The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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Duessa Character Analysis

Duessa is an evil witch who is originally introduced as the lady of the pagan Sansfoy. In fact, she isn’t a fair lady but an old hag who disguises her appearance. In Book I she tricks the Redcross Knight (by pretending to be a faithful woman named Fidessa), but she is found out and punished by being exiled into the woods. She continues to deceive noble knights, however, and is eventually put on trial in Book V. Duessa represents the opposite of the true and virtuous Una, and she seems to also represent Catholicism, which could appear similar to Protestantism on the surface, but which for many Protestants in Spenser’s time was considered a false religion, just as Duessa is false.

Duessa Quotes in The Faerie Queene

The The Faerie Queene quotes below are all either spoken by Duessa or refer to Duessa. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
).
Book I: Canto IV Quotes

Young knight, what ever that does armes professe,
And through long labours huntest after fame,
Beware of fraud, beware of ficklenesse,
In choice, and change of thy deare loved Dame

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Redcross Knight, Duessa, Una
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Book V: Canto X Quotes

When they had seene and heard her doome a rights
Against Duessa, damned by them all;
But by her tempred without griefe or gall,
Till strong constraint did her thereto enforce.

Related Characters: Duessa, Mercilla, Arthegall
Page Number: 838
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Faerie Queene LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Faerie Queene PDF

Duessa Character Timeline in The Faerie Queene

The timeline below shows where the character Duessa appears in The Faerie Queene. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book I: Canto II
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...contains the words Sans foy (“without faith”). Next to Sansfoy the Saracen is a lady (Duessa) in scarlet who wears a Persian-style crown. She is the Saracen’s lover, and she asks... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
After seeing her lover Sansfoy die, the scarlet lady (Duessa) pleads for mercy from the Redcross Knight. The knight is moved and asks who she... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...a tree, whose name was Fraelissa. He tells the story: Fraelissa and the disguised sorceress Duessa have a contest to see which of them Fradubio considers the fairest. Seeing that she... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Fradubio continues his story: At first, he and Duessa are happy. Then one day, Fradubio sees Duessa bathing, which reveals her true form as... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Fidessa overhears this—it turns out that Fidessa is in fact just a new disguise for Duessa. Duessa looks afraid and faints, but the Redcross Knight doesn’t realize the truth about her... (full context)
Book I: Canto IV
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
...knights like the Redcross Knight of how they can be led astray by people like Duessa (who is still disguised as a fair lady named Fidessa). As the Redcross Knight travels,... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lucifera usurped the throne through trickery and brutality, and she has become a tyrant. Duessa (still disguised) leads the Redcross Knight toward Lucifera. (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Lucifera and the deadly sin beasts ride for pleasure across flowery fields, with Duessa sitting right next to Lucifera. The Redcross Knight, however, is out of place in this... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Night falls. While everyone is sleeping, Duessa gets up and goes to find Sansjoy, who is awake and plotting ways to defeat... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Duessa fears that Sansjoy may be defeated by bad fortune. Sansjoy reassures her. Duessa says she’ll... (full context)
Book I: Canto V
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...appears in full armor. Finally, Lucifera herself makes a stately procession into the hall, with Duessa at her side. (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Duessa hangs Sansfoy’s shield from a tree—both she and the shield will go to the victor... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Duessa shouts to encourage Sansjoy, but the Redcross Knight believes she’s encouraging him. He begins to... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Meanwhile Duessa weeps until the evening. When it’s dark, however, she ventures out to see Night, a... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Knight will pay a price in his own blood for slaying Sansfoy. Night asks who Duessa is, and she replies that she’s the daughter of Deceit and Shame. Night says that... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Together, Night and Duessa ride to the place where Sansjoy is laying on the ground. They take him away... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
In the smoke- and sulfur-filled underworld, where the god Pluto reigns, Night and Duessa continue to ride their chariot with the wounded Sansjoy. Along the way, they see many... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Night and Duessa present Sansjoy to Æsculapius for treatment. At first, Æsculapius is reluctant to help because he’s... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
When Duessa gets back to the palace, she finds the Redcross Knight and the dwarf visiting the... (full context)
Book I: Canto VII
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
In the disguise of Fidessa again, Duessa comes in search of the Redcross Knight. She finds him without his armor on near... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Duessa suggests that instead, Orgoglio can claim the Redcross Knight as a prisoner and force him... (full context)
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
...she faints three times. The dwarf tells her about how the knight was misled by Duessa and Archimago and how he was captured and taken away by Orgoglio the giant. (full context)
Book I: Canto VIII
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...reach Orgoglio the giant’s castle. They blow a horn at the gate, and Orgoglio leaves Duessa to see what the noise is. Orgoglio is ready to fight, and he lifts up... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...arm, causing streams of blood to flow out. The giant lets out a fearsome bellow. Duessa hears it and rides out the gate on her seven-headed beast, but Arthur’s squire stops... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Angered by the magic Duessa used on his squire, Prince Arthur smites off one of the heads of Duessa’s mount.... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
...off his shield, and it lets out a blazing light that stuns both Orgoglio and Duessa’s beast. Orgoglio realizes that the shield represents a power that he won’t be able to... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Duessa grieves to see the fall of Orgoglio. The squire captures her and brings her to... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Prince Arthur asks what they should do about Duessa, the source of all their recent misfortune. Una suggests that instead of killing her, they... (full context)
Book I: Canto IX
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
...as the way he was false with Una and instead chose to serve the evil Duessa. Despair says it’s God’s law that sinners should die, and so it is better that... (full context)
Book I: Canto XII
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
...because the knight is already betrothed to another: Fidessa (the disguised form of the witch Duessa). (full context)
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... (full context)
Book II: Canto I
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
...him to be righteous. It turns out this lady is in fact the evil sorceress Duessa, once again in disguise. (full context)
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
Archimago and Duessa met up while Duessa was wandering naked in the woods after being defeated in the... (full context)
Book IV: Canto I
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...side-by-side with a lady. As it turns out, however, one of the ladies is false Duessa (the sorceress who appeared in previous books) and the other is Ate, who is known... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Her ultimate goal is to overthrow Concord, and along the way, she has been helping Duessa to hurt good knights. (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The knight with Ate is Blandamour, who is fickle and unreliable. The other knight, with Duessa, is Paridell (who carried off and then unceremoniously abandoned Hellenore in the previous book). Britomart,... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Just then Duessa intervenes and tells the knights they have no reason to be angry at each other.... (full context)
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Scudamore accuses Ate of lying. Duessa, however, says that she did in fact see Amoretta kissing another knight. Although Duessa is... (full context)
Book IV: Canto V
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...of all the ladies present. Cambina (who is with Cambell), Canacee (who is with Triamond), Duessa (who is with Paridell), and Amoretta (who is with Britomart) are all in contention, but... (full context)
Book IV: Canto VI
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
...Britomart if she has any news. Britomart says she isn’t sure; after saving Amoretta from Duessa, and traveling with her for a while, one day Britomart woke up and Amoretta wasn’t... (full context)
Book V: Canto IX
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
A woman who looks beautiful but is accused of serious crimes (Duessa) is brought before the court. A man called Zeal stands up and tells of Duessa’s... (full context)
Book V: Canto X
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The narrator praises mercy, a virtue that Mercilla has in abundance. Duessa is seen as guilty by all in the court and Mercilla regretfully allows her to... (full context)