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MA¶AM ASMA MANSOOR
UZMA RANI ANAM NAWAZ NAILA AKRAM SEHRISH SHAHEEN
M.A ENGLISH 3rd SEMESTER
The Faerie Queene By Edmund Spencer
Edmund Spencer lived in the age of transition when many
revolutionary changes were taking place and nothing was settled. He lived in postReformation England, which had recently replaced Roman Catholicism with Protestantism (specifically, Anglicanism) as the national religion. There were still many Catholics living in England, and, thus, religious protest was a part of Spenser's life. In his work, The Faerie Qeene, he has presented his ideas of what constitutes an ideal England. Spenser has used Biblical allegory to tell his story, but the poem is much more than just a religious poem. Its purpose was to educate, to turn a young man into a gentleman. He wanted to make the Faerie Qeene a faithful mirror of the spirit of the age. Spenser saw himself as a medievalist, but cognizant of his audience, he used the modern pronunciation of the Renaissance. He also thought that he could use his text as a way to recall the chivalry of a past era, and thus, inspire such actions again. Spenser notes that his structure follows those of Homer and Virgil. An explanation of the reason why Spencer adopted allegory as a method of communicating his thoughts: Allegory seems to have had a special attraction for Spencer. In fact, Spencer¶s mind, at once meditative and imaginative, and sensitive to the appearance as well as the significance of things, was perfectly suited to the allegorical form. In fact, by covering with the veil of allegory he could disguise the essential opposition of things, and thus present faithfully the complex picture of his times. So, naturally, he turned to allegory to wring out of himself and to make evidence to others the fullest measure of significance perceptible in the outward shows in the world. In a letter to Sir John Walter Raleigh, He explained the purpose and structure of the poem: It is an allegory, a story whose characters and events nearly all have a specific symbolic meaning.
The poem's setting is a mythical "Faerie land," ruled by the Faerie Queene. Spenser sets forth in the letter that this "Queene" represents his own monarch, Queen Elizabeth. Allegory is basically a technique of vision seeking to convey abstract and philosophical truths through concrete examples. In the sixteenth century it was the opinion of Puritan England that every literary masterpiece should not only give entertainment, but should also teach some moral or spiritual lesson."It professes," Says Mr. Church, "to be a veiled exposition of moral philosophy." It may also be defined as a story with a hidden moral lesson. Its purpose is to convey some moral and religious truth in a delightful way. The readers are instructed and delighted at one and the same time. They convey metaphorically some spiritual or ethical ideas. There are two levels of allegory present in the Faerie Queene. y One level examines the moral, philosophical, and spiritual and is represented by the Red Cross Knight, who represents all Christians. It deals with the action and interaction of virtues and vices. Religious allegory deals with the important religious events of the age. y The second level is the particular, which focuses on the political, social, in which the Faerie Queene represents Elizabeth I.
As the more important purpose of the Faerie Queene is its allegory, the
meaning behind its characters and events, so there is a deep underlying spiritual
and moral allegory
in the fairy Queene. This moral and spiritual
allegory mingles with the religious allegory of the book. The good
characters of the poem stand for the various virtues, while the bad characters stand for the corresponding vices, whose intrigues and warfare against each other symbolize the struggle of the human soul after perfection. The Redcross Knight, for example, personifies the single private virtue of holiness, while Prince Arthur stands for that perfect manhood which combines all the moral qualities; Una represents abstract truth, while Gloriana symbolizes the union of all the virtues in perfect womanhood. The Redcross Knight who is appointed by the Faerie Queene to assist lady Una in releasing her parents from the prison of Dragon is the
embodiment of Holiness, piety, and true religion (Protestantism). He has been given a task by Gloriana, "that greatest Glorious Queen of Faerie land," to fight a terrible dragon. Lady Una¶s parents symbolize Human race and the Dragon who has imprisoned those stands for Evil. The mission of Holiness is to help Truth to fight Evil and thus regain its rightful place in the human heart. For a Christian to be holy, he must have true faith. So Holiness must be grounded in Truth in order to remain pure and immaculate in the world. As long as Truth and Holiness are united no evildoer can stand against holiness. The power of truth invigorates Holiness. The plot of Book I mostly concerns the attempts of evildoers to separate Red Cross from Una to decrease his strength. Most of these villains are meant by Spenser to represent one thing in common: the Roman Catholic Church. The poet felt that, in the English Reformation, the people had defeated ³false religion´ (Catholicism) and embraced ³true religion´ (Protestantism/Anglicanism).So Red Cross must defeat villains who mimic the falsehood of the Roman Church. In the course of his mission he and Una come upon various manifestations of evil. The first encounter is with monster Error. The monster Error allegorically stands for all sorts of mistakes which every individual makes in the course of his life. The fight of the Red Cross Knight with the monster Error symbolises the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism.
Her vomit full of books and paper was. With loathly frogs and toades, which eyes did lacke.
The books and papers vomited by Error allude to the offensive pamphlets directed against Queen Elizabeth by the Roman Catholics. As long as Holiness helped by Truth, it is able to defeat the forces of Evil. Thus the Red-Cross Knight encouraged by Lady Una kills the monster and marches on his way. This is the first moral truth taught by the poem. The Red Cross Knight may able to defeat these obvious and disgusting errors, but until he is united to the truth he is totally lost and can be easily deceived. This deceit is arranged by Archimago, who symbolises the hypocrisy of
Papacy. When Truth and Holiness are separated, Hypocrisy gets the chance to mislead Holiness. The separation of Truth from Holiness symbolises the danger of the English Church against the hypocrisy and plots of the Roman Catholicism. Once separated, Holiness is susceptible to the opposite of truth or falsehood. Red Cross may able to defeat the strength of Sansfoy or faithlessness through his own native virtue, but he falls prey to the tricks of Falsehood herself ± Duessa. Duessa also represents the Roman Church, because she is ³false faith´. Having been separated from Truth, the Holiness becomes weak and feeble. He cannot withstand the fierce attack of Falsehood and becomes a prey to Duessa. Red Cross becomes a veritable puppet in the hands of Duessa. In the similar manner Truth also becomes weak and in order to protect her virtue she gets aid and succor from Lion which stands for Courage. But subsequently the hypocrisy of Archimago makes her an easy victim Sans Loy who stands for lawlessness. She is later saved by Sir Satyrane who is a symbol of the Natural force. The implication here is very clear and concrete. Truth cannot be subjected to Lawlessness for long. It has a natural force which would assuredly impel it to reassert itself against all hindrance. The humility, symbolised by the Dwarf, informs Truth the story of the sufferings of Holiness. Then Truth goes in search of Gloriana, the Fairy Queen and Holiness is led to the palace of Divine Grace by Truth. There he recovers his former strength. He is now ready to fight against the malignant forces of nature. Thus at the end Spenser represents the triumph of Holiness and Truth. They may be separated by various evildoers but ultimately they are united again to bring about the redemption and moral salvation of human race. Spencer¶s masterpiece focuses on the political
allegories. Here we find a concrete presentation of many of Spenser's chief
contemporaries. One of Spenser's prime objects in composing his epic was to please certain powerful persons at court, and above all to win praise and patronage from the vain and flattery loving queen, whom he celebrates as Gloriana. In Spenser¶s epic, she is Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, who sets various adventures to her knights symbolising the courtiers of the queen of England. Prince Arthur is a character that similarly pays homage to Lord Leicester. In the Redcross Knight he compliments, no doubt, some gentleman like Sir Philip Sidney or Sir Walter Raleigh, as if he were a second St. George, the patron saint of
England, while in Una we may see idealized some fair lady of the court. In Archimago he satirizes the odious King Philip II of Spain, and in false Duessa the fascinating intriguer, Mary Queen of Scots, who undeserved so hard a blow. Historical Allegory: According to Sir Walter Scott the Red-Cross Knight, in the obvious and general interpretation, signifies ³Holiness´, or, the perfection of the spiritual Man in Religion. But in the political and particular sense, the adventures of St. George bear a peculiar and obvious, though not a uniform, reference to the history of the Church of England as established by Queen Elizabeth. Thus, we find the Orthodox Church, in its earlier history, surmounting the heresies of the Arians, and many others: as the Red-Cross Knight, while animated by the voice of Una or Truth, destroys the monster Error and her brood. Again, he defeats Sansfoy, but falls into the snares of Duessa, the leman of the vanquished knight. Thus the church, in the reign of Constantine, triumphed over Paganism but was polluted by Error in consequence of its accession to temporal sovereignty. Hence its purity was affected by those vices which are described as inhabiting the house of Pride; and, becoming altogether relaxed in discipline, the church was compelled to submit to the domination of the Pope. These events are distinctly figured out in imprisonment of the Red-Cross Knight in the Castle of Orgoglio, and in Duessa¶s assuming the trappings and seven-headed palfrey of the Whore of Babylon. Hence the poet also seems dimly to have shadowed forth what was not too plainly to be named the persecution in the days of Queen Mary. CRITICISIM OF SPENSER: A number of objections have been raised to Spenser¶s use of allegory, the device is essentially a technique of vision, but Spenser¶s use of it instead of imparting clarity confuses the story and perplexes the readers. The same characters serve a number of purposes; there is a mixture of different kinds of allegories, so that it is possible neither to follow the one, nor the other. All is confused and obscure; nothing is clear and comprehensible. There are too many digressions which add further to the confusion of the readers. They may impart variety to the epic, but they make the action loose, rambling and discursive and the story incoherent and meaningless. So the frankly didactic purpose of the poem is not achieved.
As a matter of fact, Spenser is not a poet but a reformer. He is more interested in his art than in the teaching of morality. He used the allegory, merely because it was the fashion of the day, and a work without it was considered mean and low, not worthy of the attention of the gentle. That is why the allegory is clear only in the first book; it grows weaker and weaker and is finally lost altogether by book V. Spenser would live not as an allegorist but as a show man of pageants and a master musician. It is not for the allegory that we go to him, but for the wonderful, sensuous pictures of Beauty that abound in his epic. Faerie Queen is the great work on which Spenser¶s fame rests. The poem in its genesis was meant to be known as ³Pageants´, a collection of splendid pictures, such as the Elizabethans loved passionately. But later on the idea struck the poet to outdo Orlanto Furioso in seriousness, and he, therefore, abandoned the Pageants and wrote a vast allegory in order to ³fashion a gentleman or a noble parson in virtuous and gentle discipline.´ The aim of the poet becomes moral edification through allegorical device. As an allegory pure and simple, the poem is defective. The poet lacks, firstly the simple restrained life of a good allegorist. He has not the central idea, the ardent passion or the unity of design which are essential conditions of a powerful and effective allegory. Instead of unity he has complication. His characters are created for more than one purpose. There are both moral and historical personages. His King Arthur, in love with the Queen is magnificence_ the supreme virtue which, according to Aristotle, includes all others_ and he is also the symbol for divine grace. Moreover, he suggests Leicester, Elizabeth¶s favorite. The allegorical story is thus both moral and political and that is its defect.
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