The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene: Book I: Canto VI Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After defeating Archimago (who had been disguised as the Redcross Knight), Sansloy takes Una with him. He tries to court her with his words, but she remains not tempted. When his words don’t work, Sansloy decides instead to try to take Una’s chastity by force. She struggles and cries out so loudly that the sound echoes throughout the surrounding area.
While virtuous knights respect the chastity of maidens, the less virtuous ones often try to take women by force. Archimago may have the appearance of the Redcross Knight, but even this is not enough to tempt Una.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
A group of fauns and satyrs (half-goat, half-man wood gods of ancient Greece and Rome) hear Una shouting. They go toward the source of the sound and find Una in a distressed state, causing Sansloy to run away. Taking pity on her, the fauns and satyrs want to comfort her, and so they bend before her to show their obedience. Then they play their pipes, and treating Una like a queen, they bring her to the old forest god Sylvanus.
Like the Lion, the satyrs are another force of nature that comes to protect Una when she needs it most. While nature can be unpredictable, even in The Faerie Queene, it is most often a force for good, acting in favor of virtuous characters and punishing those who are less than virtuous.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Sylvanus is old but is still passionate and enjoys pleasure. He has never seen a mortal as fair as Una. He and the other wood gods begin to worship Una, turning her into a sort of idol.
Idolatry (worshipping false gods instead of the true god) is a sin in Christianity, and so while the satyrs do help Una, it’s implied that they are pagans who perhaps don’t fully understand what they’re doing.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
One day, a fierce but noble knight called Sir Satyrane comes to the woods. He is known for his strength, which allows him to overcome even the most savage wild beasts. Una develops affection toward Satyrane and worries about how he tempts death so often. Nevertheless, Una’s heart remains in anguish as she longs to see the real Redcross Knight again, and she tells Satyrane one day of her plan to escape the satyrs.
Sir Satyrane will become a crucial figure in later books. He seems to combine the nobility of nature that the satyrs embody with the more traditional nobility of a knight like Redcross. Like any good knight, he sees the helpless Una and vows to protect her, respecting that she is already pledged to another knight.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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Sir Satyrane carries Una out of the woods with him, onto a plain. There they see a weary pilgrim (Archimago), whom they approach to ask for news about the Redcross Knight. The pilgrim carries a distinctive staff and has been across the world. The traveler tells Una that in fact he has seen the knight she’s looking for, both living and dead.
Pilgrims (people traveling for religious reasons) were common in medieval times. Spenser was highly influenced by The Canterbury Tales, a poem that is all about a group of traveling pilgrims.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Una feels a chill go through her veins. The pilgrim tells a story about how he saw the Redcross Knight fighting a pagan, and the pagan struck him down. Satyrane asks where the pagan is now, so that they can find him and strike him down. The pilgrim replies that he’s nearby, washing his wounds in a fountain.
The reader knows that the pilgrim is lying about the Redcross Knight’s death, which suggests that he is yet another evil character who has managed to disguise himself as something harmless.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Satyrane and Una head towards the fountain where they find a pagan. Satyrane tells the pagan to rise up and accuses him of slaying the Redcross Knight. The pagan, who turns out to be Sansloy, replies that he never slew the Redcross Knight but in fact only struck down Archimago. Nevertheless, Satyrane and Sansloy begin to fight, going at each other as fiercely as two boars.
Although Satyrane didn’t even know Una until recently, he is willing to fight to protect her, as any good knight following the code of chivalry would do. The comparison between Satyrane’s fighting and a wild boar emphasizes his connection to nature.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Satyrane and Sansloy continue raining down blows on each other. Suddenly, Sansloy notices Una and tries to go after her to catch her. But Satyrane keeps Sansloy occupied with more attacks, allowing Una to escape. However, the pilgrim, who turns out to be Archimago in disguise, chases after her.
Befitting his shapeshifting nature, Archimago keeps showing up in the story under different disguises. He represents how evil can take different forms depending on the occasion.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon