Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Faerie Queene: The Archetypical Hero

According to Joseph Campbell’s idea of the archetypical hero of the main protagonist being called out of his normal life into a more supernatural type world, The Faerie Queene meets this criteria and then some. The hero generally starts out in his normal world. The Redcrosse Knight is a young man who has not seen war. He wears “on his brest a bloudie Crosse he bore, the deare remembrance of his dying Lord” (Spenser 1:2:1-2). He wants to prove himself so he gets the Call to Adventure from Gloriana the Faerie Queene who sets him on a mission to slay the dragon that has been keeping the princess Una’s parents and kingdom captive. So starts the journey. 




Edmund Spenser used a lot of symbolism in his poem. The young knight represents England. He is heroic, but also a little foolhardy in his eagerness to jump into adventure. Una represents truth and faith, or the church. As James W. Broaddus puts it in Studies in Philology, other characters such as “Archimago, Duessa, and Orgoglio could represent Satan’s work in the papacy” (578). Redcrosse does not yet have full faith. He shows this through his impulsiveness to run into the cave and fight the dragon/snake even while Una (truth) was advising him not to. His immaturity in the faith was showing. Likewise, when Archimago deceives him with visions of Una and another man, “if he had known what faith really is—he would have doubted the evidence of his senses before he doubted Una” (Broaddus 580). But he was still young in his full conversion to being a Christian and the bad influences achieved the separation of Una and the knight or symbolically, England and the church for a time. It is only after Redcrosse has gone through several more tests and been in the company of deceivers such as Duessa that he comes forth as the true defender of the faith and is ready to slay the dragon. Which brings us back to the archetype of the hero. 

 After the call to action, our hero is given helpers in the form of Una and the dwarf and they all cross the threshold into the supernatural world of adventure. They are “led with delight, they thus beguile the way, until the blustering storme is overblown; when weening to returne, whence they did stray” (Spenser 1:10:1-3).  They have entered the next world and move into the phase of the journey where they encounter a Series of Tests. In each test, Redcrosse learns something about himself, although it takes turning his back on Una, the truth, and going off alone and being imprisoned by pride, represented by Orgoglio, before he matures enough in his faith and is recused and brought back to health by Una. He is then ready for the Final Battle with the dragon, which is epic. Once the dragon is defeated, he is promised to Una, yet must still Return to his Everyday World to honor his pledge to the Faerie Queene. And so we see that Redcrosse has followed the journey of the archetypical hero, coming full circle back home, but as a different person who has grown into the knight he esteemed to become at the beginning.
Works Cited
Broaddus, James W. “Spenser’s Redcrosse Knight and The Order of Salvation.” Studies in Philology Vol. 108, No. 4. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23056053?seq=7#metadata_info_tab_contents
Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. The Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15272/15272-h/15272-h.htm 


1 comment:

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