Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Loyalty

By Edmund Spenser

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We can think of loyalty as the glue that keeps this unwieldy and sometimes disjointed poem together. Loyalty is what brings all of our protagonist knights together (eventually) and what allows them to work together and help each other out.

Loyalty is a particularly important concept in the universe of The Faerie Queene because it doesn't only govern relationships between lovers, or between knights who already know each other. It also governs the bond formed between knights who have just met and don't know each other at all. We can usually immediately figure out if a knight is a "good guy" because he immediately assumes a knightly loyalty toward all well-intentioned knights.

Questions About Loyalty

  1. Is loyalty only a quality associated with good knights or do bad knights also seem to have loyalty? Give examples to support your answer.
  2. What, if anything, is the difference between friendship and loyalty? What about love and loyalty?
  3. Do we see loyalty articulated differently depending on the context (for example, in fighting, romance, and politics)? Or, does loyalty seem to be a universal language that transcends particular situations?

Chew on This

Because knights seem to so easily vow loyalty to one another (even if they barely know one another), loyalty doesn't actually seem like such a special thing. It's been reduced to something almost routine.

If loyalty is the glue that keeps the knights in the poem together, it's not doing a very good job! Knights still find themselves abandoned, helpless, imprisoned, and excluded despite this whole system of loyalty.

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