The Faerie Queene 3: Duels and capture by a giant

Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen (c 1788), oil on canvas, 102.5 × 109 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland. Wikimedia Commons.

In the second episode, the Saracen knight Sansloy abandoned the sorceror Archimago unconscious after their duel, and abducted Una after killing her guardian lion. The Redcrosse Knight has been led astray by Duessa, and taken to the House of Pride. When he turns away from there, he meets Sansjoy, Sansloy’s brother, who recognises his other brother Sansfoy’s shield on the knight’s horse, so challenges the Redcrosse Knight to a duel.

Lucifera, Queen of the House of Pride, insists that is postponed to the next day. After feasting and revelry that night, when everyone else has gone to bed, Duessa goes to Sansjoy and promises that she’ll use her witchcraft to help him to victory over the Redcrosse Knight, provided that he becomes her protector.

Canto 5

The faithfull knight in equall field
subdues his faithlesse foe;
Whom false Duessa saves, and for
his cure to hell does goe.

For the duel between the Redcrosse Knight and Sansjoy, Queen Lucifera sits under a stately canopy, and her court gathers to watch, leaving Duessa sitting alone. The two knights arrive to the sound of a fanfare, and join in battle. Although the Saracen fights strongly, Redcrosse returns every blow, with neither gaining any advantage.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The faithful knight in equal field (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Inflamed by the sight of his brother’s shield hanging on a nearby tree, Sansjoy lands a mighty blow on the knight’s helmet leaving him staggering. Duessa promises the Saracen the shield and herself, which the Redcrosse Knight misunderstands as being directed at him. He then strikes Sansjoy fiercely, causing him to fall heavily. As Redcrosse prepares to deliver the final blow, Duessa brings down a dense fog around Sansjoy’s body, then runs up to congratulate the Redcrosse Knight on his victory, winning the fight, the shield and Duessa herself.

Later that night, while Redcrosse’s wounds are being tended, Duessa flies to Night to seek her aid in healing the near-dead Saracen. Night takes Duessa back to Sansjoy’s body, from where they take it in her iron chariot to Pluto’s realm of Avernus. After pacifying its guardian the three-headed dog Cerberus, and passing the tormented souls of Ixion, Sisyphus and Tantalus, they reach Aesculapius, whom Night persuades to heal the Saracen.

Night then returns Duessa to the House of Pride. There, Redcrosse Knight’s dwarf had discovered horrors in the house’s dungeons, including imprisoned rulers such as Nimrod and great Romans from Romulus to Julius Caesar, who are kept captive there. Those had forced the two to flee hurriedly through an unguarded door, which leads them past piles of corpses.

Canto 6

From lawlesse lust by wondrous grace
Fair Una is releast:
Whom salvage nation does adore
And learns her wise beheast.

Meanwhile, Sansloy takes Una to a dense wood where he first tries to seduce her, and meeting strong resistance tries to take her by force. She cries so loudly that a troop of satyrs and fauns in a nearby glade hurry over to investigate.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), From lawlesse lust by wondrous grace (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Sansloy rides off in haste as the rabble of woodland folk pay their respects to Una, and reassure her that she is safe again. They lead her to the god of the forest, Sylvanus.

William Kent (c 1685-1748), Una Conducted by Satyrs to Silvanus (1751), engraving, ‘The Faerie Queene’, Brindley and Wright, London, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

As the satyrs start to worship Una, a noble knight named Satyrane, kin to the satyrs, enters the wood. His father was a satyr who had ravished a fair lady, then brought their son up in woodland ways, before he became a knight. Satyrane is moved by the sight of Una teaching his kin the sacred truth. He vows to help her find the Redcrosse Knight; knowing how hard it would be for them to leave the satyrs, some days later he and Una steal away in secret and head for the plain.

They meet a simple pilgrim there, and ask him whether he has seen the Redcrosse Knight. He tells them that he had witnessed a duel between Redcrosse and a Saracen earlier that day, which had ended with the death of Redcrosse. The pilgrim tells them that the Saracen is still nearby, bathing his wounds in a stream.

Satyrane hurries away with Una following more slowly on her palfrey. They soon come across Sansloy, who had earlier abducted Una, and Satyrane accuses him of killing the Redcrosse Knight, which he denies. The two proceed to combat; Una flees from Sansloy in terror, but looking on in secret is the sorceror Archimago, who had disguised himself as the pilgrim. He now turns to pursue Una.

Canto 7

The Redcrosse knight is captive made
By Gyaunt [giant] proud opprest:
Prince Arthure meets with Una great-
ly with those news distrest.

Duessa has left the House of Pride in pursuit of the Redcrosse Knight, and soon finds him divested of his armour and drinking from a stream. She turns on her charm, but that stream had been cursed by Diana to weaken all those who drink from it. When they hear the hideous bellowing of a monster, Redcrosse jumps up to arm himself, but can’t because he becomes feeble and faint.

The monster, Orgoglio, soon appears, three times the height of a man and armed with an oak tree as his club. As he crashes towards the knight, the latter can’t even raise his sword in defence. When the monster brings the oaktree crashing down at the knight, who scarcely manages to dodge it, Duessa asks Orgoglio to take him alive, and promises herself to him. The giant picks them both up and carries them back to his castle, where he throws the knight into his dungeon and dresses Duessa in fine clothes and jewels. He also presents her with a mount with seven heads and a tail reaching to the sky, with which to bring terror to others.

The knight’s attendant dwarf had meanwhile gathered up his master’s armour and weapons, and bumped into Una, who was still fleeing from Sansloy. She is devastated by the sight of the burden being carried by the dwarf, and swoons away in grief three times. The dwarf explains what he had seen, encouraging Una to set out to discover the fate of her beloved knight.

As Una traces the path shown by the dwarf, she meets a young knight wearing dazzling armour decorated with gold and jewels, the largest of which is shaped like the head of a lady. Strangely, his shield is covered; it had been made for him by the wizard Merlin as an invincible weapom whose light can dim the sun, and turn men to stone. This knight is Prince Arthur, who is riding on a private mission.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The Redcrosse knight is captive made (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Arthur asks Una what troubles her, and on hearing the story of the Redcrosse Knight and his capture by a monster, the prince promises to free her knight. The dwarf leads them off towards Orgoglio’s castle.

Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen (c 1769), India ink and watercolour on cardboard, 38.2 x 50 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.
Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen (c 1788), oil on canvas, 102.5 × 109 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland. Wikimedia Commons.

Principal Characters

Archimago, an evil sorceror who tries to stop all knights in the service of the Faerie Queen.

Prince Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, bearer of a magic shield which blinds his enemies and turns them to stone, and future king.

Duessa, Una’s opposite, personifying falsehood, and the symbol of the Roman Catholic Church.

Lucifera, the usurper queen of the House of Pride.

Orgoglio, a giant about twenty feet (over six metres) tall, the son of Mother Earth.

Redcrosse Knight, hero of Book 1, “Holiness”, a knight on his first adventure, Saint George.

Sansfoy, a Saracen knight, the older brother of Sansloy and Sansjoy.

Sansjoy, a Saracen knight, the younger brother of Sansfoy and Sansloy.

Sansloy, a Saracen knight, younger brother of Sansloy, and brother to Sansjoy.

Satyrane, son of a satyr and a fair lady, who left the woods and became a noble knight, retaining his woodland skills.

Sylvanus, a sylvan god, the son of Pan and father of satyrs.

Una, accompanies the Redcrosse Knight, and the symbol of the ‘true’ (Protestant) Church.


Wikipedia on The Faerie Queene, with a partial summary
Wikipedia on Edmund Spenser

Richard Danson Brown (2019) The Art of the Faerie Queene, Manchester UP. ISBN 978 0 7190 8732 5. (Note: this isn’t about visual art, but literary art and poetics.)
AC Hamilton (ed) (2007) Spenser, the Faerie Queene, 2nd edn, Routledge. ISBN 978 1 4058 3281 6. (Critical edition.)
Elizabeth Heale (1999) The Faerie Queene, A Reader’s Guide, 2nd edn, Cambridge UP. ISBN 978 0 521 65468 5.
Douglas Hill (1980) Edmund Spenser, The Illustrated Faerie Queene, Newsweek Books. No ISBN.
Richard A McCabe (ed) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser, Oxford UP. ISBN 978 0 1987 0967 1.