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Home » , » Discuss the portrait of the Red Cross Knight in Canto I of The Faerie Queene, Book-I?

The Red Cross Knight, who is the hero of Book-I of The Faerie Queene has not been given any name. He is known by his designation which is the Red Cross Knight. He is so called because he wears on his armour the sign of the Cross, and because the same sign is also inscribed on his shield. The Cross, as we know, symbolises the martyrdom of Lady Jesus Christ. The Knight who is the hero of Book-I, is an ardent follower and disciple of Jesus Christ; and that is why he carries the sign of the cross on his armour and on his shield. The sign of the cross is depicted on the armour and on the shield of this Knight in red colour, and so he is called the Red Cross Knight or the knight of the Red Cross. 'Red' symbolises the blood of Jesus Christ who was crucified on to cross.


The Red Cross Knight is deputed by the Fairy Queen to relieve the distress of Lady Una, whose parents dwell in perpetual dread of a fierce dragon that has laid waste their whole Kingdom and threatened them with death and destruction. The Red Cross Knight symbolises Holiness or Righteousness. His mission is to champion the cause of Una and regain the rights of her parents held in subjection by the mighty force of the Dragon. Historically the Knight of the Red Cross is St. George or the Reformed Church of England or England as a militant spiritual force, fighting corruption, pride and manifold evils of papacy, Paganism and Catholicism.

Although the Red Cross Knight stands for an abstract idea, Spenser has humanized him. The Red Cross Knight riding on horse was of noble birth. On his breast he bore a bloody cross as a token of his love for and allegiance to Jesus Christ who had died on the Cross. The sign of the cross was also inscribed on his shield. He was a follower of Christ both in word and deed. The medieval institution of Knight errantry had a peculiar fascination for Spenser and we get a lasting impression and detailed word-paintings of fighting, knightly encounters and bloodshed through the character portrayal of the Red Cross Knight. The Knight's first adventure is to be noticed in his encounter with the monster Error. The fight between the Knight and the monster proved to be the most fierce one. Ultimately the knight succeeded in cutting off the monster's head, and killing her. This was the first adventure of the Red Cross Knight.

As the Knight proceeded further on his journey he met the guileful magician Archimago who tried to separate the knight of the Red Cross from Lady Una by his magical charm. The Red Cross Knight was yet inexperienced and immature. So he fell into the trap laid for him by the magician Archimago who personifies Hypocrisy.

To sum up, the character of the Red Cross Knight has been presented allegorically. Religious as well as political issues of the day are intermingled in this allegory. The Knight of the Red Cross is St. George or the Reformed Church of England or England as a militant spiritual force, fighting corruption, pride and manifold evils of Papacy, Paganism and Catholicism. The fight of the Red Cross Knight with the monster Error is the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism. In the mission of the Red Cross Knight and Una we have seen so long as truth and holiness or true religion are united, Error however founded on learning can not stand against holiness.

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