UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ordering of Book one of The Faerie Queene Main, William Alexander


Book One of The Faerie Queene is a neatly patterned, moral allegory based on a series of tests of Red Cross Knight's Holiness. Holiness is treated as a virtue compounded of faith, hope, and charity, and the tests are organized according to this triple division. Intimately associated with the triple division of Holiness is the psychological scheme by which moral behaviour, and hence character, is represented in the legend. Each of the parts of Holiness is associated with a portion of the soul which is divided according to the Neoplatonic, tripartite conception. Faith is associated with intellection, hope with reason, and charity with appetite. The tests of the knight's faith, hope, and charity are tests of the moral character of the intellectual, rational, and appetitive soul, and in sum the trial of Holiness is a trial of the knight's soul. The knight faces two series of tests, each comprised of tests of faith, hope, and charity. The knight fails the first set of tests, chiefly as a result of his innocence and his inability to bridle the appetites of the flesh. In the second set, having been perfected in Holiness in the House of Holiness, he succeeds. In the first set of tests of the knight's Holiness, he faces, in order, a test of faith, a test of charity, and a test of hope. The tests, however, are not distinctly separate, as each is a test of the knight's Holiness with a focus on one of its three parts. In the second set of tests, the knight faces, in order, a test of charity, a test of hope, and a test of faith. The order of the first series of tests is based on the order of generation and is emblemized in the antagonists of the three parts of Holiness, the brothers Sans foy, Sans loy, and Sans joy. The knight's initially imperfect Holiness is tried according to the order in which these gross imperfections of faith, charity, and hope were created by their satanic father. In the second set of tests, the perfected knight is tried according to the order of perfection of the three parts of Holiness. The relationship between the flesh and reason figures prominently in the legend, with Prince Arthur as the chief representative of reason and Orgoglio the chief representative of the flesh. As well, there is a hierarchy of figures representing various states of control of fleshly appetite, and ranked from beast to rational man. The figures in the hierarchy are all associated with Una, and the set of relationships involved serves the moral allegory by presenting various states of charity. Rather than using the method of choosing parts of the text to illustrate general conclusions about the nature of Book One, I have chosen the method of sequential, textual analysis. I have tried to be as careful as possible in my schematization of the legend, noting where my scheme separates tests which, in the legend, are overlapped.

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