The Faerie Queene

Art as Satan and Savior: The Dual Roles for Women in The Faerie Queene

The work of art is a central image in The Faerie Queene, though it rarely appears as a neutral force. On the contrary: art often seems to act as a tool of the post-lapsarian world, dragging once-pure characters into earthly knowledge and moral descent. Specifically, in the house of Busirane, art acts initially as an aid to Eve's original sin as well as, in more secular terms, the loss of sexual innocence in the mythological women Leda and Danae. The tapestries on Busirane's walls depict the means by which, through artistic transformation or ornamentation, women especially are deceived or invaded. However, while the power and invasiveness of Busirane's art is clearly emphasized, art seems far from wholly evil in the narrator's view. As strong as the attempts of Busirane are to display, reenact, or remember female falls in the history of man, so strong (if less often stated) is the work of art's function as a redeeming force. Just as, in contemporary Christianity, the Old Testament fall is somehow "reversed" through the New Testament redemption of Christ, so too does The Faerie Queene suggest a narrative of fall and ascent. Spenser does not wish the work of art to disappear altogether; rather, he...

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