An allegory is a story in verse or prose with double meaning: a primary or surface meaning; and secondary or underlying meaning. In an allegory something is presented in the guise of another. Allegorically, In Book 1 of The Faerie Queene Spenser has shown the fight between vices and virtues and finally the triumph of virtue. Now we need a critical discussion that The Faerie Queene is an allegory.
Moral and spiritual allegory in The Faerie Queene deals with the action and interaction of virtues and vices. The good characters stand for the various virtues and the bad characters stand for the corresponding vices. The Red Cross Knight stands for Holiness, and Lady Una, Truth and Goodness. Her parents symbolize Human race and the Dragon who has imprisoned them stands for evil. The mission of Holiness is to help Truth fight Evil and thus regain its rightful place in the human heart. Thus the Red Cross Knight encouraged by Lady Una kills the monster error and marches ahead on his way. This is the first moral truth taught by the story. Archimago, the magician, who symbolizes Hypocrisy is an evil in disguise. His mission is to work out sinister design and intrigues against the Red Cross Knight and the Lady Una so that they may be separated from each other.
The moral and spiritual allegory blends with the religious allegory of the book. The Reformation was the most important religious movement of the time and in his epic Spenser has represented it allegorically. He is strong supporter of the Reformed Church of England, which is the only true church for him, and against Papacy and the Catholic Church. Here Red Cross Knight stands for the Reformed Church of England. The parents Lady Una represent Humanity, and the foul dragon who has imprisoned them is the Pope of Rome. The Monster Error allegorically stands for error or mistakes which human beings make in course of their lives. The fight of the Red Cross Knight with the monster Error, symbolizes the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism. The books and papers vomited by Error allude to the scurrilous pamphlets directed against Queen Elizabeth by the Roman Catholics.
The moral and religious allegories are mingled with political allegory in The Faerie Queene. According to political allegory, the Red Cross Knight is St. George of England and Lord Leicester is Prince Arthur. Lady Una stands for Truth which is represented by the National Church of England. Una’s parents are the people of England who are hold in subjection by Roman Catholicism represented by the Dragon (Antichrist). The Monster Error is one of the powerful but evil forces of Roman Catholicism. Archimago stands for Philip-2 of Spain, who was a Roman Catholic by faith. Archimgo, one instrument of the separation between the Red Cross Knight (Holiness) and Lady Una (Truth), may also be identified with the Roman Catholic Pope.
To conclude, according to above discussion, we can say that Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” is one of the greatest allegorical epic we have ever read in English literature. It is an excellent moral and spiritual allegory.