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Home » , » Write on Spenser's treatment of good and evil in The Faerie Queene Book I, Canto I?

In Canto one of The Faerie Queene, Book-I Spenser has shown the interaction of good and evil, virtues and vices. He thought that this fight between good and evil could better be expressed through allegory.

As a strong supporter of the Protestants' cause, Spenser calls Roman Catholicism a false religion and recognizes the English Protestantism as true religion or the Church of England as the true Church. So, to display this enmity between the Catholics and the Protestants, Spenser has drawn two categories of characters, good and bad. Among the good characters we have the Red Cross Knight representing Holiness or the Anglican Church. Una, The Dwarf, Una's parents. Among the bad characters we find the monster Error representing manifold aspects of errors or evils of human life or Anti-Christ, Archimago who stands for Hypocrisy or Philip II of Spain, a Roman Catholic by faith. These two groups of characters are hostile to each other. The Red Cross Knight has to fight with the monster Error and becomes victorious after a terrible encounter. But he falls an easy prey to the trap of Archimago, the guileful magician.


The fight between the Knight and the monster Error proved to be the most terrible one. The Knight of the Red Cross was deputed by the fairy queen to relieve the distress of Lady Una, whose parents dwelt in perpetual dread of a fierce Dragon that had laid waste their whole kingdom and threatened them with death and destruction. There was a terrible fight between the Knight and the monster. Ultimately the Knight succeeded in cutting of the monster's head and killing her.

The fight of the Red Cross Knight with the monster 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 or true religion are united, Error however, founded on learning cannot stand against holiness.

Next the battle between good and evil may be located in the Knight's encounter with Archimago, a magician, who poses to be a holy person, but inwardly he is extremely evil.

The Red Cross Knight and Lady Una took this old man, named Archimago, to be a reverend hermit. He courteously offers them night's lodging, but after they have gone to sleep he starts to work some magic spells. Conjuring up two evil spirits, he sends one to the Kingdom of Morpheus, god of sleep to borrow a false dream. Archimago meanwhile has transformed the second spirit into the image of Lady Una. In a false dream the imitation lady is brought to the bedside of the Knight declaring her passion for him in seductive tone. Though he was stirred by her charms and tender words, he virtuously rebuffs her advances and returns to his rest. Having failed in his first device Archimago tries one more trick, but the knight pays no attention to his allurement.


Allegorically Archimago personifies hypocrisy, but, in fact, he represents a far greater wickedness than we generally associate with hypocrisy. His mission is to work out sinister design and intrigues against Lady Una and the Red Cross Knight so that they may be separated from each other.

To sum up, Canto I of The Faerie Queene, Book-I mainly deals with the battle between the forces of evil and good. This is aptly illustrated by the Red Cross Knight's hostile encounter with the monster Error and his calm surrender to the intrigues of Archimago.

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