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Critics have long recognized The Faerie Queene has long been classified by readers and critics as an Epic poem and a completely allegorical tale. It covers a wide variety of allegories including political, social, psychological, and religious allegories within the plot. Others have looked into other aspects of The Faerie Queene and have concluded that Edmund Spenser uses representations of political figures, religious conflicts, and national politics in the history and culture of England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The poem was also written during the time of the Protestant Reformation in England. The Faerie Queene has also been analyzed to represent aspects of gender and power, given that the author has largely depicted Queen Elizabeth I.
That the allegory of the poem is closely connected with its aim and ethical tendency is evident from the statement of the author that "the general aim of the book is to develop an all-round and noble person with the right virtues and discipline..." The Faerie Queene is, meant to depict aspects of culture and ethical virtues. It's artistic and didactic according to critics. The allegory in this poem can be said to be threefold i.e. moral, religious and personal.
Moral aspect of Allegory.-All characters represents various virtues and vices, whose conflicts against each other symbolize the desire of the human race to attain perfection. If for example we look at The Red cross Knight, he personifies the virtue of holiness, while Prince Arthur is a representation of the perfect manhood which identifies with all the moral qualities. Una's character represents truth, while Gloriana is a symbol of all the virtues found in perfect womanhood.
Religious Allegory.-In this interpretation the Red cross Knight is a personification of Protestant church in England, or the church militant. Una is the symbol of the true religion of the Reformed Church. Archimago symbolizes the deceptive Jesuits and Duessa, (who are the false Church of Rome) and who are identifying themselves as the true religion.
Personal and Political Allegory.- One of Spenser's major objectives when composing this poem was to please certain powerful persons and more so to receive praise and win patronage from the queen, whom he clearly depicts in the character of Gloriana. Prince Arthur is a character that also gives courtesy and respect to Lord Leicester. In the Red cross Knight he praises a particular person who could be Sir Philip Sidney or even Sir Walter Raleigh, like he was "St. George (The patron saint of England).In Una we see a person of a fair lady of the court. In Archimago symbolizes the odious King Philip II of Spain, and Duessa represents Mary Queen of Scots.
The Faerie Queene includes major aspects of religious allegory. Book I is often represented as a religious allegory .It is about the split between the Catholic Church and the Church of England during the era and time of the English Reformation. The adventures of the Red Cross Knight are an allegory for the struggle of the individual between sinfulness and holiness, as well as the struggles of England to identify and affirm itself as a Protestant nation against other Catholic countries that threatened England at this time, particularly Spain.
In Book I, The Red Cross Knight moves from the House of Pride, which is considered a sinful place, to the holy house, in order to re-ignite or revive his Christian virtues. The religious allegory in this book can also be seen in the designation of Una's parents as the "King and Queen of Eden" (Adam and Eve).Their home has been seized by a dragon. Here the dragon is representing Satan. Interpreted Una can be further interpreted as a representative of the Church of England and the Red Cross Knight as the nation of England. Therefore, their union at the end of Book I is an allegory for the union of the Anglican Church with the English monarchy and citizenry.
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