Lit. NotesPoetry

The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1:  Short Question & Answers

1: What is the title of Book one of The Faerie Queene?

Book 1 has the lengthy title “On Holiness, The First Booke of the Faerie Queene, contayning The Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse, or Holinesse”.

2: How does Spenser introduce himself?

Spenser introduces himself as a poet by describing his own authorial journey. Before, he was writing all about shepherds—i.e. pastorals—but now he’s moving up and onto bigger things.

3: Who does Spenser call upon for help?

Spenser calls upon a “holy virgin”—possibly the Classical muse Clio—to help him out with this big job. He asks her to reveal to him some “antique scrolls” which contain some nifty tales about knights and King Arthur.

4: What does Spenser ask Queen Elizabeth 1?

Spenser asks for the help and blessing of another bright “goddess”, Queen Elizabeth I, to make Spenser up the task of writing a glorious poem about her and the ancestors of her throne.

5: What does Spenser ask Cupid to do?

He needs Cupid to behave because he needs his help too, along with his mother’s, to bring the god Mars to him, since Mars can get kind of violent and worked-up—he is the god of war after all—but finds love a fun post-battle activity.

6: Whom do we meet when the Canto 1 of the Book 1 begins?

We meet a young and gentle knight riding through a plain. He’s wearing armor that has clearly seen action, but he must have just acquired the armor since he himself is inexperienced.

7: How does the youth we meet look like when the Canto begins?

He seems like a good-humored kind of guy, definitely ready for some fighting.

8: What is the name of the young armed boy?

On the breastplate of his armor, and on his shield, a bloody cross is painted, out of respect and adoration for Jesus and his crucifixion. This tells us this guy is probably the Mr. Redcrosse Knight named in the title.

9: Is Redcrosse a faithful knight?

Yes! Redcrosse is a very faithful and loyal knight, devoted to Jesus Christ, but he also seems a bit sad.

10: Who does give an exciting adventure to Redcrosse?

We learn that he’s about to begin an exciting adventure given to him by Queen Gloriana, the queen of Faerie land, but also a reference to Elizabeth I.

11: Why does Redcross hope that something exciting will happen?

He really, really wants to impress the queen and keeps hoping something exciting will happen so that he can prove his worth.

12:  Who is riding next to Redcrosse?

Riding next to him, on a white donkey, is a lovely lady, also very white but whose face is hidden under a black veil. She looks deeply sad, and by her sidewalks a milk-white lamb.

13: Which family the lady under a black veil belongs to?

The lady is just as virtuous as the lamb, and she’s from a formerly great and powerful royal family.

14: What has happened with the family of that lady?

Sadly, that family has been ruined by the terror of one scary dragon, and it’s to help her and her family out that Redcrosse has taken up this quest.

15: Who is pulling up the rear?

Pulling up the rear is a dwarf, who’s going kind of slowly, which makes sense since the poor guy is in charge of carrying all her stuff.

16: What happened as they were walking along?

As they walk, it gets very cloudy and suddenly breaks into a terrible storm. The rain falls so severely that they all realize they need to find cover.

17: Where do Redcrosse and his companion decide to take a rest?

As luck would have it, a nice shady grove happens to be nearby. They think it might be a good place to rest since it’s very, very dark and full of windy paths leading into the forest but this does not actually sound like a good place to rest.

18: What do they hear in the grove?

In they go, and happily they can hear some birds chirping, who must also be hiding from the storm. The birds certainly are happy about how many wonderful trees there are here: Pine; Cedar; Elm; Poplar; Oak, Laurel, Fir, Willow, Birch, Myrrh, Beech, Ash, Olive, Plantane, Holme, Maple.

19: What does happen when they wander in a tree-filled area?

They wander around this tree-filled area until the storm passes, but surprisingly they’ve gotten lost; there are just so many different ways to go, that they begin to doubt themselves and become completely confused.

20: Why does the lady warn Redcrosse?

Lady warns him to be careful, reminding them that they have no idea where they are and that danger can lurk anywhere, sometimes emerging without any prior notice.

21: What does Redcrosse say after being warned by the lady?

Redcrosse says it would be cowardly not to investigate, and besides, he’s a good person, and good people prevail even through darkness.

22: What does the lady know?

In fact, the lady actually now knows where they are and it’s such a bad place, she would rather have Redcrosse be a bit cowardly than face it.

23: What does the lady explain?

But it’s too late! She goes on to explain that they have arrived in “Errours den” and that Errour is a horrible monster. The dwarf recommends they leave immediately.

24: What does Redcrosse see in the cave?

But Redcrosse doesn’t listen and in he goes into the cave and sees the monster: half-serpent, half-woman.

25: How does the monster look?

Her tail is huge, full of knots and stingers, and takes up most of the cave. She has thousands of little monster babies, also weirdly shaped, who were feeding off her but after seeing Redcrosse, jump into her mouth.

26: What is Errour’s reaction after seeing Redcrosse?

Errour is not happy to see Redcrosse, and rushes toward him but is momentarily put off by the shine of his armor since she hates the light.

27: What does Redcrosse do when the monster is stopped by the shine of the mirror?

Redcrosse takes advantage of this and attacks her, forcing her not to leave, and strikes her shoulder.

28: What is Errour’s reaction after being stricken at the shoulder?

She’s momentarily dazed by the blow, but then becomes even angrier, rushes on top of Redcrosse and wraps him up with her tail.

29: What is the lady’s advice to Redcrosse?

The lady, seeing that things are not going well, urges Redcrosse to strangle the monster before the monster strangles him.

30: What does the monster vomit out?

Redcrosse manages to free one of his arms and grabs the monster by the throat, which loosens her hold on him, but also causes her to vomit out disgusting poison, that not only smells horrible but is also filled with books, papers, frogs, and toads.

31: What, according to the poet, is this vomit like?

This vomit is just like when the Nile River in Egypt inundates, and out of its slush, a bunch of weird creatures is born.

32: What does happen with Redcrosse because of the smell of the vomit?

The smell of the poisonous vomit is so bad that Redcrosse loses his strength. Seeing this, the monster then unleashes all her little offspring on him. They’re annoying, but don’t really seem able to hurt him.

33: What does Redcrosse feel when he is attacked by the gnats?

Redcrosse feels just like a shepherd, who, when the sun sets, gets attacked by gnats. They don’t hurt, but they sure are annoying and hard to get rid of.

34: How does Redcrosse cut off Monster’s head?

Redcrosse is now really angry, and afraid not so much of dying but of the shame of not winning, so he vows to win and rushes at her with great strength… and cuts off her head.

35: How do Monster’s children behave when she dies?

Her children freak out when she dies and run over and start drinking her blood, “making her death their life”.

36: What does happen with the children when they drink up their mother?

Redcrosse is pretty grossed out by this and watches as each little monster, after drinking up his mother, actually bursts apart and dies.

37: What does Redcrosse think the monster’s children deserve?

Redcrosse thinks they deserve their death and is happy that these gross little enemies killed themselves without any help from him.

38: What does the lady say to Redcrosse after his encounter with the monster?

The lady sees Redcrosse’s victory and congratulates him, saying that he has shown himself to be worthy of armor and that he has won a great victory—she hopes many other great victories are in his future.

39: Whom do Redcrosse and his companion see after the cave scene?

After a long time, they come across an old man with bare feet, a long grey beard, and a book hanging from his belt.

40: What does the old man reply when Redcrosse asks him if he knows any super cool adventures in the area that he could begin?

The old man, pretty reasonably, asks Redcrosse why in the world an old hermit (who doesn’t know anything about the world but just sits and repents) would know something like that.

41: What does the old man tell Redcrosse?

However, he can tell them all about an evil man who has done terrible things to the country they’re in. Redcrosse responds that he would love to hear about someone like that since that’s the kind of person who knights just live to kill.

42: What is the Lady’s response to the old man’s information given to Redcrosse?

The lady interjects and reminds Redcrosse that he’s pretty worn out from his last adventure and that he might want to rest that night before embarking on another fight.

43: What is the old man’s reaction to the lady’s response?

The old man chimes in and agrees with the lady, and Redcrosse is convinced. They all spend the night with the old man.

44: Where does the old man live?

The old man lives in a hermitage (a secluded holy place), far away from anyone else, with an adjoining chapel where he frequently prays.

45: How do Redcrosse and others spend time at the old man’s house?

Even though the old man’s house isn’t the most happening spot, they all enjoy resting and hearing the stories the old man tells.

46: Who the old man actually is?

Night falls and they all sleep very heavily… maybe too heavily. The old man turns out to be a magician and casts spells on them to give them nightmares.

47:  What does the old man’s spell call up?

He casts spells that call up the wife of the god of the dead, other terrible magicians, and evil spirits from the underworld, one of whom he sends off to carry a message, another to stay with him and help with his evil mischief.

48: Where and how does the messenger go?

The messenger spirit heads straight for Morpheus, god of sleep, who lives deep in the earth. Even though the gates to Morpheus’s house are locked, the spirit easily goes in and finds Morpheus. But he’s fast asleep, lulled by soft noises from his cave, completely oblivious to the spirit’s presence.

49: What does the spirit do to wake Morpheus up?

The spirit tries everything to wake him up, finally mentioning the dreaded name of Hecate, a fearful witch, which at once rouses the sleeping Morpheus.

50: What does the spirit explain to Morpheus?

The spirit explains that he has been sent by a magician named Archimago (the old man) and that Archimago wants Morpheus to give Redcrosse, the lady, and the dwarf false dreams.

51: What does Morpheus do?

Morpheus agrees and finds a strange dream to give the spirit. The spirit then takes the dream back with him to Archimago.

52: What does Archimago do with the second spirit?

Meanwhile, Archimago has been busy. He’s turned the second spirit into a woman who looks exactly like the lady, who we only now find out is named Una.

53: What does Archimago teach the second spirit?

When the spirit returns with the dream, Archimago sends it to Redcrosse and teaches the second spirit to imitate Una perfectly.

54: What does Redcross do with the second spirit?

Redcrosse ends up being cursed with sexually charged dreams of Una, which, once he wakes up, seems to be true since someone who looks like Una (the second spirit in disguise) is lying seductively next to him.

55: What does Redcrosse think after the sexual act with the second spirit?

At this, he gets very upset, since Redcrosse thought she was a pure and shy virgin… sadly, this was a typical expectation man had of women in Spenser’s time.

56: What does Redcrosse decide to do?

He decides to test her since she’s behaving so out of character. She pleads with him, explaining that he can’t blame her for loving him, since God has made her do it. And if she can’t be with him, she’d rather die.

57: What does the spirit defeated by Redcrosse do?

The spirit, defeated by Redcrosse’s conciliatory response, leaves him alone for the time being.

58: Why is Redcrosse still uneasy at the end of Canto 1?

Redcrosse, still uneasy about Una’s behavior, finally falls again into a trouble and sexualized, sleep. But soon his dreams leave him in peace, realizing they aren’t working their evil magic.

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