Friday, 27 October 2017

The Faerie Queen Book One Canto Four

Redcrosse and Duessa (in disguise as Fidessa) arrive at the House of Fame, encounter Lucefera and her six evil Wizards, then meet Sans Joy, the brother to the Sarizen Sans Foy, who challenges Redcrosse to a joust. Duessa meets Sans Joy and promises him secret aid.

As usual, Spenser loves his extended solar metaphors, day never just dawns, instead it gets a whole stanza, as does night, when people fall asleep the metaphor is Morpheus literally beaning them with a lead mace. Queen Lucifera gets a lot of light and brightness metaphors and Duessa uses day/night metaphors to persuade Sans Joy.

Idleness; a Monk on an ass. Gluttony; fat, naked except for leaves, riding a pig, holding a "bouzing can" and vomiting everywhere. Lechery; filthy, black, riding a goat and carrying a burning heart. Avarice; joyless, clad in rags but riding a camel strapped with cash and literally counting money as he goes. Envy; riding a ravenous wolf, chewing a poisonous toad and spitting poison as he goes. Then Wrath in bloodstained rags, eyes like ash, riding a ravenous lion, his hand trembling with raaaaage, a dagger in it.

Hows that for an encounter?

We are only a short way in and its interesting how many ways Spencer has re-combined some very simple archetypes, often by creating their anti-being, putting them in disguise or showing mirror-relationships.

He really is an excellent genre writer, a good storyteller. In the previous Canto we got a primary bad guy accidentally taking out his friend, the evil wizard, who was disguised as Redcrosse, which was a neat dramatic moment for the audience but also a nice bit of drama - the bad guys also have relationships and friendships. Here we get Duessa, in disguse as Fidessa, lying her ass off in order to provoke and aid Sans Joy into killing Redcrosse, almost a complete reversal of the classic "good" chivalric relationship, but indescernable from the real thing.

These manchean, architypal characters don't have depth in the literary sense, but the number and strangeness of the situations they are placed into, especially with the lies, illusions, mistakes and mirroring, almsot project that psychological depth and questioning out into the imagined world.

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