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Home » , » Discuss the moral and spiritual allegory in Book-I, Canto I of The Faerie Queene?

The intention of Spenser in writing The Faerie Queene, an allegorical romance, as he declares in his letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, is to present the example of a perfect gentleman, in his own language, "to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline." The story of the epic runs simultaneously on two levels: On one level, it is an engaging story of heroic adventures in which the hero encounters various enemies and finally achieves victory. On the other level, it is an allegorical narrative symbolising the moral and spiritual journey of a man through innumerable temptations of sin towards the ultimate attainment of glory and truth. The Red Cross Knight is thus a symbolic figure and his various adventures also carry symbolic significances. His fight with monster Error as well as his encounter with Archimago contains allegorical meanings.


As the Red Cross Knight and his beautiful companion Una ride over the plain, a terrible storm breaks and they are forced to take shelter in a dark forest. When the storm is over, the Knight and his Lady find themselves lost in a maze of paths. They choose the path which seems most worn and follow it until they come to a cave in the head of the forest. The cave is the den of monster Error, a hideous monster, half woman and half serpent. In a severe battle the Red Cross Knight kills the monster.


Soon afterwards the Red Cross Knight and Una resume their journey and as they proceed further they meet a very old man who seems to be very pious. This man takes them to his dwelling where they can spend the night. Actually this old man is a magician by the name of Archimago who has a secret plan against both the Knight and Una. This Archimago tries to bring about a misunderstanding between the Red Cross Knight and Una in order to separate them from each other.


Holiness, as represented by the knight of the Red Cross, has first to seek its own perfection. Through the trial of its strength against its many adversaries. It has first to encounter Error manifold, foul and contemptible, whose den is the human heart which it infests. Holiness overcomes Error in a dreadful encounter but a more dreadful enemy is Archimago representing Hypocrisy, because his real character remains long unknown to man. He is outwardly holy, but in the heart a great villain. Historically Archimago stands for Philip of Spain who was a Roman Catholic by Faith.


Again religious as well as political issues of the day are intermingled in this allegory. The Knight of the Red Cross is St. George or Reformed Church of England, fighting corruption, pride and manifold evils of Papacy, Paganism and Catholicism. Una is Truth as embodied in the doctrines of the National English Church. Una's parents represent humanity as well as the old and the New Testaments. The fight of the Red Cross Knight with Error, is the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism.


Thus in the mission of the Red Cross Knight and Una we have seen that so long as, truth and holiness are united, Error however founded on learning cannot stand against Holiness.


To conclude, the Red Cross Knight's encounters with Monster Error and Archimago epitomize the whole moral and spiritual conflicts in Canto I of Book I. He has to fight against their forms of evils. The Red Cross Knight's fight with them is the fight of a man against the devil, of virtue against vice. Therefore, the Red Cross Knight's fights against the evil characters are the allegorical reminders to man that all human beings have to face such evils in their journey towards virtue.


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