Edmund Spenser in his epic romance, The Faerie Queene, invents and depicts a wide array of female figures. Some of these women, such as Una and Caelia, are generally shown as faithful, virtuous and overall lovely creatures. Other feminine characters, such as Errour, Pride, and Duessa are false, lecherous and evil. This might seem to be the end of Spenser's categorization of women; that they are either good or bad. Yet upon closer examination one finds that Spenser seems to be struggling to portray women more honestly, to depict the "complex reality of woman" (Berger, 92). Spenser does not simply "idealize women or the feminine viewpoint" as he could easily do via characters like Una, but instead attempts to "revise and complicate the traditional male view" of women (Berger, 92, 111). Spenser endeavors to show various female characters, in both powerful and weak roles, and also to emphasize the importance of women in his society. Despite his intentions to give a fair representation, however, it is still obvious that Spenser was influenced by a society with a culture “whose images of woman and love, and whose institutions affecting women and love, were products of the male imagination” (Berger, 91). Throughout The Faerie Queene, Spenser reveals his anxiety about women and their power.
Una, one of the most crucial figures of the first book, is a perfect expression of Spenser's hesitance towards depicting women in a single confining manner. At times Una seems strong and confident, at other times she is shown as weak and helpless. Before their separation, and after their rapprochement, Una is the one who often rescues Redcr...
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Broaddus, James W. Spenser’s Allegory of Love. London: Associated University Press, 1995.
Craig, Joanne. “’All flesh doth frailtie breed’: Mothers and children in The Faerie Queene. Texas Studies in Literature and Language 42:1 (2000): 16-33.
Spiller, Elizabeth A. “Poetic Parthenogenesis and Spenser’s Idea of Creation in The Faerie Queene.” Studies in English Literature 40:1 (2000): 63-90.
Stapleton, M. L. “’Loue my lewd Pilot’: The Ars Amatoria in The Faerie Queene.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 40:3 (1998): 328-341.
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