The Faerie Queene
The Faerie Queene is an incomplete English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. The first half was published in 1590, and a second installment was published in 1596. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it was the first work written in Spenserian stanza and is one of the longest poems in the English language. It is an allegorical work, and can be read (as Spenser presumably intended) on several levels of allegory, including as praise of Queen Elizabeth I. In a completely allegorical context, the poem follows several knights in an examination of several virtues. In Spenser's "A Letter of the Authors," he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in allegorical devices," and that the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to “fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.”
The Faerie Queene found political favour with Elizabeth I and was consequently a success, to the extent that it became Spenser's defining work. The poem found such favour with the monarch that Spenser was granted a pension for life amounting to 50 pounds a year, though there is no evidence that Elizabeth I read any of the poem.
- 1 A celebration of the virtues
- 2 Religion
- 3 Politics and the poem
- 4 Spenser's intentions while writing The Faerie Queene
- 5 Structure and language
- 6 Criticism of the diction of The Faerie Queene
- 7 Archetypal criticism
- 8 Symbolism and allusion
- 9 Myth and history
- 10 Social commentary
- 11 List of major characters
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
- 14 External links
A celebration of the virtues
A letter written by Spenser to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1590 contains a preface for The Faerie Queene, in which Spenser describes the allegorical presentation of virtues through Arthurian knights in the mythical "Faerieland". Presented as a preface to the epic in most published editions, this letter outlines plans for 24 books: 12 based each on a different knight who exemplified one of 12 "private virtues", and a possible 12 more centered on King Arthur displaying 12 "public virtues". Spenser names Aristotle as his source for these virtues, although the influence of Thomas Aquinas can be observed as well. It is impossible to predict what the work would have looked like had Spenser lived to complete it, since the reliability of the predictions made in his letter to Raleigh is not absolute, as numerous divergences from that scheme emerged as early as 1590, in the first Faerie Queene publication.
In addition to these six virtues, the Letter to Raleigh suggests that Arthur represents the virtue of Magnificence, which ("according to Aristotle and the rest") is "the perfection of all the rest, and conteineth in it them all"; and that the Faerie Queene herself represents Glory (hence her name, Gloriana). The unfinished seventh book (the Cantos of Mutability), appears to have represented the virtue of "constancy."
The Faerie Queene was written during a time of religious and political controversy – the Reformation. After taking the throne following the death of her half-sister Mary, Elizabeth changed the official religion of the nation to Protestantism (“Mary” 687). The plot of book one is similar to John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, which was about the persecution of the Protestants and how Catholic rule was unjust. (McCabe 41) Spenser includes the controversy of Elizabethan church reform within the epic. Gloriana has godly English knights destroy Catholic continental power in books one and five (Heale 8). Spenser also embodies many of his villains with “the worst of what Protestants considered a superstitious Catholic reliance on deceptive images” (McCabe 39).
Politics and the poem
The poem celebrates, memorializes, and critiques the Tudor dynasty (of which Elizabeth was a part), much in the tradition of Virgil's Aeneid's celebration of Augustus Caesar's Rome. Like the Aeneid, which states that Augustus descended from the noble sons of Troy, The Faerie Queene suggests that the Tudor lineage can be connected to King Arthur. The poem is deeply allegorical and allusive: many prominent Elizabethans could have found themselves—or one another—partially represented by one or more of Spenser's figures. Elizabeth herself is the most prominent example: she appears most prominently in her guise as Gloriana, the Faerie Queene herself; but also in Books III and IV as the virgin Belphoebe, daughter of Chrysogonee and twin to Amoret, the embodiment of womanly married love; and perhaps also, more critically, in Book I as Lucifera, the "maiden queen" whose brightly lit Court of Pride masks a dungeon full of prisoners.
The poem also displays Spenser's thorough familiarity with literary history. Although the world of The Faerie Queene is based on English Arthurian legend, much of the language, spirit, and style of the piece draw more on Italian epic, particularly Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered. The fifth Book of The Faerie Queene, the Book of Justice, is Spenser's most direct discussion of political theory. In it, Spenser both attempts to tackle the problem of policy toward Ireland and recreates the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Spenser's intentions while writing The Faerie Queene
While writing his poem, Spenser strove to “avoid gealous opinions ad misconstructions” because he thought it would place his story “in a better light” for his readers (Norton Anthology 777). In his letter to Raleigh, published with the first three books (Heale 11), Spenser states that “the generall end of the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline” (Norton Anthology 777). Spenser considered his work “a historcall fiction” which men should read for “delight” rather than “the profite of the ensample” (Norton Anthology 777). The Faerie Queene was written for Elizabeth to read and was dedicated to her. However, there are dedicatory sonnets in the first edition to many powerful Elizabethan figures (McCabe 50).
In “amoretti 33”, when talking about The Faerie Queene still being incomplete, Spenser addresses “lodwick”. This could either be his friend Lodowick Bryskett or his long deceased Italian model, Ludovico Ariosto, whom he praises in “Letter to Ralegh” (McCabe 273).
Structure and language
The Faerie Queene was written in Spenserian stanza, which was created specifically for The Faerie Queene. In this style, there are nine iambic lines – the first eight of them five footed and the ninth a hexameter – which form “interlocking quatrains and a final couplet” (McCabe 203). The rhyme pattern is ABABBCBCC. Each book of The Faerie Queene contains twelve cantos, each canto having forty-eight stanzas: this means that each book has over 6,000 lines (McCabe 203). Over 2000 stanzas were written for the 1590 Faerie Queene (McCabe 203).
In Elizabethan England, no subject was more familiar to writers than theology. Elizabethans learned to embrace religious studies in petty school, where they “read from selections from the Book of Common Prayer and memorized Catechisms from the Scriptures” (Whitaker 151). This influence is evident in Spenser’s text, as demonstrated in the moral allegory of Book 1. Here, allegory is organized in the traditional arrangement of Renaissance theological treatises and confessionals. While reading Book 1, audiences first encounter original sin, justification and the nature of sin before analyzing the church and the sacraments (Whitaker 153). Despite this pattern, Book 1 is not a theological treatise; within the text, “moral and historical allegories intermingle” and the reader encounters elements of romance (Whitaker 154). However, Spenser’s method is not “a rigorous and unyielding allegory,” but “a compromise among conflicting elements” (Whitaker 154). Book 1 of The Faerie Queene’s discussion of the path to salvation begins with original sin and justification, skipping past initial matters of God, the Creeds, and Adam’s fall from grace (Whitaker 154). This literary decision is pivotal because these doctrines “center the fundamental theological controversies of the Reformation” (Whitaker 154).
Spenser's language in The Faerie Queene, as in The Shepheardes Calender, is deliberately archaic, though the extent of this has been exaggerated by critics who follow Ben Jonson's dictum, that "in affecting the ancients Spenser writ no language." Allowing that Jonson's remark may only apply to the Calendar, Bruce Robert McElderry, Jr., states, after a detailed investigation of the FQ's diction, that Jonson's statement "is a skillful epigram; but it seriously misrepresents the truth if taken at anything like its face value." The number of archaisms used in the poem are not overwhelming—one source reports thirty-four in Canto One of Book One, that is, thirty-four words out of a total 4,200 words, less than one percent. According to McElderry, language does not account for the poem's archaic tone: "The subject-matter of The Faerie Queene is itself the most powerful factor in creating the impression of archaism."
Examples of medieval archaisms (in morphology and diction) include:
- Infinitive in –en: "Vewen," 1. 201, 'to view.'
- Prefix y- retained in participle: "Yclad," 1. 58, 254, 'clad,' 'clothed.'
- Adjective: "Combrous," 1. 203, 'harassing,' 'troublesome.'
- Verb: "Keepe," 1. 360, 'heed,' 'give attention to.'
Criticism of the diction of The Faerie Queene
Since its inception four centuries ago, Spenser’s diction has been scrutinized by scholars. Despite the enthusiasm the poet and his work received, Spenser’s experimental diction was “largely condemned” before it received the acclaim it has today (Pope 575). Seventeenth century philologists such as Davenant considered Spenser’s use of “obsolete language” as “the most vulgar accusation that is laid to his charge” (Pope 576). Scholars have recently observed that the classical tradition tucked within The Faerie Queene is related to the problem of his diction because it “involves the principles of imitation and decorum” (Pope 580). Despite these initial criticisms, Spenser is “now recognized as a conscious literary artist” and his language is deemed “the only fitting vehicle for his tone of thought and feelings” (Pope 580). Spenser’s use of language was widely contrasted to that of “free and unregulated” 16th century Shakesperian grammar (Cumming 6). Spenser’s style is standardized, lyrically sophisticated, and full of archaisms that give the poem an original taste. Cumming argues in his review of The Faerie Queene that the archaisms reside in the vocabulary, high degree of spelling, the flexions, and slightly in the syntax (Cumming 6).
Samuel Johnson also commented critically on Spenser's diction, with which he became intimately acquainted during his work on A Dictionary of the English Language, and "found it a useful source for obsolete and archaic words"; Johnson, however, mainly considered Spenser's (early) pastoral poems, a genre of which he was not particularly fond.
The diction and atmosphere of The Faerie Queene relied on much more than just Middle English; for instance, classical allusions and classical proper names abound—especially in the later books—and he coined some names based on Greek, such as "Poris" and "Phao lilly white." Classical material is also alluded to or reworked by Spenser, such as the rape of Lucretia, which was reworked into the story of the character Amavia in Book Two.
While some literary works sacrifice historical context to archetypal myth, reducing poetry to Biblical quests, Spenser reinforces the actuality of his story by adhering to archetypal patterns (Gottfried 1363). Throughout the Faerie Queene, Spenser does not concentrate on a pattern “which transcends time” but “uses such a pattern to focus the meaning of the past on the present” (Gottfried 1363). By reflecting on the past, Spenser achieves ways of stressing the importance of Elizabeth’s reign. In turn, he does not “convert event into myth” but “myth into event” (Gottfried 1363). Within the Faerie Queene, Spenser blurs the distinction between archetypal and historical elements deliberately. For example, Spenser probably does not believe in the complete truth of the British Chronicle, which Arthur reads in the House of Alma (Gottfried 1363). In this instance, the Chronicle serves as a poetical equivalent for factual history. Even so, poetical history of this kind is not myth, rather, it “consists of unique, if partially imaginary, events recorded in chronological order” (Gottfried 1363). The same distinction resurfaces in the political allegory of Books One and Five. However, the reality to interpreted events becomes more apparent when the events occurred nearer to the time the poem was written (Gottfried 1363).
Symbolism and allusion
Throughout The Faerie Queene, Spenser creates “a network of allusions to events, issues, and particular persons in England and Ireland” including Mary, Queen of Scots, the Spanish Armada, the English Reformation, and even the Queen herself (Norton Anthology 775). We also know that James VI of Scotland read the poem, and was very insulted by Duessa – a very negative depiction of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots (McCabe 48). The Faerie Queene was then banned in Scotland. This led to a significant decrease in Elizabeth’s support for the poem (McCabe 48). Within the text, both the Faerie Queene and Belphoebe serve as two of the many personifications of Queen Elizabeth, some of which are “far from complimentary” (Norton Anthology 775).
Although it does praise her in some ways, The Faerie Queene questions Elizabeth’s ability to rule so effectively because of her gender, and also inscribes the “shortcomings” of her rule (Heale 11). There is a character named Britomart who represents married chastity. This character is told that her destiny is to be an “immortall wombe” – basically, to have children (Heale 11). Here, Spenser is making a reference to Elizabeth’s unmarried state and is touching upon anxieties of the 1590s about what would happen after her death since the kingdom had no heir (Heale 11).
The Faerie Queene’s original audience would have been able to identify many of the poem’s characters by analyzing the symbols and attributes that spot Spenser’s text. For example, readers would immediately know that “a woman who wears scarlet clothes and resides along the Tibet River “represents the Roman Catholic Church” (Norton Anthology 775). However, marginal notes jotted in early copies of The Faerie Queene suggest that Spenser’s contemporaries were unable to come to a consensus about the precise historical referents of the poem’s “myriad figures” (NA 775). In fact, Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife identified many of the poem’s female characters as “allegorical representations of herself” (Norton Anthology 775). Other symbols prevalent in The Faerie Queene are the numerous animal characters present in the novel. They take the role of “visual figures in the allegory and in illustrative similes and metaphors” (Marotti 69). Specific examples include the swine present in Lucifera’s castle who embodied gluttony, and Duessa, the deceitful crocodile who may represent Mary the Queen of Scots in a negative light.
Myth and history
During The Faerie Queene's inception, Spenser worked as a civil servant, in “relative seclusion from the political and literary events of his day” (Craig 520). As Spenser labored in solitude, the Faerie Queene manifested within his mind, blending his experiences into the content of his craft. Within his poem, Spenser explores human consciousness and conflict, relating to a variety of genres including 16th century Arthurian literature (Craig 522). The Faerie Queene was influenced strongly by Italian works, much like many other works in England were at that time. The Faerie Queene drew heavily on Ariosto and Tasso (Healy 95).
The first three books of The Faerie Queene operate as a unit, representing the entire cycle from the fall of Troy to the reign of Elizabeth (Craig 522). Utilizing in medias res, Spenser introduces his historical narrative at three different intervals, using chronicle, civil conversation, and prophecy as its occasions (Craig 522).
Despite the historical elements of his text, Spenser is careful to label himself a historical poet as opposed to a historiographer. Spenser notes this differentiation in his letter to Raleigh, noting “a Historiographer discourseth of affayres orderly as they were donne...but a Poet thrusteth into the midst...and maketh a pleasing Analysis of all” (Craig 523).
Spenser’s characters embody Elizabethan values, highlighting political and aesthetic associations of Tudor Arthurian tradition in order to bring his work to life. While Spenser respected British History and “contemporary culture confirmed his attitude” (Craig 523), his literary freedom demonstrates that he was “working in the realm of mythopoeic imagination rather than that of historical fact” (Craig 523). In fact, Spenser’s Arthurian material serves as a subject of debate, intermediate between “legendary history and historical myth” offering him a range of “evocative tradition and freedom that historian’s responsibilities preclude” (Craig 524). Concurrently, Spenser adopts the role of a skeptic, reflected in the method he handles the British History, which “extends to the verge of self-satire” (Craig 555).
Medieval subject matter
The Faerie Queene owes, in part, its central figure, Arthur, to a medieval writer, Geoffrey of Monmouth. In his Prophetiae Merlini ("Prophecies of Merlin"), Geoffrey's Merlin proclaims that the Saxons will rule over the Britons until the “Boar of Cornwall” (Arthur) again restores them to their rightful place as rulers. The prophecy was adopted by the British people and eventually used by the Tudors. Through their ancestor, Owen Tudor, the Tudors had Welsh blood, through which they claimed to be descendants of Arthur and rightful rulers of Britain. The tradition begun by Geoffrey of Monmouth set the perfect atmosphere for Spenser’s choice of Arthur as the central figure and natural bridegroom of Gloriana.
In October of 1589, Spenser voyaged to England and saw the Queen. It is possible that he read to her from his manuscript at this time. On February 25th, 1591, the Queen gave him a pension of fifty pounds per year (McCabe 112). He was paid in four installments on March 25th, June 24th, September 29th, and December 25th (McCabe24). After the first three books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, Spenser found himself disappointed in the monarchy; among other things, “his annual pension from the Queen was smaller than he would have liked” and his humanist perception of Elizabeth’s court “was shattered by what he saw there” (Green 389). Despite these frustrations, however, Spenser “kept his aristocratic prejudices and predispositions” (Green 389). Book VI stresses that there is “almost no correlation between noble deeds and low birth” and reveals that to be a “noble person,” one must be a “gentleman of choice stock” (Green 389).
Throughout The Faerie Queene, virtue is seen as “a feature for the nobly born” and within Book VI, readers encounter worthy deeds that indicate aristocratic lineage (Green 389). An example of this is the hermit to whom Arthur brings Timias and Serena. Initially, the man is considered a “goodly knight of a gentle race” who “withdrew from public service to religious life when he grew too old to fight” (Green 389). Here, we note the hermit’s noble blood seems to have influenced his gentle, self-less behavior. Likewise, audiences acknowledge that young Tristram “speaks so well and acts so heroically” that Calidore “frequently contributes him with noble birth” even before learning his background; in fact, it is no surprise that Tristram turns out to be the son of a king, explaining his profound intellect (Green 390). However, Spenser’s most peculiar example of noble birth is demonstrated through the characterization of the Salvage Man. Using the Salvage Man as an example, Spenser demonstrated that “ungainly appearances do not disqualify one from noble birth” (Green 390) By giving the Salvage Man a “frightening exterior,” Spenser stresses that “virtuous deeds are a more accurate indication of gentle blood than physical appearance (Green 390).
On the opposite side of the spectrum, The Faerie Queene indicates qualities such as cowardice and discourtesy which signify low birth. During his initial encounter with Arthur, Turpine “hides behind his retainers, chooses ambush from behind instead of direct combat, and cowers to his wife, who covers him with her voluminous skirt” (Green 392). These actions demonstrate that Turpine is “morally emasculated by fear” and furthermore, “the usual social roles are reversed as the lady protects the knight from danger (Green 392). Scholars believe that this characterization serves as “a negative example of knighthood” and strives to teach Elizabethan aristocrats how to “identify a commoner with political ambitions inappropriate to his rank” (Green 392).
List of major characters
- Abessa, the dumb daughter of Corcera and lover of Kirkrapine, her name suggests both "abbess" and "absence" (Lat., abesse). In book I, canto 3, Una and the Lion enter her house.
- Acrasia, seductress of knights. Guyon destroys her Bower of Bliss at the end of Book 2. Similar characters in other epics: Circe (Homer's Odyssey), Alcina (Ariosto), Armida (Tasso), or the fairy woman from Keats' poem "La Belle Dame sans Merci".
- Alma; her name means "soul." She is the head of the House of Temperance in Book 2.
- Amoretta, the betrothed of Scudamour, kidnapped by Busirane on her wedding night, saved by Britomart. She represents the virtue of married love, and her marriage to Scudamour serves as the example that Britomart and Artegal seek to copy. Amoret and Scudamor are separated for a time by circumstances, but remain loyal to one another until they (presumably) are reunited.
- Archimago, an evil sorcerer who is sent to stop the knights in the service of the Faerie Queene. Of the knights, Archimago hates Redcross most of all, hence he is symbolically the nemesis of England.
- Artegal (or Arthegall), a knight who is the personification and champion of Justice. He meets Britomart after defeating her in a swordfight (she had been dressed as a knight) and removing her helmet, revealing her beauty. Artegal quickly falls in love with Britomart. Artegal has a companion in Talus, a metal man who wields a flail and never sleeps or grows tired but will mercilessly pursue and kill any number of villains. Talus obeys Artegal's command, and serves to represent justice without mercy (hence, Artegal is the more human face of justice). Later, Talus does not rescue Artegal from enslavement by the wicked Radigund, because Artegal is bound by a legal contract to serve her. Only her death, at Britomart's hands, liberates him.
- Arthur of the Round Table, but playing a different role here. He is madly in love with the Faerie Queene and spends his time in pursuit of her when not helping the other knights out of their sundry predicaments. Prince Arthur is the Knight of Magnificence, the perfection of all virtues.
- Ate, a fiend from Hell disguised as a beautiful maiden, Ate opposes Book IV's virtue of friendship through spreading discord. She is aided in her task by Duessa, the female deceiver of Book I, whom Ate summoned from Hell. Ate and Duessa have fooled the false knights Blandamour and Paridell into taking them as lovers. Her name is possibly inspired by the Classical Goddess of Misfortune Atë, said to have been thrown from Heaven by Zeus, similar to the fallen angels.
- Belphoebe, the beautiful sister of Amoret who spends her time in the woods hunting and avoiding the numerous amorous men who chase her. Timias, the squire of Arthur, eventually wins her love after she tends to the injuries he sustained in battle; however, Timias must endure much suffering to prove his love when Belphoebe sees him tending to a wounded woman and, misinterpreting his actions, flies off hastily. She is only drawn back to him after seeing how he has wasted away without her.
- Blatant Beast comes from hell, signifies the spite and wickedness that causes a loss of honor (Heale 161).
- Braggadocchio, a comic knight with no sense of honour. He steals Guyon's horse. He is not evil, just a dishonourable braggart.
- Britomart, a female knight, the personification and champion of Chastity. She is young and beautiful, and falls in love with Artegal upon first seeing his face in her father's magic mirror. Although there is no interaction between them, she falls in love with him, and travels, dressed as a knight and accompanied by her nurse, Glauce, in order to find Artegal again. Britomart carries an enchanted spear that allows her to defeat every knight she encounters, until she loses to a knight who turns out to be her beloved Artegal. Parallel figure in Ariosto: Bradamante. Britomart is one of the most important knights in the story. She searches the world, including a pilgrimage to the shrine of Isis, and a visit with Merlin the magician. She rescues Artegal, and several other knights, from the evil slave-mistress Radigund. Furthermore, Britomart accepts Amoret at a tournament, refusing the false Florimell.
- Busirane, the evil sorcerer who captures Amoret on her wedding night. When Britomart enters his castle to defeat him, she finds him holding Amoret captive. She is bound to a pillar and Busirane is torturing her. The clever Britomart handily defeats him and returns Amoret to her husband.
- Calepine, a knight who acts as Calidore's surrogate throughout much of Book VI.
- Calidore, the Knight of Courtesy, hero of Book Six. He is on a quest from the Fairy Queen to slay the Blatant Beast.
- Cambell, one of the Knights of Friendship, hero of Book Four. Brother of Canacee and friend of Triamond.
- Cambina, daughter of Agape and sister to Priamond, Diamond, and Triamond. Cambina is depicted holding a caduceus and a cup of nepenthe, signifying her role as a figure of concord. She marries Cambell after bringing an end to his fight with Triamond.
- Canacee, Cambell's sister, whose magic ring renders the wearer invulnerable. After Cambell and Triamond's combat, Canacee marries Triamond and befriends his sister Cambina.
- Colin Clout, a shepherd, noted for his songs and bagpipe playing, briefly appearing in Book VI, being the same Colin Clout from Spenser's pastoral poetry, which is fitting because Calidore is taking a sojourn into a world of pastoral delight, ignoring his duty to hunt the Blatant Beast, which is why he set out to Ireland to begin with. Colin Clout may also be said to be Spenser himself.
- Cymochles, a knight in Book II who is defined by indecisiveness and fluctuations of the will. He and his fiery brother Pyrochles represent emotional maladies that threaten temperance. The two brothers are both slain by Prince Arthur in Canto VIII.
- Chrysogonee, mother of Belphoebe and her twin Amoretta, she was impregnated by sun-beams when she slept on a bank. Chrysogonee hid in the forest and becoming tired she fell asleep and gave birth to twins. Found by Venus and Diana, the newly born twins were taken: Venus takes Amoretta and raises her in the Garden of Adonis; and Diana takes Belphoebe.
- Duessa, a lady who personfies Falsehood in Book One, known to Redcrosse as "Fidessa". As the opposite of Una, she represents the "false" religion of the Roman Catholic Church. She is also initially an assistant, or at least a servant, to Archimago.
- Florimell, a lady in love with the knight Marinell, who initially rejects her. Hearing he was wounded, she set out in search and faced various perils, culminating in her being captured by Proteus. She is reunited with Marinell at the end of Book IV, and is married to him in Book V.
- Glauce, an elderly woman who serves as Britomart's squire.
- Gloriana, the "Faerie Queene" herself, she is also sometimes called Tanaquill, which was her name before she became queen.
- Guyon, the Knight of Temperance, the hero of Book Two. He is the leader of the Knights of Maidenhead and carries the image of Gloriana on his shield. According to the Golden Legend, St. George's name shares etymology with Guyon, which specificially means "the holy wrestler."
- Malbecco, protective husband of the lascivious Hellenore. When she is seduced by Paridell, he metamorphoses into a hideous creature, representing jealousy itself.
- Malecasta, a decadent, jaded sophisticate who invites the weary knights to dinner. She studies Britomart at the feast, and tries to seduce her, unaware Britomart is a lady until Malecasta feels the sting of Britomart's magic sword.
- Marinell, "the knight of the sea"; son of a water nymph, he avoided all love because his mother had learned that a woman would do him harm; he was struck down in battle by Britomart, though not mortally wounded.
- Merlin, who is much the same as in Arthurian legend. A young Britomart goes to see Merlin after falling in love with Artegal, and he instructs her on how to proceed.
- Mirabella, in book 6 ; a woman who allows herself to be punished for her sins against the two men she couldn't choose between.
- Orgoglio, a giant who attacks the Redcrosse Knight.
- Paridell, a false knight and a seducer of women. His name derives from that of the Trojan prince Paris. In Book Three, he runs off with Malbecco's wife, Hellenore.
- Pastorella, a woman raised by shepherds but revealed in the last Canto of Book 6 to be actually the daughter of Sir Bellamoure and Lady Claribell.
- Phaon, a squire who is deceived by Philemon and, under the influence of Furor (frenzied rage), kills Claribel with his sword and Philemon with poison.
- Pyrochles, a hot-tempered knight in Book Two, he and his impressionable brother Cymochles serve as examples of two emotional maladies that threaten temperance. Pyrochles is eventually beheaded by Prince Arthur in Canto VIII.
- The Redcrosse Knight, hero of Book One. Introduced in the first canto of the poem, he bears the emblem of Saint George, patron saint of England; a red cross on a white background is still the flag of England. The Redcross Knight is declared to be the real Saint George in Canto X. He also learns that he is of English ancestry, having been stolen by a Fay and raised in Faerieland. In the climactic battle of Book I, Redcrosse slays the dragon that has laid waste to Eden. He marries Una at the end of Book I, but brief appearances in Books II and III show Redcrosse still questing through the world.
- Sansfoy, Sansjoy and Sansloy (names from the old French meaning "Faithless", "Joyless" and "Lawless"), three saracen knights who fight Redcrosse in Book One.
- Satyrane, a wild half-satyr man raised in the wild and the epitome of natural human potential. Tamed by Una, he protects her, but ends up locked in a battle against the chaotic Sansloy, which remains unconcluded. Satyrane finds Florimell's girdle, which she drops while flying from a beast. He holds a three-day tournament for the right to possess the girdle. His Knights of Maidenhead win the day with Britomart's help.
- Scudamour, the lover of Amoret. His name means "shield of love". This character is actually based upon a real person, Sir James Scudamore, a jousting champion and courtier to Queen Elizabeth I. Scudamour loses his love Amoret to the sorcerer Busirane. Although the 1590 edition of the Faerie Queene has Scudamour united with Amoret through Britomart's assistance, the continuation in Book IV has them separated, never to be reunited.
- Talus, an "iron man" who helps Arthegall dispense justice in Book Five.
- Timias, prince Arthur's squire and lover of Belphoebe. His relationship with Belphoebe is generally thought to represent that of Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I.
- Triamond, one of the Knights of Friendship, a hero of Book Four. Friend of Cambell. One of three brothers; when Priamond and Diamond died, their souls joined with his body. After battling Cambell, Triamond marries Cambell's sister, Canacee.
- Trompart, Braggadocchio's cunning squire. His name derives from the French tromper, "to deceive".
- Una, the personification of the "True Church". She travels with the Redcrosse Knight (who represents England), whom she has recruited to save her parents' castle from a dragon. She also defeats Duessa, who represents the "false" (Catholic) church and the person of Mary, Queen of Scots, in a trial reminiscent of that which ended in Mary's beheading. Una is also representative of Truth.
- Loewenstein, David; Mueller, Janel M (2003), The Cambridge history of early modern English Literature, Cambridge University Press, p. 369, ISBN 0-521-63156-4.
- Spenser, Edmund (1984). Thomas P. Roche, Jr., with the assistance of C. Patrick O'Donnell Jr, ed. The Faerie Queene. Penguin Books. p. 11 (Further Reading). ISBN 0-14-042207-2.
- "The date of the letter—23 January 1589—is actually 1590, since England did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752 and the dating of the new year began on 25 March, Lady Day" (Roche, Notes to The Faerie Queene, 1070).
- Abrams, M. H., ed. Norton Anthology of English Literature; 7th ed. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. (2000). p. 623.
- McElderry 1932, p. 144.
- McElderry 1932, p. 170.
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