The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene Glossary


A form of narrative in which the characters and places are symbols.


A counterpart to another person or thing. Spenser used many fictional characters in The Faerie Queene to represent their real-world analogs of his own era.


A bower can be either a medieval woman's private chamber or an arbor filled with trees and flowers. Spenser uses it to mean both in Acrasia's sinful Bower of Bliss.


The principal form of division in a long poem. Cantos serve the purpose that chapters fill in prose works.


The tradition of Christianity that traces its spiritual hierarchy to the Apostle Peter from the New Testament. In Spenser's day, the Roman Catholic church was a political as well as a religious organization, and its adherents were often people groups opposed to British dominance, such as the Irish.


In Spenser, chastity is more than simply sexual abstinence. It is a singleness of purpose in pursuing only one beloved and remaining faithful to that love even prior to marriage.

chivalric epic

A long narrative telling the adventures of medieval knights who engage in behavior appropriate to the code of conduct for noble warriors.


In Spenser's day, courtesy was more than simply good manners. Courtesy is derived from the courts, where noble men and women would gather and practice appropriate etiquette. Courtesy is evidence of one's noble heritage and (in the sixteenth-century mind) inherent superiority to lower-born people.


A person whose body does not produce the proper growth hormones to reach the commonly attained height. In medieval romances, dwarfs were often made the servants of ladies, implying that they were considered "safe" in that they were believed to be sexless an posed no threat to a lady's virtue.


Strange or different in a supernatural way.


A wide belt, often worn for decoration but also functional in holding a dress in place.


The state of being set apart for God's special purposes.


The ability to hand out wise and fair decisions balanced between mercy and truth.


In Spenser's England, noble meant more than today's definition as "praiseworthy." Nobility was a part of one's heritage, related to rank in society and position in a family of aristocratic background.


So-named for the protests against Catholicism by Martin Luther and many others, the Protestantism of Spenser's day was as much political as it was religious. Queen Elizabeth was of the Protestant persuasion, giving Protestant writers and politicians the freedom to denigrate and vilify the Catholic Church in England and abroad.


A servant dedicated to a knight; many squires were of noble birth, but lacked the finances to become fully-fledged knights. For many, their apprenticeship to a knight was their best chance at attaining knighthood themselves.


A person, place, or thing that stands for something other than, and usually more universal or abstract than, itself.


The virtue of self-control in the face of temptation or frustration.


A group of four. Spenser used tetrads in Book 4 of The Faerie Queene in keeping with his Platonist philosophy, in which the number four was the number of balance and completion.


A moral quality of the highest order that should be practiced both privately and publicly.