The Faerie Queene Summary

You can read The Faerie Queene summary and key information here.

Key Facts

Poet: Edmund Spencer (1552-1599)

Publish: Book I-III was first published in 1590. Book IV-VI was published in 1596

Genre: Long Epic Poem, Allegorical Poem. Epic is a long narrative poem and it contains universal subject matter.

Stanza Form: Spenserian Stanza. Spenser invented this famous stanza form in this particular poem.

Rhyme Scheme: Spenserian Stanza is a 9 lines stanza. The Rhyme Scheme is a b a b b c b c c.


Book I, Canto I

The Fairy Land represents England.

The Faerie Queene/ Queen Gloriana represents Queen Elizabeth I.

Lady Una is the symbol of Truth. She is the heroine of Book I.

Red Cross Knight is the symbol of Holiness and Righteousness. He is the hero of Book I.

Dwarf is the symbol of common sense which acts slowly when it is necessary.

Beast (Half Woman and Half Serpent) is the symbol of Error.

Archimago means arch-magician and it is the symbol of Evil and Hypocrisy.

Morpheus is the God of Sleep.

Sans Foy is a heathen who has no faith in Christian belief.

Duessa is the symbol of falsehood and duplicity or deceit. She represents Mary Queen of Scotland.

[All the good characters are the representatives of the Reformation or Anglican Church and all the evil characters are the representatives of Roman Catholicism or Roman Catholic Church]

Canto I

The poem starts with the journey of a Knight of noble birth and his companions, a maiden lady and a dwarf. This Knight is the symbol of holiness and righteousness. He believes in the true Christian faith. The Red Cross, the symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is inscribed on his armor and shield. This knight is called the Red Cross Knight. He is riding on a horse and the lady named Una is riding on an ass. The dwarf is moving slowly behind them and he is the assistant of the Red Cross Knight. They are traveling far, far away to save the parents of Una, who are the King and Queen of their land, from a Dragon.

Lady Una, a symbol of truth, seeks help from Queen Gloriana because her royal parents, the King and Queen are held captive by a Dragon. This dragon has been ravaging their country and the King and Queen are now imprisoned in a tower. So, Queen Gloriana has appointed this Red Cross knight to help Una to save her parents. The Red Cross Knight takes this task gladly and willingly.

They travel through deep and thick forests. Soon heavy rain starts to fall from the sky. Storm starts to blow. They are compelled to find shelter. They find a shelter covered by all kinds of trees. They pass the storm there and start to move onwards happily. But now they are unable to find their way out. They are lost in this deep forest.

Afterward, they come in front of a deep cave. The Red Cross Knight wants to explore this cave but the lady warns him of possible danger. But this Knight is not a coward but a stubborn one. Inside the cave, the Knight finds a monster. This monster is so ugly and its upper part is like a woman and its tail part is like a serpent. This monster symbolizes Error. This monster’s tail bears a sharp and deadly sting. There are thousands of baby monsters beside their mother in the cave. The Red Cross Knight becomes very furious and attacks the monster. The Knight hits the monster hard with his sword. The monster gets into trouble for a moment but soon fights back. It holds the Knight tightly with its tail. Now the Knight is in the grip of that monster Error and big trouble.

Lady Una encourages the Knight with her bold words and the Knight fights back hard. He hits the monster’s throat with massive strength. The monster’s throat is now cut and it starts vomiting. It vomits filthy and black poisonous blood. It also vomits a large number of books and papers which are the symbol of the pamphlets of Roman Catholics. All the baby monsters now suck this poisonous blood and they all die. Thus, the Red Cross Knight of Righteousness defeats the monster Error. The fair lady Una congratulates the Knight.

Then they start their journey again and become successful to get out of that forest. They travel a long, long way. At last, they meet with an old man. This man wears long black garments and looks like a pious man. He offers them shelter in his small hut as time is drawing close the nightfall. His hut is in a lonely place. Both the Knight and Lady Una agrees to stay there because they are very tired. At night, the old man involves in a religious talk with them. Then the lady goes to her place for sleeping and the Knight goes to his place for sleeping. They fall asleep at their places.

The old man now begins to read his magic books and recite magic words. This man is Archimago. He is the symbol of Evil and Hypocrisy. He represents a Roman Catholic monk. Archimago seeks the help of the power of darkness or evil. He calls multiple evil spirits. Among them, he chooses the two evilest spirits for his plot to delude the Knight and the Lady. Archimago sends one of the spirits to the house of Morpheus, the God of Sleep. Archimago asks for an evil dream of love and lust. The spirit returns with an evil dream. Then Archimago turns the other spirit looking just like Una with his magic spell. Now the magician sends the lustful dream into the Knight’s head and sends the disguised spirit to his bed. The Knight starts to dream a lustful dream and wakes up. Waking up, he finds that Una (a disguised spirit) is trying to kiss him. The Red Cross Knight becomes very sad to find the lady so wanton. He forbids Una to do such a dishonorable act and sends her away. So, Archimago’s first attempt fails.

Mr. Abdullah
Mr. Abdullah

Mr. Abdullah is a passionate love of Literature. Researcher and Lecturer of English Literature and Language.

Articles: 51

Leave a Reply