Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 1: Canto 2

By Edmund Spenser

Book 1: Canto 2

  • Once morning is approaching, the various evil spirits go back to Archimago and explain their failures. Archimago, angry, returns to his magic books.
  • He decides to make one of his other spirits look like a young knight, and has the spirit that looks like Una get in bed with him.
  • Archimago then wakes Redcrosse up and claims that Una is in a compromising situation with some young upstart knight.
  • Shocked and angered, Redcrosse follows the magician who shows him what he thinks is Una indeed sleeping with someone else.
  • Redcrosse is extremely jealous and would have killed the young "man" if the magician hadn't stopped him.
  • So, Redcrosse returns to bed, is unable to sleep, and finally, once morning comes, leaves with the dwarf immediately.
  • Soon after, the real Una wakes up and, astounded to find Redcrosse and her dwarf gone, waits until she realizes they must have gone, and tries to follow them on her donkey.
  • Unfortunately, she can only go very slowly (poor donkey!) and Archimago watches with delight as the companions end up separated from each other.
  • But evil Archimago is not satisfied with this, and plots further ways to harm Una… since, apparently, he hates her.
  • He decides he needs to disguise himself—since that's pretty easy for him being a magician and all—as Redcrosse.
  • He does such a good job that even though he's a cowardly magician, he looks just like the knight.
  • Meanwhile, the real Redcrosse, who we now learn is St. George, is simply wandering, trying not to think about Una or his own jealousy.
  • As he's wandering, he runs into a Saracen (someone Islamic) who is traveling with a beautiful and well-dressed woman in red.
  • She's flirting with her companion until she sees Redcrosse coming and asks her knight to challenge him as a sign of his affection.
  • When they see each other, they rush at one another with violence and are both amazed at the strength of the other, just like two rams in a violent fight.
  • The two continue to fight hand-to-hand, but still neither wins, and the Saracen curses Redcrosse's red cross, which the Saracen believes is protecting him.
  • He lunges at Redcrosse, cutting away some of his protective armor, which in turn makes Redcrosse so filled with virtuous anger that he kills the Saracen.
  • The lady in red takes off, but Redcrosse overtakes her and once she's caught, she begs him for mercy.
  • He assures her she has nothing to fear and asks to know who she is.
  • Crying, she tells him that she's the daughter of an Emperor and that she was engaged to a wonderful prince.
  • Unfortunately this prince died and she's been wandering ever since, full of sorrow.
  • She accidentally met the Saracen, who she says forced her to accompany him but that they never slept together. He's one of three no-good brothers: his name is Sans foy, the eldest, the youngest is named Sans joy, and the middle brother is named Sans loy.
  • Her name is Fidessa and she begs Redcrosse to take pity on her.
  • Redcrosse, who's been more busy checking out her beauty rather than listening to her story, assures her she is safe and promises to protect her, and so off they go together.
  • They had been traveling a while, and the afternoon was hot so when they come across a couple of shady—maybe too shady—trees they decide to stop for a rest.
  • They sit and chitchat. Redcrosse thinks she's so pretty he makes her a little crown of branches.
  • But all of a sudden, the tree starts speaking—go figure—and begs them not to hurt him.
  • He urges them to leave this place immediately, warning them that the same horrible thing that happened to him and his lady could happen to them.
  • Stunned for a moment, Redcrosse asks who this ghost is. The tree-person responds that he is in fact a man named Fradubio who has been turned into a tree by a witch.
  • Redcrosse urges Fradubio to tell his story, since telling a story can often be a source of comfort.
  • Fradubio explains the witch is named Duessa and that he met her while he was traveling with his own ladylove.
  • Duessa was traveling with another knight, who fought with Fradubio over whose lady was better, and once Fradubio killed him, Duessa came under his protection.
  • Fradubio was at a complete loss as to which of these two ladies was more beautiful and Duessa, determined to win, cast a spell over his lady, Fralissa, to make her look ugly.
  • Fradubio, being a real stand-up guy, immediately got rid of Fralissa.
  • Fradubio and Duessa spend some quality time together until one night, Fradubio sees Duessa not in-disguise but as she really is and realizes she's a horrible monster/old woman. He tries to run away, but Duessa catches him and turns him into a tree where Fralissa has been trapped all along.
  • Redcrosse wants to know how he can help poor Fradubio, but Fradubio says that the only way to lift the spell is for him to be "bathed in a living well" (running water) (I.ii.43).
  • As it turns out, Fidessa, Redcrosse's new companion, is actually Duessa in another disguise and she's heard Fradubio's whole story.
  • In order to distract Redcrosse, she pretends to be dead, so that he ends up trying to revive her. When she wakes up, they're both so relieved that they make out.