Edmund Spenser – “The Faerie Queene” (ctd.)

The king calls Una, who in the meantime changed her widow’s dress, in which she used to ride, for a white robe made of silk and silver woven together. Her description is reminiscent of the “wife of the Lamb”, as described in the Revelation. Even Redcrosse, who knows her well, is amazed at her beauty. Before the king manages to say anything, a messenger runs into the hall and delivers a letter to the king. In the letter a woman claiming she is the daughter of the Emperor of the West, says that the knight has been betrothed to her and so by uniting his daughter and him, the king would be a party to an act of treachery and vow-breaking. But of course we already know from the epigraph that the letter comes from Duessa, or as she signs herself, Fidessa. Interestingly enough, Spenser here breaks off the rhyme pattern of his stanza to add her name – it’s like the whole letter is written in his regular stanza, and then the signature “Fidessa” is appended at the end. Does he just imitate the way letters end in real life, or does this breaking of the structural pattern signify the disruptive nature of Duessa/Fidessa? The king is flabbergasted, but then calls upon Redcrosse to explain himself.

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