Anticipation Stage and Call
Called on by the Faerie Queene to assist Una and her parents with their dragon problem, Redcrosse begins his quest with great anticipation for its heroic potential. Although the dragon's threat is present from the beginning, Redcrosse is a little bit too eager to face an enemy ASAP and prove his worth, which leads him into the cave of the monster, Error (which, as you maybe have guessed, was an error).
The fight with Error represents Redcrosse's first test of his knighthood and it anticipates the climactic encounter with the Dragon at the end of the book. However, since Redcrosse exists in an allegorical universe, we understand all the monsters and villains he faces as representations of monsters and villains that exist inside himself. In this way, while the Dragon is the Big Baddie of Book 1, Redcrosse's truest enemy is himself… which he constantly faces, fights, and must master and overcome.
Believing that Una has made some shocking sexual moves on him during the night at Archimago's, Redcrosse leaves her behind and finds himself increasingly frustrated and isolated from his true past and true quest. He gets mixed up with the dishonest Duessa, who leads him astray from his quest to both a house of sin with Lucifera (scandal!) and, eventually, prison. This whole knight thing doesn't seem to be all it's cracked up to be…
Since the true enemy to Redcrosse in Book I is Redcrosse himself, it's in the literally nightmarish pit of Despair that Redcrosse hits his lowest point and almost commits suicide. All too easily convinced by the discouraging and hopeless words of the monster Despair, Redcrosse prepares to kill himself, stopping only because Una rushes in to intervene. Since Redcrosse is the knight of holiness, and thus supposed to be in touch with Christian moral belief, committing suicide is a big no-no—it represents a complete rejection of God and his capacity for forgiveness.
The Thrilling Escape from Death and the Death of the Monster
The final battle with Dragon demonstrates both Redcrosse's honed fighting skills and his newly gained spiritual insight. A monster like the dragon (and like all the climactic villains in The Faerie Queene), requires more than just brawn to be overcome. Vanquishing these kinds of monsters require wisdom and moral insight as well. Cementing his right to be a hero and knight, Redcrosse kills the dragon after two near-death incidents and claims the prize of Una, although their marriage must wait until he fulfills all his duties as knight.