Spenser famously wrote that his intention with The Faerie Queene was "to fashion a gentleman." (Hamilton, 714). An important part of a gentleman's educational process (according to Spenser) is developing a strong, Christian moral compass. And morality and ethics totally shapes almost every single moment in this poem.
Whether through encounters with characters who very explicitly embody moral virtues (such as Prudence) or more complicated characters who find themselves in challenging moral quandaries (like, ahem, Redcrosse with Duessa), Spenser wanted to illustrate moral dilemmas to serve as a learning experience for both his characters and his readers. Basically, Spenser was a 16th-century Dear Prudence.
Questions About Morality and Ethics
Because TheFaerie Queene is an allegory, characters and moral actions can seem very black-and-white. Do you think this is fair? Why or why not?
What is the relationship between violence and morality in the poem? Are the two irreconcilable? Or does Spenser see a place for violence in a moral world?
If you could summarize Spenser's idea of a moral life, how would you? Does the poem make it easy to do this? Why or why not?
Chew on This
Since Spenser uses allegory to depict moral and ethical problems, it's hard to translate those problems into the real world outside the poem… making Spenser's poem hard to apply to actual moral conundrums.
Spenser's Faerie Queene is able to directly and clearly address moral issues, since it doesn't worry about characters' personalities or psychological states.