Edmund Spencer in his masterpiece, the Faerie Queen
, creates an allegory. The reader must understand the specific symbolic meaning behind each character and its role in that long allegory. In the Faerie Queen
Spencer tells the story of a knight and his journey in the faerie land, and his fights against the powers of evils. In the next paragraph I will discuss the Spenserian use of allegory in the Faerie Queen
in canto I and II, and the true meaning behind each character and events in the allegory.
Spencer''s Faerie land symbolizes Spencer''s England that is rules by the Faerie Queen, the queen Elizabeth I, the head of the protestant church in England. Spencer was a protestant, and devoted the Faerie Queen
to Queen Elizabeth as an answer to catholic propaganda against Protestantism and the queen. Redcross
the knight, the protagonist of the story, symbolizes a great portion of Christians of the era of the Renaissance that got sick of the Roman Catholic Church and its ownership over Christianity and its corruption and avarice. Redcross
represents these Christians who search for an alternative form of Christianity, and was persecuted for that by the Roman Catholic Church. Redcross
carries the bloody cross on his chest, this cross protects him form the evils, the cross symbolizes his faith i.e. the true Christianity, and Redcross
, as a true believer achieved his faith with suffer and the blood on the cross symbolizes it. Another character that stands in Redcross
''s side is Una
, his future wife, and the second protagonist of the story, Una
represents truth which Redcross
must find. Una
is the true Christianity that Redcross
looking for, his real Christian love; and when Una
was taken from him, he is in a voyage to look for her, the only truth, he must be with her to achieve truth but the powers of evils (i.e.: the Roman Catholic Church) are trying to prevent him to achieve that truth, and he will achieve it with great suffer.
In the beginning of book I the protagonist fights against the terrible beast Error, this Beast represents the Catholic propaganda against the Protestants, and when our knight kills that monster it vomits books and papers, these books and papers are the Catholic evil propaganda against the Protestants, and by killing this monster Redcross
achieves his first victory over the Roman Catholic Church, we can also understand that the beast''s name represents the errors the Roman Catholic Church done and the killing of the monster is its punishment .
Another evildoer is Archimago
the magician, and his abilities to change form and image and with that he deceives Redcross
means "arch image", and he symbolizes the use of images and icons of the Catholic Church, a thing that was believed by Spencer to be wrong and done in a purpose of deceiving. Archimago
tries to separate the knight from Una
, from the truth, and he is doing it through deception and lust. The sorcerer is a representation of the Catholic Church and its way to deceive the believers with false images, icons and falsehood in purpose to prevent them to see the truth. When we read further into the story we meet more character which is also an evildoer, Duessa
, which also represents Roman Catholic Church and its attempts to separate the believers from truth. Duessa
is presented as beautiful and a tempting woman, but her beauty is only a cover for an ugly evil witch, the same like the Catholic Church that covers itself in gold and beauty and seems perfect, but inside its greedy corrupt and immoral. Redcross
find it difficult to defeat Duessa
, but when he fights and defeats Sansfoy
, he actually defeats the church; Sansfoy
, which mean "without faith" represents the faithless people ived by the church, and because their lack of faith it''s easy to beat them.
The reader of the Faerie Queen, as mentioned before, must understand it not through its literal meaning but to understand the truth behind it. Spencer uses the character and its names as symbols and meanings, and each one symbolizes other aspect of the powers and factors that were in that era in the crisis between the Catholic Church and the protestants. It is also obvious that the Faerie Queen is a political book, and Spencer, as a protestant felt obliged to protect the queen, in addition, Spencer also needed a support from the queen, which was his patron.