What is the allegorical significance of the fight between the Monster of Error and the Red Cross Knight?
Ans. Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene’ is a vast allegory in which each character and incident is based upon allegory. Spenser wrote the poem with richly textured allegorical design.
The characters of the poem like the Knight, Lady Una, the Monster and Archimago and happenings like the Knight’s encounter with the horrible monster and also Archimago’s evil design to corrupt the Knight’s imagination are not only characters and happenings, but also refer to some deep allegorical meanings.
In the terms of moral allegory, the Red Cross Knight personifies holiness in the poem. Lady Una is his companion who represents truth. This means that holiness and truth from a party and set out together. They are travelling to the kingdom of Lady Una’s parents where the Red Cross Knight would fight against the Dragon, who represents the devil. Allegorically, holiness is required to fight against the devil for the spiritual emancipation of mankind. The Monster of Error is the first enemy of the Red Cross Knight whom the Knight encounters in the forest is an allegorical symbol for error. He also represents the evil for working in the dark. This evil force can only be overcome by the combined strength of holiness and truth. However, error is conquered when the monster is killed.
Again, Archimago personifies hypocrisy and infidelity who is also an evil force on disguise whom the Knight and Lady Una come upon in Canto-I of Book-I. He is outwardly pious but inwardly malicious and dangerous.
Religious allegory is basically founded on the historical conflict between Catholicism and
Protestantism. Spenser was a strong supporter of the Anglican Church as it embraced
Protestantism. His purpose in this poem is to denounce Catholic Church by glorifying the Anglican Church. In the poem, the Red Cross Knight symbolises the Church of England while Monster of Error and Archimago represent the Catholic Church.
Political allegory is closely connected with the religious allegory as politics and religion had become almost inseparable from each other in the 16th century in which Spenser belonged. The religious conflict between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church had its impact upon the political scenario of England.
Thus, Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene, Book-I, Canto-I’ sets the poems allegorical design in motion. All the three types of allegory – moral, religious and political from a rich texture. One cannot read the poem without delving deep into the allegorical references which the characters and happenings aim at.