As we have discussed in class, there are several different types of love. And in identifying the perils of “inventing” love in The Faerie Queen, many of these kinds of love can be related. In addition to the romantic love that Spencer and the Redcrosse Knight invent, one also must consider the love for faith and God.
Throughout the book, most of the problems that Spencer and the Redcrosse night with inventing love stem from the fact that they are doing it in a physical sense. The Knight’s service to a lady can be looked at as nothing more than submission to her desires. There is always a hidden anxiety inside in proving oneself to be a worthy knight, driven by male ego.
His lady sad to see his sore constraint,
Cride out, “Now now Sir knight, shew what ye bee,
Add faith unto your force, and be not faint:
Strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee.” [I,1,163-66]
The knight is eager to prove himself to the lady and save himself from shame; he is not about to show weakness and defeat to a lady cheering him on:
That when he heard, in great perplexitie,
His gall did grate for griefe and high disdaine,
And knitting all his force got one hand free. [I,1,167-69]
Spencer has conjured up this idea of chivalric service, yet he fails to keep selfishness and narcissism from getting in the way. Through this, the childlike need of the male to have a woman come back in his life and guide him is apparent. Thus, the Redcrosse Knight invents love around his submission to the needful lady.
Let fall her eyen, as shamefast to the earth,
And yeelding soft, in that she nought gain-said,
So forth they rode, he feining seemly merth,
And she coy lookes: so dainty they say maketh derth. [I,2,240-243]
Having done this, the Knight has in essence obeyed his own erotic desires and therefore sinned by making himself vulnerable to deception. This is where we can tie in Christian love. Aside from the obvious allusions to Christian religion and Roman Catholic fallacies, Spencer includes his own invention of love for Christianity and faith.
The Redcrosse Knight represents the individual Christian, on the search for Holiness, who is armed with faith in Christ, the shield with the bloody cross. He is traveling with Una, whose name means "truth". For a Christian to be holy, he must have true faith, and so the plot of the book mostly concerns the attempts of evildoers to separate the Knight from Una.
For of devotion he had little care,
Still drownd in sleepe, and most of his dayes ded;
Scarse could he once uphold his heavie hed,
To looken, whether it were night or day:
May seeme the wayne was very evill led,
When such an one had guiding of the way,
That knew not, whether right he went, or else astray. [I,4,165-171]
These difficulties faced by the Redcrosse Knight in staying with Una reflect our own difficulties in staying true to our faith. Faithlessness, despair, pride, the seven vices, and evil are all personified in the book; yet it seems that at the most difficult and trying times, the Knight is saved. This shows the Christian individual’s need for God’s aid.
“eternal God that chaunce did guide” [I,11,402]
No matter how well a Christian is equipped or prepared, he is no match for sin and death without the undeserved grace of God. All of these allegories make up Spencer’s invention of love for God. He sees it as a constant struggle against temptation and evil, which in the end creates a closer relationship with faith and with God.
Edmund Spencer's Faerie Queen
Word Count: 615