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Faerie Queene And Misogyny Essay

2341 words - 10 pages

The Fantasy of Disclosure in The Faerie Queene: A Look at
Misogyny and the Fear of Female Sexuality

In Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, fantasies are the clues to the substructures of
the unconscious. In Book I, fantasies work to expose the “ulcers” that threaten to destabilize the
magnanimity of the righteous Christian man. Spencer evokes the powerful use of images to
disclose the idea that the abyss of female sexuality is a direct threat to the virtues of
Protestantism. Two scenes in particular illustrate first, how females are viewed as the creators of
sin, which leads to weakness in man, and secondly, how female sexuality is the primary source
of misdirection for the ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, through the lens of this ideology, the “Other” undermines the established order of
Protestantism and its fantasy of rebirth in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (all males, of
Interestingly enough, the anti-feminism exhibited in Book I is there right from the first
depiction of courtly love between Redcrosse and Una. In stanza 10, Spenser illustrates a negative
depiction of courtly love because its seductive power distracts Redcrosse, leads him astray, and

Commented [LG3]: Yes, it’s true that the Incarnation and
Trinity are emphasized in protestant thought (vs. Marian veneration
in Catholic tradition)

into Errour’s cave. However, what’s also at play is the fantasy that despite having many choices
in life or “So many pathes,” the right path can only found through faith and Protestant ideology
(I.i.10). Thus, this fantasy is disrupted when Redcrosse ends up in doubt, loses his wits, and
cannot find his path. This is an important revelation in the narrative because it reveals that the
beauty of female sexuality has led Redcrosse astray. And as a result, he is momentarily incapable
of discerning or choosing the righteous path. Hence, the distraction of courtly love, and the
“delight” he experiences in Una, causes Redcrosse to end up in Errour’s cave. In this way, it’s
not surprising that the primary source of misdirection for Redcrosse is depicted as the blindness
that female capacities incite. Furthermore, it also turns out that being led “stray,” means in the
direction of the hideous dangers of female sexuality, the “darksome hole” of Errour’s cave where
Redcrosse is almost strangled by her desperate embrace (I.i.14).
However, I will first examine the encrypted fantasy that Redcrosse possesses in which he
strongly believes that “Vertue gives herself light, for daknesse for to wade” and thus believes
that by the nature of his faith he is capable of defeating any “hidden shade” (I.i.12). This fantasy
or notion holds that Christian truth is the “light” that can defeat evil. Likewise, it holds that since
Redcrosse has “Vertue,” he is infallible and indestructible. Hence, he also knows more than Una
by simple fact that she is a mere woman. Thus, her warnings to temper his rashness fall upon
deaf ears since there is a fantasy at play, which holds that Redcrosse possesses unyielding
righteousness that should serve to protect him from all unseen evils. Also, what does she know
since she is only a “Ladie milde”? Nonetheless, the fantasy is momentarily disrupted by the fact
that despite having virtue, Redcrosse is full of pride and almost dies as a result of his own hubris.
But, more importantly, this scene serves to exemplify the Protestant distrust of women and their
faculties, which further emphasizes the Protestant fantasy of male supremacy over women.

This makes sense since Errour is “A monster vile, whom God and man does hate,” which
in itself has two meanings. The first points to...

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