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Edmond Spenser: The Fairie Queene, Book One, Cantos II-IV

Vocabulary: enjambement, foil, plus see earlier entries for Canto I.

Identify the Following Characters Red-Cross Knight, Una, Fidessa (i.e., Duessa), Fraudubio, Archimago, Sansfoy, Sansloy, King Arthur, Kirkrapine, Orgolio (know what Orgolio means in Italian, and what Kirkrapine means in archaic English), Ignaro the Gatekeeper

Reading Questions:

  • Canto #2
  • Identify an example of enjambement in stanza 1.
  • Identify an archaism in stanza 3.
  • What false vision appears before the eyes of Red-Cross? What false impression does he have about Una?
  • Why does Una cry when she awakens in the morning?
  • In stanza 5, why would "rage" be a force that blinds "reason?" Why is sight the sensory equivalent of logic
  • Explain Archimago's delight in stanza 9. Why do you suppose he hates Una "as the hissing snake"? How is his allegorical significance opposed to her allegorical significance?
  • What disguise does Archimago don in stanza 11?
  • In Canto 2.8-9, what does Archimago take great delight in?
  • After the Red-Cross Knight abandons Una, what saracen knight does he encounter?
  • Explain the symbolic significance of the "goodly Lady's" garb as she accompanies her saracen knight in stanza 13.
  • What should we make of the "red bloud trickling" from Sansfoy's horse as he rides. As it "staind the way," how does it characterize Sansfoy? Could it have allegorical significance?
  • Identify the "epic simile" in stanza 16.
  • What excuse does Sansfoy give for his inability to kill Red-Cross in the initial encounter, i.e., what supernatural magic does he think protects the enemy knight?
  • After Red-Cross captures Fidessa (Duessa), and she tells her story of her life, she provides details about how she was "betrothed . . . unto the onely haire/ of a most mighty king." To whom is she referring allegorically here?
  • What explanation does your footnote give for Duessa's quest to find the corpse of her betrothed?
  • How is Fidessa or Duessa a foil for Una?
  • Explain the meaning of the names Sans-Foy, Sans-Joy, and Sans-Loy. Explain how as allegorical figures, it makes sense they should be brothers to each other.
  • In stanza 28-29, the pair seeks shelter from the heat of the sun. Explain the allegorical significance of their shade-seeking and the fact that Fidessa cannot endure light?
  • What happens when Red-Cross plucks boughs to fashion garlands for his new lady? What explanation from classical literature does the Longman text offer for this strange and disturbing occurence? Do you buy this explanation? Or can you think of alternative interpretations? (For you especially well-read students, can you see a connection with Dante's Forest of the Suicides in The Inferno?)
  • How is the description of each of the Seven Deadly Sins suitable for the theological nature of that sin?
  • Describe the build flaws in the House of Pride.
  • Why does Duessa agree to help destroy Red-Cross?


Identifications: Explain who the author is, what the work is, and what the significance is for each passage below:

Be able to identify any passage from Book I, Cantos 2-4, with special attention to the descriptions of the Seven Deadly Sins and the House of Vanity.


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