NARRATIVE OUTLINE:

THE FAERIE QUEENE, BOOK I,

"The Legende of the Knight of the Red Crosse, or of Holinesse"

 

CANTO 1:

1-6: Introduction of the central characters, the knight and the lady

6-7: A storm forces the pair to leave the plain and seek shelter in a nearby wood.

8-13: In the wood the pair wander, coming upon a hollow cave, the den of the monster Error.

14-28: The knight fights and slays Error; the pair resume the journey, coming at last out of the wood.

29-36: The pair meet a hermit who offers them the sanctuary of his hermitage for the night.

37-44: While the pair sleep, the hermit (now revealed as an enchanter) conjures up two spirits; he sends one to the cave of Morpheus to get a false, deluding dream. We now learn that the hermit is named Archimago (i.43.6).

45-55: Meanwhile, Archimago has made a false image of Una (whose name we now learn [i.45.9]) out of the other spirit. He sends the dream and the false Una to the knight, who then dreams that she propositions him. He "starts up" from the dream and finds the lady (the false Una) at his side, repeating her pledge of love. The knight declares that her love is valuable to him, and she leaves him to his sleep. He is, of course, disquieted and muses on the "lightness" of the lady whose quest he has assumed.

 

CANTO 2:

1-6: The spirits report their dubious success to the hermit, who then tries a second scheme: he makes a handsome knight out of the dream-sprite, lays him in an embrace with the false lady, awakens the knight, and shows him the spirit-lovers. The knight angrily flees the hermitage, deserting the true lady. The lady's dwarf goes with him.

7-8: The lady awakens, finds her knight gone, and sets out after him.

9-10: The hermit-enchanter, whom we now learn is named Archimago, exults at his success in parting the pair; he fashions himself into a look-alike of the knight and sets off also.

11-27: Meanwhile, the knight (who is now called Redcrosse [ii.15.1]) meets a Saracen traveling with a lady. He and the Sarazin (Sansfoy) fight, and Redcrosse wins. The lady flees, but Redcrosse follows, having picked up the fallen warrior's shield as booty. When overtaken, the lady tells a sad story about her recent adventures. Her name, it seems, is Fidessa. She accepts Redcrosse's protection, and the pair travels on.

28-32: Weary, the pair seeks shelter under a pair of trees. Redcrosse plucks a branch from one tree to make a garland for Fidessa, and the tree cries out in protest.

33-43: The tree (Fradubio) tells his story, which concerns his true lady (Fraelissa) and an evil enchantress (Duessa)

44-45: Fidessa-whom we now learn is Duessa, but whom Redcrosse will not know as such until canto 8-faints, and Redcrosse comforts her. They continue their journey.

 

CANTO 3:

1-9: Una wanders in search of Redcrosse; she is almost attacked by a lion, which becomes her companion and protector.

10-15: Una and the lion follow home a maid they spy in the forest (Abessa). Despite a poor reception from the girl and her mother (Corceca), they take refuge at the house, the lion resting at Una's feet.

16-25: Their sleep is interrupted by Kirkrapine, Abessa's lover, whom the lion slays. Una and the lion flee. They are overtaken and cursed by the two women who, turning back, meet Archimago-Redcrosse and tell him their story.

26-32: Archimago-Redcrosse catches up with Una, who rejoices to have been reunited with her knight.

33-44: The pair, plus lion, meet the second Saracen brother (Sansloy), who attacks the fake Redcrosse for killing his brother (Sansfoy). The fake Redcrosse is dehorsed, and Sansloy, preparing to deliver the fatal blow, lifts the fallen knight's helmet to discover to his surprise and delight that the man is his old friend Archimago. Una is stunned, "her selfe so mockt to see." Sansloy seizes her, the lion leaps to her defense; Sansloy kills the lion and rides off with Una.

 

CANTO 4:

1-9: Meanwhile, Redcrosse and Fidessa-Duessa arrive at Lucifera's castle.

16-37: Lucifera and her councilors (the other Deadly Sins) make a "progress" into the countryside, accompanied by Satan.

38-43: They return to find Redcrosse, who has not progressed with them, in combat with a newly arrived knight, Sansjoy, who seeks revenge for Sansfoy (as did his brother, Sansloy). Lucifera stops the fight and redesigns it as a tournament to take place the next day.

44-55: At night, Fidessa-Duessa brings comfort to Sansjoy, urging him to victory.

 

CANTO 5:

1-15: Redcrosse and Sansjoy battle. Fidessa-Duessa calls encouragement to Sansjoy. Thinking her cheers are for him, Redcrosse redoubles his effort, felling Sansjoy, whose body is shrouded on the field by a dark cloud.

16-17: Lucifera convinces Redcrosse that he has won, even though he cannot find Sansjoy's body in the fog. As if in triumph, she processes to the castle with Redcrosse and leaves him to have his wounds tended.

18-44: Fidessa-Duessa, having wept crocodile tears at Redcrosse's bedside, hastens to Night, her grandmother, and asks help for Sansjoy. The two retrieve Sansjoy from the tournament field and carry him into the underworld where they persuade Aesculapius to treat his wounds

45-53: Fidessa-Duessa then returns to Lucifera's castle, only to discover that the dwarf has spied the dungeons full of sufferers and alerted Redcrosse. In horror, Redcrosse and the dwarf have fled through the rear of the castle.

 

CANTO 6:

1-9: Meanwhile, Una is fight off the lustful advances of Sansloy. She is rescued by a troop of satyrs who then worship her as their goddess.

20-39: Sir Satyrane, back in the forest to visit kin, helps her escape. The meet a pilgrim who tells them that Redcrosse has been killed.

40-48: Satyrane rides ahead to revenge the murder and encounters a wrathful knight. Una, recognizing the combatant as Sansloy, flees alone, pursued this time by the gloating pilgrim who is really-guess who-Archimago

 

CANTO 7:

1-13: When Fidessa-Duessa returns to Lucifera's castle from the journey into the underworld and discovers that Redcrosse has fled, she follows him and finds him at a fountain, "disarmed" and bewitched into carelessness by the magic fountain water. Redcrosse seems glad to see her again, and they relax together. Suddenly he hears a dreadful noise, but he does not reach his "unready weapons" quickly enough and he is defeated by the giant whose genealogy is given in cantos 10-11.

14-18: The giant takes Redcrosse to his castle and gives Duessa a multi-headed beast to ride.

19-28: The dwarf, seeing Redcrosse defeated, seeks out Una, and he tells her of the knight's misfortunes. After lamenting her supporter's fate, she sets out to find him.

29-37: She meets a knight and his squire (every Elizabethan reader would recognize the knight as Arthur, but he is not so named in the text yet).

38-52: Una tells the knight her troubles and he offers to help.

 

CANTO 8:

1-6: Una and her new defenders come to the giant's castle. The squire blows his horn, the castle doors fly open, and the giant and Duessa come out.

7-25: Arthur and the giant fight; the squire and Duessa fight. Arthur intervenes to rescue his squire, then dispatches with Orgoglio, who quite literally "deflates." Duessa is captured by the squire.

26-44: Una and Arthur enter the castle, following Ignaro (castle porter) into the interior. Inside, among other horrors, they find a bloody altar and an iron door, behind which they hear the sound of Redcrosse's lament. Arthur enters the dungeon and finds the knight wasted by his imprisonment. He reunites Una and Redcrosse.

45-50: Duessa is punished. Redcrosse sees for the first time what she really is.

 

CANTO 9:

1-20: Una asks Arthur to tell his story, which includes a dream of Gloriana (Arthur's name first occurs in the poem proper at ix.6.5). Looking happily ahead, Arthur and Redcrosse exchange tokens of friendship, and Arthur goes his way.

21-31: As they resume their journey, Una and Redcrosse are suddenly interrupted by a terrified knight with a rope around his neck who rides toward them. After some persuasion, the knight (Trevisan) tells them of his and his companion's encounter with Despair.

32-54: Eager to engage this foe, Redcrosse presses Trevisan to lead them to the cave of Despair. Despair persuades Redcrosse that his life is utter failure, and he urges self-murder. Redcrosse picks up a knife from Despair's arsenal of weapons, but Una snatches it from his hand, reproaches him for his weakness, and leads him out of the cave. Behind the departing figures, Despair hangs himself in a futile gesture of self-destruction.

 

CANTO 10:

1-22: Free at last from their wanderings, Redcrosse and Una arrive at the House of Holiness, headed by Dame Caelia and her three daughters (Fidelia, Speranza, and Charissa). The women give succor to the travelers, but their kindness intensifies Redcrosse's sense of failure.

23-34: Caelia's physician, Patience, takes over, purging the knight with the aid of Penance and Remorse, until he regains his strength. Other ministers give aid.

35-67: Redcrosse is taken to a hospital and from there to a hill where Contemplation shows him a goodly city (Jerusalem), predicts his future, and reveals his parentage.

68: Stunned by this vision, Redcrosse returns to Una; with thanks, the two take their leave.

CANTO 11:

1-5: Una and Redcrosse arrive at Una's home, see the tower in which the family is imprisoned, and spy the dragon sprawled on a nearby hill. Redcrosse sends Una to safety on a nearby hill and prepares himself for battle.

6-7: The narrator asks help in telling the story.

8-15: The dragon is described.

16-32: On the first day the dragon seems to have the better of it; after a particularly savage blow, Redcrosse is thrown into a fountain. The dragon leaves the field, claiming victory. Foolish dragon! He does not know, as we do, that he has cast the knight into the Well of Life. Una does not know this either, but she keeps her vigil.

33-50: On the second day Redcrosse awakens refreshed-"new-born," in fact. The dragon, thinking for a moment that his challenger is really a new knight, resumes the contest. Redcrosse is stronger, his weapons keener, and the battle is more even. Once again, however, he is forced from the field. This time, he falls down by the Tree of Life into its companion stream. The dragon, unwilling to approach the stream, relinquishes the field. Una again keeps vigil.

51-55: On the third day, the battle is concluded (I won't spoil how).

 

CANTO 12:

1-24: Seeing the dragon vanquished, the townspeople celebrate with dancing and feasts. Redcrosse explains his commitment to serve Gloriana, and the King, calling Una forth, betroths his daughter to Redcrosse.

25-36: A messenger interrupts the betrothal ceremony. He reads a letter from the supposed fiancée of Redcrosse. The knight explains the deceit in the letter to Una's father. Una exposes the messenger as Archimago, who is cast in a dungeon.

37-42: The celebration continues. After a time, Redcrosse leaves to fulfill his pledge to Gloriana, but he will return to assume his place as husband of Una and governor of Eden.