The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The narrator says that he can see a safe journey’s end for Una and the Redcross Knight. At the castle, a watchman calls out that the dragon is dead. As the news sounds, the doors of the castle gate, which have long been closed, are finally opened again. The old King and Queen come down in their royal robes, prostrating themselves before the Redcross Knight while laurels are thrown at him.
Though the climax of Book I has passed, there are still some plot threads to resolve, including what happened to Una’s parents, the king and queen of Eden.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Children play, and maidens make music in celebration. As Una watches them, she seems like the goddess Diana in the forest with her nymphs. A crowd of people gathers around the Redcross Knight in admiration, though they are afraid of getting too close to the dragon’s corpse, with some even thinking they see it move its eyes.
The celebratory nature of the final canto of the book reveals how, when one person like the Redcross Knight becomes holier, it can have a ripple effect that makes things better for everyone around him.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The King bestows fine gifts of gold and ivory upon the Redcross Knight, then after embracing his daughter, Una, they all go into the palace. The inside is richly decorated and there is a feast with all kinds of different foods and drinks.
Unlike with Orgoglio, there is no blood of innocents in this wealthy castle, suggesting that its wealth is the just reward of a life lived virtuously.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The King and Queen listen with interest to the Redcross Knight’s retelling of his journey, feeling pity for all the misfortune he had to endure. The King says that now that the knight has survived all his ordeals, they should make plans for him to rest. The knight, however, says he can’t rest because of his faith—he must return to the Faerie Queene and serve her for six more years in her war against a pagan king.
The pagan king may correspond to Philip in Spain, who was an enemy of England at the time. Despite or perhaps because of her infallible virtue, the Faerie Queene seems to always have enemies somewhere in the world that she needs her knights to take care of.
Themes
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British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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The King and the Redcross Knight decide that once the knight’s six remaining years of service are up, he’ll come back to marry Una. The king calls Una in, and she appears as bright as a morning star and as fresh as a flower in May.
Redcross’s devotion to Una is one of his highest purposes, and yet his devotion to the Faerie Queene is even higher priority, emphasizing how important duty was to knights in his time.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
But just as Una arrives, a messenger rushes into the hall. He has a message for the King, telling him not to let his daughter marry the Redcross Knight because the knight is already betrothed to another: Fidessa (the disguised form of the witch Duessa).
Just when the book seems to be over, however, one final complication turns up to potentially ruin Redcross and Una’s future happiness.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The King asks what this message means. The Redcross Knight explains how the witch Duessa used her magic to trick him into betraying Una. Una steps forward to say that she already knows about Duessa and that she also knows that the Redcross Knight is so pained by his mistakes that he almost wanted to die. Una explains that the messenger is yet another one of Duessa’s tricks.
By this point in the story, however, evil has already been soundly defeated, and so this last obstacle comes across as pathetic and desperate, emphasizing how far the forces of evil have fallen over the course of the book.
Themes
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Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The King is moved by Una’s words, and he angrily has the messenger locked up in the dungeon. They decide that preparations should begin at once for the wedding of the Redcross Knight and Una, with the King himself performing the ceremony. The palace fills with angelic music and frankincense.
The wedding of Redcross and Una faces no further delays and represents the end of the long journeys each of them endured to reach this point.
Themes
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Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The day of the wedding between the Redcross Knight and Una is joyful for everyone. Still, despite his joy, the knight remembers his promise to return to the Faerie Queene. Shortly after the wedding he does so, leaving Una to mourn his absence. The narrator says that this part of the story is like when sailors land to drop off some of their passengers before speeding on to finish their journey.
The ending of Book I establishes that despite the sense of finality in this canto, there is still plenty of story left to tell, and even the Redcross Knight’s own journey isn’t yet complete, given the oath of duty that he’s pledged to the Faerie Queene.
Themes
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Quotes