The Restorative Power Of Æsculapius Versus The Vitalizing Power Of God In Spenser's 'the Faerie Queene'

2028 words - 8 pages

In Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, there are many ideas in which Spenser himself strongly believes in. Specifically, the holiness of the Protestant Church versus the wickedness of the Catholic Church, and the power of Satan versus the power of God. The power of Æsculapius (Canto 5) and the power of the Tree of Life and the Well of Life (Canto 11) might look similar from a distance in terms of magical magnificence, but the task which they complete (restoration of health) are perceived similarly which only serve to highlight their differences. Æsculapius represents an evil form of 'magic' that restores life illegally (from Hell), whereas the Tree of Life and the Well of Life restore health through Divine Intervention (God's grace) in order to help one defeat sin and evilness.In Book One, Canto 5 the Redcrosse knight has already been lead to the House of Pride by Duessa and is now waiting for dawn - by order of the Queen of the palace, Lucifera - in order to duel Sansjoy. When dawn finally breaks the two men ride out to begin the fight as the entire court stands by watching intently. Both opponents are severely wounded, however, Redcrosse ultimately proves he is the stronger soldier and is about to kill Sansjoy - but he miraculously disappears in a dark cloud. Redcrosse is then put to bed and receives immediate attention from doctors in order to heal his wounds. Duessa mourns the loss of Sansjoy bitterly and is so overcome with her sorrow that she seeks the witch 'Night.' Together, they collect Sansjoy's body and they travel into Hell "And brought the heavie corse with easie pace/ To yawning gulfe of deepe Avernus hole" (1.5.ll. 272-273) in order to find the God of Medicine, Æsculapius. As Duessa and Night are trying to get Æsculapius to restore the body Sansjoy, the Redcrosse's Dwarf discovers the many prisoners in the dungeons of the House of Pride which prompts Redcrosse to leave immediately through a secret backdoor.The House of Pride holds a myriad of ideas relating to sin and evil. Christians believe that the root of all evil is Pride, from which all other vices are drawn upon. The reason Lucifer - the fallen angel - was cast out of heaven was due to his pride, and hence, why the name 'Lucifera' is so appropriate for the Queen of the House of Pride. The House of Pride can also be seen as a representation of the Catholic Church (and the House of Holiness can be seen as the Protestant Church) which is in Spenser's reality is an 'evil' branch of Christianity. When the Christian Soldier, Redcrosse, is attacked by Sansjoy, he has a far more desperate struggle than he did with Sansfoy, and comes out wounded though victorious. Joylessness (Sansjoy) when crushed by Holiness (Redcrosse) is restored by Pagan Philosophy through Æsculapius' magic. The battle between Sansjoy and the Redcrosse knight can also be seen as the fight between the Catholic and Protestant Church just like the final battle between the dragon and...

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