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The Fantasy Of Disclosure In The Faerie Queene: A Look At Misogyny And The Fear Of Female Sexuality

2375 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 heterosexual ...view middle of the document...

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) Commented [LG2]: There’s a nice pun here, since “fundament” also means “bottom” or “nether parts”…. Which I suspect is what Spenser is driving at! Commented [LG1]: Good sense of the ideology of sexual reproduction here….

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 reading Errour as...

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