May 4, 2011 Leave a comment
Tracing the Possible Influences for “Redcrosse Knight” and “Lucifera”
Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen represents a high point in British Renaissance literature. Intended to be a mythological epic modeled after the epics of Greece and Rome, Spenser’s allegory would give a historic pedigree to Britain as the successor to those empires, as well as securing Spenser’s place as an epic master along the lines of Homer and Vergil. This vast work of poetry, however, is a very complex piece that draws on numerous classical and religious traditions, as well as the thought of hermetic and occultic groups that were prominent in Spenser’s day. The purpose of this paper will be to analyze the curious character “Lucifer,” and what sources Spenser may be drawing from to form this imagery, as well as what the character means within the layers of symbolism.
Lucifera first appears in Book I, Cato IV as a female manifestation of Duessa. Spenser critic Elizabeth Heale explains of Duessa:
Where Una’s name points to the singleness of truth, Duessa’s signifies the doubleness of falsehood and deceit. The reader is alerted to her significance in the Argument to Canto ii, but like Una, she is most fully identified by her appearance. Redcrosse, separated now from Una, meeets Duessa accompanied by the Saracen Sansofoy and richly dressed in a manner which ought to be instantly recognizable:
A goodly Lady clad in scarlot red,
Purfled with gold and pearle of rich assay,
And like a Persian mitre on her head
She wore, with crownes and owches garnished,
The which her lauish louers to her gaue;
Her wanton palfrey all was ouerspred
With tinsell trappings, wouen like a waue,
Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses braue.
The imagery of scarlet, gold and jewels is from the description in Revelation (12:4) of the Whore of Babylon, commonly interpreted by the Protestants as the Papacy. The contrast to Una, Truth and the Reformed Church is developed point by point: the clothing, the mount, the companion.1