ENGL 41 3rd essay

ENGL 41 3rd essay - Mallory Carlson Professor Brown...

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Mallory Carlson Professor Brown ENGL 41 13 November 2006 Deception and Delusion in 16 th Century Literature In the sixteenth century, drama exploded as a popular artistic genre. The emergence of a new genre, especially during the cultural boom of the Renaissance, intensifies and complicates character and theme (because due to a new genre, there are more areas of human life to explore) within major works such as Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and Shakespeare’s King Lear . In the introduction to The Faerie Queene , the editors of The Norton Anthology state that “In addition to enthralling readers, the poem habitually entraps, misleads, and deludes them” (715). The evolution of characters such as King Lear and Redcrosse Knight provide a broader context for the reader to understand theme and the importance of enthrallment, delusion, and entrapment in sixteenth century literature. The heroic protagonist of Book 1 of The Faerie Queene, Redcrosse Knight, represents (as his name implies) a Christian man who wishes to free his future wife, Una’s family from a dragon in her homeland. Una represents Truth, without which Redcrosse Knight cannot find true faith. Hence, in the first and second cantos, the reader sees the various ways in which evildoers attempt to separate Una and Redcrosse knight (Truth and Holiness), because it is understood that they are interdependent; holiness cannot prevail without truth, and vice-versa. After having defeated the beast Errour, Redcrosse Knight and Una come upon a hermit who offers them lodging for the night. The two heroes are deceived by this seemingly harmless recluse who is actually the evil enchanter, Archimago. Through his shape-shifting ways, Archimago conjures up spirits
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that mislead Redcrosse Knight into thinking that Una has deceived him overnight, and the next morning, Redcrosse Knight leaves promptly without waiting for Una. With his cunning trickery, Archimago takes advantage of Redcrosse Knight’s innocence and inexperience by creating the illusion of a sinful Una. It is interesting to note that the separation of Holiness and Truth is not only caused by evil beings, but by the mere implication of lustful, sinful behavior. While it is clear that Spenser’s “understanding of faith and of sin owes much to Catholic thinkers,” his didactic messages concerning religious behavior and values are complicated by the reader’s understanding of faith and truth (707). For example, in the character of Duessa, the reader learns that she is initially presented as a beautiful and humble woman named Fidessa (meaning “faithful”). However, since she (Duessa) is in fact a witch, she has the ability to take on different forms. She appears in this part of the story in order to distract Redcrosse Knight from the Truth (Una) with her beauty, and through her powers, she is able to successfully delude the ever-innocent Redcrosse Knight. As the reader becomes more aware of Duessa’s duplicitous nature, it becomes
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ENGL 41 3rd essay - Mallory Carlson Professor Brown...

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