Spenser’s The Faerie Queen

   Image Detail                                       Redcrosse and Orgoglio

The birds sing as a cool breeze sweeps across the blades of grass causing them to dance in the sweet rays of the warming sun. A pool of water sits in the distance and everything seems perfect as if nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Wrong, anything can happen and Redcrosse has to learn that lesson the hard way in his episode with the giant, Orgoglio. This episode can be interpreted as using religious and moral allegories.

At the end of Canto VI Redcrosse has escaped the House of Pride, but why had he been taken to the House of Pride in the first place? I feel that Redcrosse was taken there, because he was getting the big head, in that he was fighting on impulse, fighting because that’s what knights did, and when he fought with Sansjoy I couldn’t help but compare it to an Aesop fable about two roosters that fight in order to see who would become the head rooster. In the end the victorious rooster is eaten by an eagle, while the other rooster who had hidden himself away, then becomes the victorious rooster. At the end of the fable Aesop writes, “Pride comes before the fall.”

So, to me, the House of Pride is supposed to be a wakeup call for the young knight, but because he is naïve and oblivious to the world around him, he doesn’t get it, and it is the dwarf that has to tell Redcrosse that the two of them should probably leave. This marks the second time that Redcrosse fleas from a situation instead of facing it head on, and fully taking the time to understand what is going on. He doesn’t seem to understand that he is being tested. The first time occurred after Redcrosse had had a dream about Una, and he flees running into Duessa, who is evil, but Redcrosse is unaware of this.

Spenser sets up the beginning of Canto VII with Redcrosse and his horse in a serene place where birds are chirping; everything seems perfect. “He feedes vpon the cooling shade, and bayes his sweatie forehead in the breathing wind, which through the tre[m] bling leaues full gently playes where in the cherefull birds of sundry kind do chaunt sweet musick, to delight his mind…” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 19-23). Redcrosse is also not wearing any of his army, making him an easy target, Duessa’s prey. To me this is a sign of his naivety, because it only seems logical that Redcrosse would want to be on his guard a little bit, seeing how he just escaped something dreadful and that the rest of his journey has been quite a trial. But, no, he is blissfully unaware of his surroundings as he sits listening to birds chirp.

I believe that there is a moral allegory to this in that it is always better to be prepared than it is to be surprised or caught off guard by something unexpected. This scene reminds me of a cartoon where the scenery is bright and it seems as if nothing could go wrong, but something does always seem to occur causing the little cartoon bunny to run in terror of the dark clouds rising, but when Duessa approaches Redcrosse he does not run. “The witch approaching gan him fairely greet, and with reproach of carelesnesse vnkind vpbrayd, for leauing her in place vnmeet, with fowle words tempring faire, soure gall with hony sweet” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 24-27).  Redcrosse actually apologizes to Duessa for leaving her, when in reality; she is the one that left Redcrosse, so there is no need for an apology.

Again it only seems logical to this reader that Redcrosse would want to stay away from her, because every time he is with her she causes nothing, but trouble. This only provides more evidence against Redcrosse when it comes to his oblivious and naïve thinking on everything around him. Another moral allegory that can I interpret through this episode, is the little pool of water. It seems like any other pool of water, and seems as if though it would provide tasty water  for drinking, but things aren’t always what they appear to be. I’m not saying that someone should be incredibly paranoid of everything around them, but it is always best to stay on one’s toes, and always be prepared for the unexpected, as the saying goes don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and in Redcrosse’s case don’t judge a pool of water by its…well appearance. He drinks from the pool of water and becomes sick, but even though he is sick he still finds time to cozy up with Duessa, “yet goodly court he made still to his dame, pourd out in loosness on the grassy ground, both careless of his health, and of his fame…” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 55-57).

I’m beginning to think that Redcrosse has no common sense what-so-ever, because he is not worried about his health, having his armor on, or is even thinking about how something terrible and dreadful could possibly happen to him. No instead, he is only concentrated on Duessa when suddenly, “till at last he heard a dreadful sownd, which through the wood loud bellowing, did rebownd, that all the earth for terror seemed to shake, and trees did tremble. Th’Elfe therewith astownd, vpstarted lightly from his looser make, and his vnready wearpons gan in hand to take” (Spenser Book I canto vii lines 58-63). Enter Orgoglio, the giant; somehow Redcrosse didn’t see that coming, which only adds more evidence against Redcrosse that he’s naïve and completely clueless.

The moral allegory that I can see and interpret in this episode between Redcrosse and Orgoglio is that it is always best to be prepared and ready for the unexpected. Some people do manage to walk through life never really thinking or worrying about what they do, but walking around carelessly is rather dangerous. I feel that Redcrosse is learning this lesson the hard way, but he’s really not learning his lesson at all, and also that he let his pride be his down fall like the first rooster in Aesop’s fable.

There is a lot of religious allegory going on in this episode between Redcrosse and Orgoglio. First there is the matter dealing with Redcrosse himself, because the whole reason Redcrosse is taken to the House of Pride, at least this is how I interpret it as a religious allegory, is because he is indeed very prideful, which is one of the seven deadly sins. He had been victorious in all of his battles, but he doesn’t internally understanding why he has to go through all of these trials and tribulations. He is only going through the motions of it all, and by only doing this then he is never really able to comprehend the meaning of it all, and therefore, is unable to learn any kind of lesson at all. He is not doing it, because it is the right thing to do, but only because it is what he is supposed to do as a knight, and if he does that then he can then boast about his accomplishments.

It’s not that Redcrosse ever clearly boast about anything, but it his arrogance and carelessness that make him so prideful and seem as if though he is boasting quietly to himself. The place in which Redcrosse is resting is externally beautiful, but internally it has some ugly secrets, such as the tainted pool of water. Duessa herself is externally beautiful, but internally she is as ugly as can be. The reason that I interpret this as a religious allegory is because it reminds me of how the Protestants viewed the Roman Catholics. I think to Spenser the Catholics only externally worshiped, and they were only going through the motions of their rituals.

Orgoglio, to me, is a manifestation of Redcrosse’s pride. Pride, because instead of being ready for anything and continuing  on with his mission to save Una’s parents, he is relaxing, giving off the impression that nothing could touch him, because why else would he let his guard down and not have his armor ready?  It is obvious that he did not learn his lesson from the House of Pride.

When Spenser writes, “the greatest Earth his vncouth mother was, and blustering Aeolus his boaster sire, who with his world doth pas…brought forth this monstrous masse of earthly slime, puft vp with emptie wind, and fild with sinfull crime. So growen great through arrogant delight of th’high descent, whereof he was yborne…through presumption of his matchlesse might” to me is all of Redcrosse’s internal feelings, his pride that he is completely oblivious to, have become externalized in the shape of Orgoglio. Also it relates back to the Genesis chapter in the Bible where God first breathes life into Adam. It is a breath, but here it is a wind, and is more violent, and I feel this is because Orgoglio himself is a violent character.  Redcrosse’s pride blew a violent wind into Orgoglio creating him as an external manifestation of Redcrosse’s pride.

Redcrosse has much to learn, especially in this episode, and until he starts to internalize and fully grasps everything that he is going through then he will never grow or become a good Christian. He has much to learn and must undergo a process and growth in order to reach his full potential. It isn’t always an easy road to travel down, but having a little common sense and being aware that things come up and being able to handle those surprises in a logical manner that make the journey a little easier, so that way the same mistake doesn’t have to be made twice.

 

 

 

  Works Cited

Aesop, D. L. Ashliman, and Arthur Rackham. Aesop’s Fables. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003. Print.

“The Faerie Queene: Book I.” Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. Web. 08 Dec. 2011. <http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/queene1.html&gt;.

 

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