The Faerie Queene

The Symbolism of Fidessa, Her Saracen Partner, and Her Fiance in The Faerie Queene

Fidessa's character in Edmund Spenser's "The Fairy Queene", introduced in the second canto of book 1, is essential to the understanding of one of Spenser's main messages in the poem: the Roman Catholic Church is corrupt and falsely interprets Christianity. Through Fidessa's and her Saracen's names, Fidessa's characterization and dress, and the relaying of the death of Fidessa's fiance, the reader is able to fully realize and comprehend Spenser's position on the Roman Catholic Church.

Fidessa is superficially characterized as the beautiful young daughter of a Roman emperor. At first glance, Fidessa appears to be the quintessential maiden of the chivalric knight tale. She is a beautiful lady (the knight cannot keep his eyes away from her face [26]) and she is also grandly arrayed (13). She is accompanied by her champion knight, who came into her life after the noble prince to whom she was betrothed died (23-24). With a father who is an emperor (22), Fidessa seems to be the paradigm of a sweet, gentle maiden in need of protection and assistance. However, by looking closely at how Fidessa is portrayed, one sees who Fidessa truly is and what she symbolizes. Fidessa's ornate, scarlet dress...

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