The Faerie Queene

Catholicism, Temptation, and Duessa in Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queen" College

Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene follows its protagonist Redcrosse on a traditional hero’s journey, all of which is a religious and historical allegory for the conflicts of the church taking place during Spenser’s time. Redcrosse encounters the mysterious Duessa on his journey, a figure who he initially trusts, but who ultimately wants to subvert him. Duessa fills not only the role of villain over the course of the story, she also acts as an allegory for the Catholic church and the biblical temptress, adding to Spenser’s message of the truth of the Protestant Church and the corruption of Catholicism.

Duessa’s constant trickery and deception represent the corruption associated with the Catholic Church. When Redcrosse meets Fradubio, the tree-man explains that Duessa deceived him so that he “took Duessa for my Dame” (805) and engaged in a relationship with her for some time, before he accidentally found her bathing and saw her in her true form, observing that “Her neather partes misshapen, monstrous // were hidd in water, that I could not see // but they did seeme more foule and hideous // then womans shape man would beleeve to bee” (805). Duessa deceives Fradubio into thinking that she’s the beautiful woman he fell in love...

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