Faerie Queen Canto Summaries
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Brief Canto Summaries of Book One

Canto One

RCK, Una (on a Donkey) and the Dwarf are riding through a forest on their way to slay the Dragon (Satan) who has enslaved Una's family. Glorianna has given the RCK this task. It starts to rain so they find shelter in a cave where the half-woman/half-dragon Error lives. The Knight engages the Dragon and with advice from Una, defeats her. After leaving the woods they come across a hermit named Archimago. He gives them lodging. As soon as they are asleep Archimago conjures two spirits, one to steal lusty dreams, and the other to represent Una. The false Una slips into bed with the Knight after he dreams the stolen dream. RCK rebuffs her advances and demands she leave. Archimago then turns the other spirit into a squire so when RCK comes into her room he sees the false Una in bed with the false squire. Judging her as unvirtuous, RCK decides to leave with his Dwarf and without the real Una who has no idea what is going on.


Canto Two

RCK comes across Sansfoy and Duessa, a beautiful maiden. Immediately RCK and Sansfoy attack each other, RCK killing the other and becoming the victor. Duessa tells RCK that her name is Fidessa and that she was held prisoner by Sansfoy. RCK takes her into his protection, Fidessa tells RCK that she's daughter to a king. Later they come across two trees. RCK breaks off some branches to make a crown for Duessa when the tree talks and says his name is Fradubio. He tells that his love, Fraelissa was changed into a tree by a witch (Duessa) disguised as a beautiful maiden. When Fradubio saw the witch in her true form, she turned him into a tree also.

Before RCK can make the connection, Duessa pretends to faint and pull RCK's attention away form the tree. RCK then kisses Duessa many times to reawaken her.


Canto Three

Una wander aimlessly after RCK. She comes across a Lion who becomes her protector after seeing her beauty and truth. Una comes across Abessa and the house of Corcesa. After much reluctance they let her (and the lion) into the house to spend the night. During the middle of the night, Kirkrapine comes into the house and is immediately killed by the Lion. Una cries all night long for her loss of Red Cross. The next morning she comes across Archimago disguised as RCK. They begin traveling when Sansloy finds them. Sansloy thinking Archimago to be the real RCK seeks revenge on him for the death of his brother, Sansfoy. After Sansloy knocks the helmet off RCK, he finds out it is Archimago. The Lion attacks Sansloy, and Sansloy kills and defeats the Lion, taking Una off into the woods and leaving Archimago laying on the ground.


Canto Four

This canto deals with the House of Pride, where Duessa takes the RCK. Much of this canto describes the seven sins and the beasts they sit upon. Sansjoy is there and recognizes the shield of his brother, Sansfoy whom RCK defeated. Sansjoy challenges RCK and Lucifera declares a fight between the two the next morning. Duessa pledges her loyalty to Sansjoy in the middle of the night.


Canto Five

The next morning. RCK and Sansjoy fight. Red Cross is about to fall when Duessa pledges her devotion to Sansjoy. RCK believes Duessa is calling this to him and overthrows Sansjoy who dissapears in a mysterious cloud before RCK call kill him. RCK and Sansjoy are both terribly wounded. Red Cross is fixed up with salves and balm and leeches. Meanwhile, Duessa takes Sansjoy down into Hades to get healed. The Dwarf wanders into the dungeon of the house of Pride, sees the prisoners of pride and tells RCK. Together the RCK and the Dwarf decide to leave the House of Pride.


Canto Six

Sansjoy tries to rape Una. Una screams and draws the attention of the local satyrs and nymphs. When Sansjoy sees the coming creatures, he is frightened off. The nature dwellers see Una and begin to worship her as a goddess, taking her into their community. They don't want her to leave, but when Satyrane comes along, he understands her situation and helps to guide her from out of the wilderness. They comes across a pilgrim (Archimago in disguise) who tells they he saw RCK defeated in battle with a Sarazin knight who is resting up ahead a little. They come across Sansjoy who does battle with Satyrane. During the melee, Una runs off and is followed by Archimago.


Canto Seven

Duessa follows the RCK and finds him resting by a fountain whose water isn't up to health code standards. This water makes him weak and Duessa tries to take advantage of him. All of a sudden, Orgolio bursts into the area and tries to smash RCK with his club. RCK, being unprepared and weak form the fountain is knocked unconsious from the air of the blow. Duessa pleads with Orgolio not to kill RCK, but to make him his prisoner instead and she will become his mistress. Orgolio then takes the RCK and throws him into the dungeon of his castle. The Dwarf witnesses all of this, picks up RCK's possessions and runs to find Una. After he finds Una and relates his story, they run into Arthur and his squire, Timias. They all share a long discourse and then travel to free Red Cross from the dungeon of Orgolio.


Canto Eight

Arthur and Timias go to the castle of Orgolio. Timias blows a bugle that opens the doors of the castle. Orgolio and Duessa rush out and begin a battle. Timias is almost defeated while Arthur cuts off the arms and legs of Orgolio. Orgolio hits Arthur's shield, unveiling the diamonds underneath and temporarily blinds the giant, the monster, and Duessa. Using this temporary distraction, they are able to defeat Orgolio and and the beast while Duessa is taken hold of by Timias. Arthur and Una get the keys from Ignaro and discover across the RCK very weak and close to death. Then they disrobe Duessa (yummy!).


Canto Nine

Arthur tells of his lineage, then he and RCK exchange gifts. Una, the Dwarf and Red Cross resume their journey to slay the much dreaded Dragon. All of a sudden, Treusian bursts out of the forest with a rope around his neck. He warns that a man named Despair has convinced his friend Terwain to kill himself. He says Despair almost got him too, but he came to his senses at the last second. RCK, wanting to reprimand Despair, travels to his cave whose entrance is littered with dead bodies. RCK meets Despair who convinces Red Cross that he has made too many mistakes and he might as well kill himself before he makes any more. Red Cross starts to plunge a dagger into his heart, but Una slaps it away before he can do this. Una decides that Red Cross is too weak, and takes him to the House of Holiness.


Canto Ten

Our heros three travel to the House of Holiness. Three sisters heal him through repentance. He is then administered many ordeals and treatments to cure his faith and his health. They basically beat the crap out of him in a loving way. RCK learns about forgiveness and repentence. At the end of the canto, he is taken to a mountaintop by Contemplation who shows him the new Jerusalem and tells him that his name is St. George and he is from Saxon Kings.


Canto Eleven

Time to fight the Dragon. While RCK rides off to confront the Dragon, Una hides and prays for him. The first day, RCK attacks and gets a good hit underneath the Dragon's wing. Then he is forced down into the Well-of-Life where he is saturated and emerges the next morning totally refreshed. Day Two: RCK chops off the Dragons tail and claw. . . but is forced back into a marsh. Here he rests under an apple tree while the Dragon retreats. Under this tree, a stream flows, and RCK is soaked all of the next night in it. Una still prays. On the third day, the Dragon makes to swallow the Knight, who then plunges his sword up through his mouth and kills the Dragon. Yeah!


Canto Twelve

They celebrate. Una and Red Cross are to be married. Then Archimago appears with a note saying that RCK is promised to Duessa. Una stands up for RCK and they realize it is Archimago trying to decieve them once again. Archimago is chained in the dungeon and they celebrate further. They are married, but RCK must return to serve another six years for Glorianna. Una is sad, but understands. And that ends this really brief summary of Book One of the Faerie Queen.

Another plot summary:


Book I of the Faerie Queene follows the adventures of the Red Cross Knight. As a representative of Holiness, he has been commissioned by Queen Gloriana of Fairy Land to escort Una, a symbol of truth, to the kingdom of her parents and rescue them from a dragon who has taken control of their land. During this book, Red Cross embarks on a journey which is internal as well as external. His physical vitories and defeats are intertwined with his spiritual and emotional growth. In the end he proves himslef a worthy knight and evolves into a spiritually mature being.

With the help of Una, Red Cross succeeds in defeating his first enemy, the monster Error, through physical strength and courage. However, due to his gullibility and lack of trust, he is fooled by the magician Archimago into believing that Una is less than virtuous and lustful. As a result, he leaves her only to fall in love with the witch Duessa, who appears disquised as a beautiful, innocent damsel. Through his encounters with her cohorts - Sansfory, Sansloy, and Sansjoy; Lucifera, Queen of the House of Pride; and Orgoglio, the haughty giant - Red Cross is seduced, spiritually and physically weakened, and finally thrown into a dungeon.

Una, having been watched over by as lion, a band of satyrs, and a rustic knight named Satyrane, comes across the dwarf, who informs her of the predicament which Red Cross has found himself in. Through a stroke of luck, they come across Prince Arthur who offers to help them rescue their fallen companion. In a series of events laden with religious representations, Arthur storms the castle and, after a dramatic battle, slays the giant Orgoglio. Red Cross is released and Duessa is exposed as the wretched witch she is.

Following his new lease on life and a recognition of his spiritual imperfections, Red Cross resumes his journey with Una. Even though he is free, he almost falls victim to the villain Despair because of his weariness and sense of guilt. In response, Una escorts him to the house of hope, where he is restored to health and finds spiritual regenreration. Finally, in the climax of his adventure and the culmination of Spencer's religious allegory, Red Cross engages the evil dragon. After a torturous three day battle, he defeats the monster, releases the kingdom from its scourge, and wins Una's heart.

Submitted by John Brady

Another Plot Summary of Book One

The Queen of Fairy Land, Gloriana, sends the Red Cross Knight(Holiness) with Una to save Una's parents from the evil dragon that is oppressing them. The Red Cross Knight meets Error, an battle. A short while later, Red Cross and Una bump into the magician, Archimago. Archimago proceeds to trick Red Cross into thinking Una is not as virtuous and chaste as he believes her to be. The ruse is effective and Red Cross leaves Una with Archimago. Without Una at his side Red Cross proceeds to be deceived and tricked in all manners by Duessa, Sansloy, Sansfoy, Sansjoy, Orgoglio,and Lucifera. First, he comes across Sansfoy who he promptly kills. Then he accompanies the woman who was with Sansfoy, Fidessa, who is really Duessa. Red Cross is provided with a good chance to figure out that Fidessa is really a witch (Duessa) from the story that Fradubio, the bleeding tree relates to him. Duessa, sensing she might be found out, fakes passing out to distract Red Cross from discovering the truth about her.

The story turns back to Una searching for Red Cross. She is joined by a friendly lion who serves as her protector. Una and the lion take refuge in the house of Corceca and Abessa. Kirkrapine breaks in the door of the house when no one answers his knocking and the lion kills him. Later on, Una and the lion are met by who they think is the Red Cross Knight. Sansloy stumbles upon them and attempts to kill Red Cross because Red Cross had killed his brother earlier. Sansloy injures the knight only to reveal that the knight isn't Red Cross after all; it is merely Archimago disguised as Red Cross. Sansloy then kills the lion and takes Una with him.

Returning to Red Cross and Duessa, they approach the House of Pride. There they encounter Lucifera and her six counselors: Idleness, Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Envy, and Wrath (representative of the seven deadly sins). Now Sansjoy arrives on the scene, upset that Red Cross has killed his brother, and wants to fight. The next day they fight, both of them being wounded, when mid-battle, Sansjoy is mysteriously whisked away. That night Duessa transports Sansjoy to Avernus to be healed by Aesculapius. The dwarf, meanwhile, finds the dungeon of the House of Pride and warns Red Cross to leave which he accomplishes.

Meanwhile, Una is nearly raped by Sansloy, only to be saved by the Satyrs with whom she is soon revered as a goddess. Satyrane visits the Satyrs, sneaks off with Una, and soon meets Archimago, disguised as a Pilgrim, who tells them Red Cross has been killed in a fight with a knight. The knight, he proceeds to tell them, is resting close by, and Satyrane goes to kill him while Una leaves with the pilgrim (Archimago) following her.

Meanwhile, Duessa comes back from Avernus looking for Red Cross and finds him by a fountain, from which he has drunk, which saps anyone,s strength who drinks from it. They have a good time together until Orgoglio, a giant, comes along and conquers Red Cross in his weakened state. Red Cross, life is spared, but he is made a slave while Duessa becomes the giant,s mistress. Seeing all this transpire, the dwarf sets out for help and finds Una. Una and the dwarf meet up with a knight in shining armor who agrees to help them. The knight, as it turns out later, is Arthur. They travel to Orgoglio,s castle and rescue Red Cross. At this time Duessa is revealed for the filthy hag that she is.

Arthur reveals that of his heritage which he knows to Red Cross and Una, then leaves to continue his quest for the Fairy Queen, whom he has fallen in love with in a dream. Red Cross and Una continue on their original journey when they encounter Trevisan, who was nearly convinced by Despair to hang himself. He tells them of his friend Terwin who Despair succeeded in convincing to kill himself. Red Cross sets off to punish Despair, only to be nearly duped into killing himself as well. Una saves him and they leave for the House of Holiness. Red Cross is ministered to by a cast of characters including: Coelia, Speranza, Fidelia, Patience, Remorse, Penance, Charissa, and Contemplation. Contemplation reveals to Red Cross that he will be the patron saint of England, St. George. Una and Red Cross continue to the land of Una,s parents, where in a three day long battle, and with the help of the Well of Life and the Tree of Life, Red Cross defeats the dragon. Una and Red Cross are betrothed, an event which Archimago attempts to foil with claims that Red Cross is already betrothed to Fidessa (Duessa). The scam doesn,t work and Archimago is thrown in a dungeon. Una and Red Cross, betrothal is celebrated, but the celebration is cut short because Red Cross has to leave to complete his duties to the Fairy Queen.

Submitted by Chad Larsen

Outline of Book I

Canto I [all]
Invocation. The Redcrosse knight, undertaking a quest to kill the dragon who has imprisoned Una's parents (and thereby win her as his bride), defeats the dragon- woman of error. At the forest home of an apparently pious old man (Archimago), the knight is tempted (first in a dream, then by the conjurings of his host) to believe Una unfaithful. In anguish, he rides off, leaving her behind.

Canto II [paragraphs 1-30]
Redcrosse encounters and slays Sansfoy, a Saracen knight, who is travelling in the company of Duessa masquerading as Fidessa. The knight and (false) lady rest under a tree which claims to be a man (Fradubio) betrayed and imprisoned by Duessa.

Canto III [paragraphs 1-9, 24-44]
Una, seeking her lost knight, finds a champion in a fierce lion. Together they take refuge with a mother and daughter who represent blindness to the truth. The lion kills the daughter's "suitor" Kirkrapine. Archimago, disguised as Redcrosse, presents himself to Una but is almost immediately defeated in combat (and exposed) by Sansloy, brother to Sansfoy. Sansloy proceeds to slay the lion and carry off Una.

Canto IV [1-36]
Redcrosse, in the company of Duessa, arrives at the court of Lucifera (Pride), where he issues a challenge to Sansjoy (other brother).

Canto V [1-27, 45-53]
Redcrosse strikes down Sansjoy, who is then hidden in a cloud by a god. Duessa flies to the land of Night and convinces her to retrieve the wounded knight, her true love, and take him to Hell to be healed by Aesculapius. Meanwhile Redcrosse has fled the castle of Pride, leaving her behind.

Canto VI [paragraphs 1-19, 33-48]
Una is saved from the lust of Sansloy by a troupe of fawns and satyrs, who take her to live with them, though they prove unteachable. A rough, but more receptive, half- breed, Satyrane, rescues her from the sylvan company and travels with her until they encounter a pilgrim (Archimago) who tells them of witnessing the death of Redcrosse at the hand of Sansloy. The pilgrim then guides them to Sansloy, who engages Satyrane in battle. Una flees, pursued by Archimago.

Canto VII [all]
Duessa in the guise of Fidessa catches up with Redcrosse by a stream which is polluted and from which he drinks. Redcrosse, weakened, now faces the giant Orgoglio (another form of Pride), who takes the knight as prisoner and Duessa as mate. Redcrosse's loyal Dwarf, with the knight's armor, meets Una and tells her of all his adventures. They are befriended by Prince Arthur himself, and Una recounts the history of her woes. Arthur promises to aid her.

Canto VIII [all]
Arriving at the giant's castle, Arthur's squire blows a blast on his horn that causes all the doors to fly open. Duessa and Orgoglio attack Arthur, who, hardpressed, is saved by the clear light of his diamond shield. His squire takes Duessa prisoner; Arthur frees Redcrosse from his dungeon. They strip Duessa, revealing her monstrous nature, and let her go.

Canto IX [all]
Arthur tells of his youth and his love for (the vision of) the Queene of Faeries, Gloriana. They exchange gifts and part. Redcrosse intercepts a knight fleeing from Despair and demands he return with him to confront the villain. Despair tempts Redcrosse, but Una intervenes angrily. Despair hangs himself but cannot die.

Canto X [none]
Una brings her weakened knight to Dame Caelia and her daughters Fidelia (Faith), Speranza (Hope), and Charissa (Love). Una puts Redcrosse to school to learn wisdom; in addition, he is treated by the physician Patience; finally he meets Charissa, who leads him to a "holy Hospitall," where he learns true holiness. From thence he ascends the mountain of Contemplation with an ancient guide, where he sees (but cannot yet enter) the City of God. The old man tells him of his destiny and of his birth.

Canto XI [all]
The approach of Una and Redcrosse to the tower where her parents are held captive arouses the dragon. In an epic battle, Redcrosse wounds the dragon under one wing, but the dragon succeeds in casting him into a well, from which he is "reborn." In a second battle, nearly overcome, the knight is revived by water flowing from the Tree of Life. In the third battle, the knight thrusts deep into the dragon's open maw, and the beast expires.

Canto XII [all]
The court, now freed, pour out of the castle to see the dragon dead, and then they feast. "Fidessa" sends a messenger (Archimago) to prevent the betrothal of Redcrosse with Una, but all in vain. The magician is thrown into the dungeon, and the betrothal [engagement] of Holiness and Truth is solemnized.