Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Justice and Judgment

By Edmund Spenser

Justice and Judgment

Justice is the explicit theme of Book V of the The Faerie Queene, but it's a topic that is significant throughout the poem. Judgment in particular is constantly used (and abused!) when characters face challenging, confusing, and potentially dangerous situations.

In fact, there is no virtue embodied by the other characters—Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, or Courtesy—that doesn't require a sense of justice and good judgment in order to be carried out well. Since we also know that appearances can be deceiving in The Faerie Queene, judgment is also an essential tool to differentiate between the good and the bad, and the true and the false.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. How can we reconcile justice and violence in the poem, especially in Book V? How does Spenser seem to reconcile them? Does it seem plausible?
  2. What's the relationship between judgment and love in the poem? Does love require judgment, or is does it also seem to transcend it at times?
  3. Do any of the villains we meet in the poem seem to have a sense of justice or judgment? Or are these qualities that are completely contrary to being a bad guy?

Chew on This

Justice is hard to totally understand in The Faerie Queene since so many bad things seem to happen to characters that don't deserve bad things at all.

It's hard to be clear on the representation of justice in the land of Faerie since there doesn't seem to be anything resembling a judicial system. Can there really be justice without that institution?