The Faerie Queene

Una and Red Cross in Faerie Queene

Spencer’s Faerie Queene is perhaps the most intricate allegory written in the history of the English language. In this poem Spencer not only releases his creative genius by twisting the letters within his words to create perfect puns but also seeks to engage the Elizabethan youth in courtly behavior by disguising it in the form of an allegory rather than writing a handbook on proper sixteenth century etiquette. Faerie Queene is a poem that romanticizes the history of England by attributing various valiant knights with many virtues, the first of which is Holiness. Being the first book of an intended 24 part masterpiece, Spencer aims to place certain emphasis on holiness, insinuating that all virtues are founded first through divinity.

Holiness is present throughout the length of book I of the Faerie Queene through elaborate allegory to best illustrate this important virtue. The central character of this holy book is the Red Crosse knight. Red Crosse, cleverly named after the emblem he wears on his chest and armor, is associated with holiness from the beginning of canto i. The armor that clothes Red Crosse is a reference to Ephesians 6:11-16, which commands to “put on the whole armor of God… the breastplate of righteousness”...

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