Allegory and The Faerie Queene
Like this simple allegory, Book 1 of The Faerie Queene is
allegorical but far more complex.
Literal Level a story of romance and adventure
(1) Moral/Christian Allegory
abstract moral truths (with Truth, Faith, Error, etc.)
(2) Historical Allegory
religious history of 16th century England (with the Pope,
(3) Biblical Allegory
Biblical history of humanity (with Christ, Satan, etc.)
The allegorical levels are not presented consistently
throughout the poem. In places, Spenser focuses on only
one of the allegorical levels; in other places, he tries to
incorporate all three allegorical levels.
Literal Red Cross Knight Una Archimago
Moral/Christian Holiness, a good person Truth Hypocrisy
Historical England One true faith Pope
The Main Characters and the Allegorical Meaning
The characters, creatures, and action in Book I of The
Faerie Queene have allegorical significance. The table
below should help you keep track of the significance of
three important characters on two allegorical levels.
As you are reading Book 1 of The Faerie Queene, keep
the allegorical levels in mind and see if you can find
and explain passages that are especially important in
terms of their allegorical significance.
The stages of Red Cross Knight's journey in
Book 1 of Spenser's The Faeire Queene
allegorically reflect the stages that any of us
might encounter as we take our moral journey
through life. At the left below are summaries
of a few events in Red Cross Knight's
Stages of the Literal Journey
Red Cross Knight, yet untested, begins his journey with Una
and the Dwarf as companions
Seeking shelter from a storm, Red Cross Knight wanders into
the den of the monster Errour. Red Cross Knight battles Errour,
and, with help from Una, he defeats the monster and continues
on his journey.
Red Cross Knight is deceived by Archimago into thinking that
Una is a loose woman, so Red Cross Knight abandons Una and,
guided by his will and grief, continues his journey alone.
Without Una, Red Cross encounters Sansfoy. Red Cross
Knight battles Sansfoy and kills him.
Without Una, Red Cross Knight meets Duessa, is attracted to
her, and continues his journey with Duessa as a companion.
Duessa leads Red Cross Knight into the House of Pride,
where the knight is entertained by a procession of the Seven
While in the House of Pride, Red Cross Knight is challenged
to a fight with Sansjoy. The knight struggles against Sansjoy
but finally defeats him.
After facing Sansjoy, Red Cross Knight is led out of the House
of Pride after the Dwarf helps him see the darker side of it.
Wandering alone, still without Una, Red Cross Knight is once
again found by Duessa, and he welcomes here. After drinking
from a magic fountain that saps his strength, and after taking
off his armor, Red Cross Knight becomes amorous with
In an amorous encounter with Duessa, with his armor off and
weakened by the magic fountain, Red Cross Knight is
attacked by the giant Orgoglio, who conquers the knight and
imprisons him in a dungeon.
The Faerie Queene is Spenser’s masterpiece.. The poem is
devoted to the greatness of the glory of England and her kings
or queens. The poem is complex and allegorical which have
discouraged the readers in turning to it. He wrote a vast
allegory in order to fashion a gentleman of noble person in
virtuous and gentle discipline
In the first book the allegory id continuous and the moral is
prominent Spenser dies not shine as an allegorist. There is no
“simple restrained line of a great allegorist.” There is no
central idea, the ardent passion or the unity of design
required for a powerful and effective allegory. There is
complication instead of unity. His characters are both moral
and historical personages. His King Arthur in love with fairy
queen is magnificence the supreme virtue that includes all
others; he is also the symbol of divine grace.. The allegorical
story is thus been moral and political. The adventures of the
Red cross Knight represent the alternatives offered by Prote.
Allegorical Interpretation of Archimago
Spenser uses the character of Archimago as an allegorical representation on
a moral and religious level as well as a political level. Spenser uses
Archimago’s allegory to “Transition from Errours Den to the Knights direct
encounter with falsehood witchcraft, as a literal means of separating Red
Crosse from Una “. Archimago’s purpose is to separate Red Crosse from
truth so that he might begin the “gradual process by which a man who has
allowed his reason to be obscured by passion, falls deeper and deeper into
The first allegorical level that is made apparent is the moral allegory.
Archimago is meant to represent, hypocrisy, as well as witchcraft and
illusions. He uses magic to disguise himself as a religious and morally sound
man so that he can deceive Red Crosse and Una into trusting him.
Archimago’s actions epitomize hypocrisy because Archimago is acting as
though he is protecting Red Crosse when, in actuality, he has created a false
reality in order to bring about the downfall of Red Crosse, representing
The second allegorical level taking place in book 1 of The Faerie Queene is the
religious allegory. Archimago is a representation of the falseness and deceit in the
Catholic Church. Archimago’s division of truth from holiness symbolizes the threat of
the hypocrisy and plots of the Roman Catholic Church against the English Church.
Spenser uses Archimago and his illusions as a stumbling block in Red Crosse’s quest
for his religious identity. Likewise, Spenser uses the Hermitage Episode to portray the
spiritual dangers that are connected to the loss of faith. Spenser is saying that when
Truth (Una) is separated from Holiness (Red Crosse), Hypocrisy (Archimago) gets a
chance to deceive Holiness and steer him off his righteous path.
The third and final allegory that is present in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene is the
political allegory. Spenser’s political allegory shows the hypocrisy and illusions used
by the Catholic Church to cause disorder and uncertainty. Archimago’s political
allegory shows the intense historical
referencing throughout The Faerie Queene.
Spenser’s use of moral,
religious and political
allegory clearly shows how
he feels about Pope
Clement and the Catholic
Church. He brings to light
the hypocrisy and illusions
used by the Catholic Church
to help the government
manipulate their lives as well
as the lives of the people of
Spenser reveals how
anyone can appear to be
religious, however, their true
nature is revealed by their