The author of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) is known as the “poet’s poet” for his delight in the pure artistry of his craft: his pictorial imagery, sensuous description, and linguistic richness combine to establish him as one of the greatest of English poets.
Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene (1590-96), an allegorical romance designed to glorify Queen Elizabeth I of England, was celebrated as one of the greatest and most important works of English verse. Spenser's aim in writing The Faerie Queene was to create a great national literature for England, equal to the classic epic poems of Homer and Virgil. The Faerie Queene was divided into Books I through VI, each focused on the adventures of a different hero or heroine and a different virtue, included Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy. (熊云甫.2010:121)To suit his literary purposes, Spenser invented a verse form that has come to be known as the Spenserian stanza. Spenser was celebrated as a great national poet in his lifetime, and had since been recognized as a major influence on later writers, particularly the nineteenth-century Romantic poets. Critics have long recognized The Faerie Queene as an allegorical tale, included within its many subplots a variety of political, social, psychological, and religious allegories. Critics in the twentieth century and beyond have explored other aspects of The Faerie Queene, read Spenser’s representations of political figures, religious conflicts, and national politics in the historical and cultural context of Elizabethan England and the Protestant Reformation.
Introduced in the first canto of the poem, The Knight of Holiness bears the emblem of Saint George, patron saint of England; a red cross on a white background is still the flag of England. The Knight of Holiness is declared to be the real Saint George in Canto X. He also learns that he is of English ancestry, having been stolen by a Fay and raised in Faerie land. (熊云甫,2007:34) In the climactic battle of Book I, The Knight of Holiness slays the dragon that has laid waste to Eden. He marries Una at the end of Book I, but brief appearances in Books I and II show The Knight of Holiness still questing through the world. In this thesis, The Faerie Queene of the first volume devoted to do interpretations and to do a detailed explanation about the multiple meaning of the Knight of Holiness. Based on the theory of Hermeneutics(张首映,1999:237) to analysize the multiple meanings of the Knight of Holiness in the first Book, from the perspective of moral fable, the Knight of Holiness is “everyone”, its image reflected off the process of the spirit out of the ordinary process of growth, in this process, because of inexperience and reckless, he made series of errors. These errors were to be Christian “everyone” in the inevitable process of growing; from the perspective of political allegory, and he grow from a fledgling St. George to become a knight and the symbol of the United Kingdom. The character development also makes the experience of the Knight of Holiness dramatic; and from the moral in Revelation, his imitation of the Christ, which will eventually become a Christ-type figure, vividly demonstrates a Protestant Reformation on the “Apocalypse”. In the volume 1 the opposite characters of good and evil, the opposite image prototypes of light and dark, and the symbolic system of absolute derive from the “Apocalypse”.
The Knight of Holiness –As “Everyone”
1.1 Knight can not Distinguish between True and False
Red Crosse is the hero of Book I, and in the beginning of Canto 1, he is called the Knight of Holiness. He will go through great trials and fight fierce monsters throughout the Book, and this in itself is entertaining, as a story of a heroic “knight errant”. However, the more important purpose of the Faerie Queene is its allegory, the meaning behind its characters and events.
From the perspective of moral allegory, the Knight of Holiness is “everyone”, that original sin, as one of general representatives. He achieved adventure of his goal vividly which embody the adventure ordinary spiritual growth.
To distinguish between true and false is the main line that runs through this volume, but also the drama of the Knight of Holiness. He abandoned Una who represents the true church, and confuses by the representative of the hypocrisy of the church, Duessa. He believed the fabricated lies made by Fidessa, who disguised by Duessa. The Knight of Holiness can not distinguish between real Una and false Duessa, as the former falls in the mask and a black shawl over her beautiful and brilliantly images, and the latter gorgeous costumes tends to make people believe that she was the real incarnation. This dramatically event illustrates the Christians as “everyone”, why is difficult to distinguish between two opposing images. (Heale, Elizabeth, 2001:69)
In the stream of life, the Knight of Holiness has gone through numerous tests, little by little mature, but he is by no means an absolute mature figure. Because according to Christian interpretation on the character issue, a saint can never be absolutely confident and independent, so every time when he was desperate, or had saved by the Prince Arthur, or had a new life with the grace of the spring of life and the tree of life.
The growth of the Knight of Holiness is always relative, not absolute mature. In the struggle with the hostile forces, his victory is relative rather than absolute victory. Even to the end of this canto, he wanted to quit this drama life stage, back to the Faerie Queene, he also failed to reach the realm of absolute self-confidence, or an absolute victory. The Knight of Holiness has just thrown Archimago to the ground, tied up with handcuffs and leg irons, put into a deep dungeon. And Archimago will appear again in the second canto, to revenge with Guyon. This allegory indicate that good and evil, true and false, can not and do not resolve by the Knight of Holiness once and for all.