restorative force, allowing acts of violence to women to be rectified and the women themselves absolved.When the art in Busirane’s house is first described, the reader can begin to realize the harm of which visual representation is capable. As Busirane’s actual situation is one of holding Amoret captive, physically and perhaps sexually, and attempting to force her emotional love, it is tempting to read descriptive scenes as a mirror of this triptych of violence, lust, and desire. Not only does Busirane desire and hold Amoret physically, he wishes to penetrate her psyche, in order to turn her favor his way. This same type of impure desire arises in the first description of Busirane’s tapestries, in which the following passage appears:[The tapestries were] woven with gold and silk so close and nearThat the rich metal lurked privily,As faining to be hid from envious eye.Yet here and there and everywhere unwaresIt showed itself, and shone unwillingly:Like a discoloured snake, whose hidden snaresThrough the green grass his long, bright-burnished back declares. (Bk. 3, c. 11, s. 28)This stanza has implications beyond a pure Platonism, which might suggest that all art is imitation: instead, it imaginatively connects art with the snake in the Biblical Garden of Eden. The tapestries’ metal is connected through a simile to the “discoloured snake,” an image which can be read on the visual level (the snakelike weave of the threads) as well as the metaphorical one (the tapestry being “woven through” with deceit.) Significantly, the rich metal does not seem to declare itself: instead, it “lurk[s] privily,/ As faining to be hid” and “sh[ines] unwillingly.” This phrasing suggests the increased power of art due to its hidden nature: rather than simply stating facts, as a report might, or declaring beliefs in a propagandistic way, the work of art uses more subtle techniques. Though a modern reader might laud the work of art for allowing a multiplicity of interpretations, here it seems that the ambiguous status of the art object leads more easily to lures and trickery than straightforward work. In fact, it is the “hidden snares” of the snake, the secret lures rather than any easily-visible purpose, which reveals the snake’s position at all.Through this Biblical reference, the narrator directly implicates the work of art in connection with Eve’s eating of the apple and, more generally, to the resultant fall of man and loss of paradise. The work of art “lurks” in this post-lapsarian world, mirroring and perhaps even reconstructing the initial fall. The fact that the snake “declares” his back in the present sense suggests that his narrative is still (at least metaphorically) going on; that is, that the content of the tapestries is a dynamic one. In the tapestries, the metal is still “as faining to be hid from envious eye” the viewer, now present at the scene, presumably could perform the function of this “eye,” looking on in amazement and jealousy at the scene before him. This viewer may now, in fact, be enacting a modern version of the Biblical tale of lust and desire. Thus, not only is the work of art brought very much into the narrative of the present, but the viewer himself is implicated in Eve’s sins as well. Considering the work of art in the imitative Platonic sense, this tapestry is a mimicking of the original Biblical event; as such, it performs its mimetic function as a work of art as well as reenacting the lures of Eve. The tapestries’ hidden, “unwilling” shining suggests that it would rather work its evil unseen; because it is visible, however, it participates in the tradition as a work of art, beginning with the first representations of the fall. In this way, the tapestry brings itself to the viewer’s senses, allowing him to consider what relationship it has to the original event. Through visual representation, the fall is continued into the present narrative of the story, allowing the viewer to understand that he too is engaged in the lapsarian act.This ability of art to recall and reinstate a fall from Paradise is not unique to the Biblical tale of Eve; on the contrary, it stretches into the more secular realm of female sexuality. Just as the fall from the Garden of Eden occurred, so too can a “fall” from the realm of female virginity cause a loss of purity or holiness. Especially when this latter fall is not voluntary, its ability to be represented artistically is at once jarring and profound. The presentation, in a tapestry, of rape and voyeurism is made possible perhaps only through the tapestry’s status as an art object, a thing which purportedly may be viewed at a distance from the actual event. If the narrative had been presented in a graphically straightforward way, even as a kind of “criminal report,” the gruesomeness of the acts may have been too much for a viewer to bear. However, because the act is couched in beautiful colors and a pleasing composition, the acts’ nature as invasion and fall may be more easily concealed.Even more relevant, though, is the idea that these acts of rape and voyeurism are themselves abetted through the artistry of deceit. Even a god must transform himself visually in order to be a “successful” rapist or voyeur. In the house of Busirane, some of the tapestries depict the classical god Jove in his function as a violent, invading force. Known as the reigning god, Jove also engaged in numerous earthly activities, including viewing Danae (s. 31) and raping Leda in the guise of a swan (s. 32).Significantly, these narratives participate equally with the Biblical one in the idea of a female character’s fall. In this case, it is not the original fall from paradise, but a parallel, more modernized and secularized, version: that is, the fall from the purity of virginity to the “knowledge” of sexual life. This reference is significant not only because of the mores of the time, but also because of Elizabeth’s status as the “Virgin Queen.” Jove’s transformation into “a golden shower” and “a snowy swan” utilizes the snake’s principles of secrecy and deceit; additionally, it allows for his ability to instigate the fall from virginal wholeness, literally in Leda and visually (Jove wishes “to view” Danae) in Danae’s case. In the Danae passage (s. 31) the narrator emphasizes the additional possibilities open to the transformed Jove. Though Danae “kept the iron door fast barred,/ And watched that none should enter nor issue,” her efforts were all “vain” and “bootless,” once Jove has been changed to a “golden hue.” Like the snake, Jove would not wish his real identity to be revealed; if it were, he would be recognized as the obviously masculine figure which Danae is struggling to keep out. He would have a clear physicality, which in the form of a “golden hue” is absent. Therefore, Danae’s careful attempts to protect herself would have a better chance at success, and Jove would have to struggle against an at least somewhat stronger barrier.Significantly, the episodes of Danae and Leda detail the ways divine illusion and transformation can cause harm to innocents. These tales of Jove are tales of invasion, in which rape and voyeurism are aided by the invader’s transformation into various visual forms. Such transformation helps to instigate the fall from purity for these women, who it seems had little choice in the matter at hand. The fact that these episodes are displayed in tapestries on Busirane’s wall suggests that their content is something he at least implicitly admires. While, in the divine, an actual transformation is possible, a parallel visual transformation may occur in art. To display these episodes alongside that of the snake implies a narrative or even thematic connection between them all in short, their parallel qualities of illusion and secrecy, even of “artfulness,” which give rise to clearly lapsarian acts.However, the idea that art can act as an aid to transformation is, in a very real sense, its saving grace. While art can enable a transformation from purity to baseness, it is equally capable of facilitating the reverse. Acts which occur through art, it seems, can only be done through the same art, allowing the narrative of fall and redemption to come full circle. The restorative power of art, in a very literal sense, can be seen in Busirane’s forced release of Amoret. In this episode (c. 12, s. 31), Busirane has command over Amoret’s body and is attempting to gain control of her mind through spells. The description of the spells seems to resemble the writing of verse or, more generally, the written metaphor. Busirane “figur[es] strange characters of his art” and writes “with living blood those characters,” suggesting that the spell is transformative both as a written document (the “characters”) and as a mixture of the spoken and physcial (the “with living blood.”) In general, it seems that the spell is designed to influence the mind through the use of the physical body, mingling them in a single attempt to be falsely given love. However, when Britomart meets Busirane, who is presumably involved in evil deeds, and begins to slay him, she is stopped by Amoret herself. Amoret’s reaon for doing so is a pure act of self-preservation:So mightily she [Britomart] smote him that to ground He fell half dead: next stroke him should have slain,Had not the lad (which by him stood bound)Dernly unto her called to abstainFrom doing him to die; for else her painShould be remediless, sith none but heWhich wrought it could the same recure again.(Bk. 3, C. 12, s. 34)In what may be the supreme irony of spells, only the person who held Amoret captive would be capable of allowing her to be freed. If Busirane died, the cure would die with him – Amoret’s “pain/ Should be remediless,” and though Busirane would presumably have had justice done to him through his own death, Amoret would be left forever uncured. “None but” the agent of an evil deed here, a deed committed with the help of verbal magic can reverse the deed and turn Amoret back to her original state.Because of this restorative power, Busirane is himself transformed, at least momentarily, into an agent of good. Though it was clearly by his hand that Amoret was first bound, he now is Amoret’s only hope for freedom. Busirane certainly does not commit this act of good willingly: he must be threatened by Britomart that he will “else die, undoubtedly” (s. 35). Still, the idea that Britomart must threaten or bargain with Busirane in order that he might cooperate is very different from that of killing him straight away. Amoret recognizes that not just any spell contains the power to restore her body; it is in fact the same spell that was used to assert power over her originally. Thus, the passage seems to make a case for the restorative power not just of art in general, but the power of negative works of art to answer positively for itself. The harm that a work of art, or a spell, causes can only be erased through its particular magic, and thus it pays to allow even evildoers to live, in order to keep the possibility of restoration alive.The nature of the restoration Amoret undergoes is indicative of Spenser’s broader restorative plan. Not only does the “cruel steel which thrilled her dying heart” drop away, the “great brazen pillar” on which she is placed crumbles and her “riven bowls” are “closed up as it had not been bored”. Amoret becomes an “unbound/ And perfect whole,” restored to a state of metaphorical, prelapsarian virginity as well as given freedom to move. The phallic image of the pillar and the “boring” image of her bowels cannot be denied as sexual; thus, the invasive sexality which Busirane had forced upon her is removed with the physical chains. The women in previous episodes, such as Leda and Danae, act initially as parallels with Amoret, having their privacy or sexuality invaded by forceful men; however, Amoret, through the power of the spell which first bound her, is restored to a state of (at least putative) virginity. The fall represented by the snake, and the secular falls of the two women, drop away in this image of a “perfect whole2E” Because the creator or user of the art was present, it seems, Amoret is able to leave her oppressive state. The women in the tapestries, whose Jove is not now on earth, are incapable of undergoing this change.

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