The knight of Holiness, who is in fact a "tall clownishe yonge man" who alone would take the quest to free Una's parents from the dragon. His adventures represent the individual Christian's struggles to maintain personal holiness while avoiding pride in all its forms.
Una is the Truth--both the absolute spiritual truth and what Spenser considered to be the true faith of the Protestant Christian Church. Her encouragement and help keeps Redcrosse knight from doom and helps to build him into a mighty warrior capable of defeating the dragon that has imprisoned her parents.
A sorcerer and deceiver, Archimago seeks to overcome Una through false appearances and lies. He causes Redcrosse to doubt Una's fidelity, disguises himself as Redcrosse in an attempt to take Una, and even attempts to stop Redcrosse's betrothal to Una by insisting that Duessa has a prior claim on him. Each time his deception is uncovered, rendering him powerless.
Duessa is "duplicity," the opposite of Una ("Truth"). She is first seen as paramour to the evil knight Sansfoy ("Faithlessness") and lies about her identity to Redcrosse in an attempt to seduce him. She eventually succeeds in winning Redcrosse's favor and dragging him into Orgoglio's dungeon, but her efforts are undone by the intervention of Una and Prince Arthur.
Duessa appears later in the epic as part of the negative tetrad of Blandamour, Paridell, Ate and herself. She is put on trial and executed in Book 5.
A bestial giant whose name means "pride" in Italilan, Orgoglio defeats Redcrosse knight when Duessa weakens the champion. Orgoglio is in turn defeated by the virtuous Prince Arthur, who dismembers him. Orgoglio's torso deflates once he is defeated, suggesting his great size resulted from being "puffed up" like a balloon full of air.
The ultimate hero of the epic, Prince Arthur is the younger version of King Arthur. King Arthur already had a place in the mythic consciousness of Britons, and legends had accumulated around his name, including one that he would one day return from his long, healing sleep to lead Britain into a new Golden Age. He is the ideal consort for Gloriana, the Faerie Queene.
Guyon is the knight of Temperance (self-control), although his role carries with it a touch of irony. Guyon above all other knights struggles the most with his symbolic virtue; more than once he comes near to killing an opponent in rage, and once he even threatened Britomart's old nurse with violence. Nonetheless, Guyon is successful in his quest to destroy Acrasia's Bower of Bliss.
Britomart is the knight of Chastity. Her secret identity as a female knight makes her stand out from among her male peers, as does her amazing prowess in battle (she aids Redcrosse against his enemies, unhorses Guyon, and defeats Artegall in their first encounter). Her femininity makes her immune to the temptations the male knights face from sultry witches and immoderate damsels, making her the ideal of Chastity. She is in love with Artegall, whom she first saw in Merlin's magic mirror, and her quest is to find and wed him.
Cambell is half of the duo (completed by Triamond) which represents Friendship. As Friendship requires a relationship with another, this virtue is symbolized by a good friend to another knight, rather than just by a single knight on a quest. Cambell forms part of the postiive tetrad made up of himself, Triamond, his sister (and Triamond's beloved) Canacee, and his own beloved (and Triamond's sister) Cambia.
Artegall is the knight of Justice. His name means "like Arthur," thus identifying him with the ultimate knight in the epic, Prince Arthur. Like Arthur, he falls in love with a chaste and powerful woman (Britomart) and is an agent of Justice. On his quest to free the lady Eirene, Artegall is given an unusual squire: Talus, the man made of iron. Talus represents cold, unrelenting justice, while Artegall must learn how to properly temper justice with mercy.
Calidore is the knight of Courtesy. His quest is to find and stop the Blatant Beast (or Slander). He represents proper behavior in public, particularly in "civilized" society; thus, his quest to stop Slander carries with it the message that a properly behaved people will refrain from giving slander freedom to work its evil among them.
Florimell is the most beautiful woman in the epic (at least outwardly). She is more flighty and less independent than either Britomart or Belphoebe, and spends much of the epic running away from someone or something. She represents the fleeting nature of beauty, and the reactions of other knights, both virtuous and base, shows how easily men's heads can be turned by a pretty face.
The Faerie Queene Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Faerie Queene is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The Faerie Queene makes it clear that no single virtue is greater than the rest. Each of the six books is dedicated to a specific virtue: holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice, and courtesy, and while some virtues are superior to...