The Faerie Queene

How sucessful is Spenser in blending narrative ,moral intention,and historical allegory in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene?Discuss broadly.

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The first book of Spenser's Faerie Queene is a twofold allegory, political and historical. From one point of view, so resourceful was the poet, the episodes picture the outstanding events and characters of the English reformation,' and from another, the growth in grace, through experience and instruction, of a Christian gentleman. Interpreted in this last sense, the book is a pilgrim's progress, an allegory indeed that was not without its influence, it would seem, upon the more homely and more obvious and didactic Pilgrim's Progress of Bunyan. In this paper I attempt an interpretation of this historical allegory. On its formal side, the allegory is indebted to the medinal and Italian Renaissance romances, to the morality plays and the moral allegories of the earlier Tudor period, and to Aristotle's Ethics. The setting is romantic, and the story follows the familiar procedure of romance, a knight engaged in the succor of a damsel of royal blood, in this case distressed because her parents have been shut up in a brazen castle for many years by a huge dragon. But, as Professor Greenlaw has pointed out, the book also follows closely the typical plot of the morality plays: "There is the betrayal of virtue through sin (Redcrosse, led astray by Duessa, falls into the hands of Orgoglio); the con-sequent despair and temptation to suicide (Despair tries to get Redcrosse to kill himself; Una saves the hero); the coming of rescue (Arthur); and then a period of purgation and training in preparation for salvation (the sojourn in the house of Ctelia)."2 Moreover, as Dr. DeMoss has shown, in the development of Holiness, as in the development of the virtues treated in the other five books, Spenser actually follows, as he professes to do in the introductory letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, the method employed by Aristotle in expounding the virtues. 


SK Emamul Haque

Green University of Bangladesh