Prophetic Vision in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene
In the First Book of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser reveals his prophetic and apocalyptic vision for the fledgling British Empire, personified in his hero Redcrosse. As the secular instrument of Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, Redcrosse takes on the sacred task of Una (representing religious truth) to free her parents, Adam and Eve, from their bonds of sin. Before he can achieve his task, the Redcrosse knight (representing holiness) must mature as a Christian knight as he and Una encounter inhabitants of Faerie Land and interact with them. With his allegory, Spenser unveils the secular and sacred obligations of Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers as they lead Protestant England and her empire in the struggle against the Catholic nations of Europe for world hegemony and New World Colonies.
The Apostle Paul laid the foundation of the Christian religion, equally including Gentiles and Hebrews, separate from the state. Spenser lays a basis for England's union of state and religion, conceptually separating these two functions to minimize their intersection, although the were inherent in one person. First, he justifies superseding the Catholic Church, until recently the only true religion of the people of the British Isles.
After Redcrosse strangles religious Error at Una's urging and kills the monster with his sword, Spenser separates Redcrosse and Una by way of Archimago's wicked machinations. Una cycles through a sequence of traveling companions: a lion, Archimago as false Redcrosse (the Roman Catholic Church), Sans-Loy (a Muslim), satyrs, Satyrane, and Prince Arthur. Spenser implies that participants of each religion, no matter how primitive, believe its truths are divine. In her latest incarnation of supreme religious truth, Una needs Gloriana's knight to defeat the dragon of sin, to obtain Christ's redemption for Adam and Eve and their descendants. While England amasses vast wealth conquering and colonizing the primitive races, the real battle is not against "flesh and blood," but as Paul...