Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene (ctd.)

The knight approaches Una and greets her courteously, but he sees from her behaviour that she is troubled by something. They go into this long back-and-forth, where Una says “No, no, I can’t bring myself to even talk about my misfortunes, it’s like opening old wounds”, and the knight tries to convince her that talking about one’s problems can bring relief and you can maybe even get some useful advice or help. Finally Una agrees and she starts her story ab ovo, that is from the events that took place before the poem begins. Spenser here again follows the old convention of writing the epic poems – they should start in medias res, like for instance The Iliad begins in the last year of the Trojan war, and the necessary information is provided in the flashbacks, like the one we are about to read. This is largely the recap of what Spenser wrote in his letter to Raleigh, but it was printed only in the first edition and at the end of the book, not at the beginning. So if a 16-th c. reader didn’t have the presence of mind to check at the end, or s/he has the second edition, this was their first chance to learn about how Una came to hang out with Redcrosse in the first place. Una is the only daughter of king and queen of a country which can be identified through the names of the rivers Una mentions as the Garden of Eden. Their country has been invaded by a dragon and for four years they have been besieged in a castle by him. TBC.

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