The Symbolism Of Fidessa, Her Saracen Partner, And Her Fiance In The Faerie Queene

Fidessa is a character that is introduced by Edmund Spenser, in book 1, second canto. This character is vital to understanding Spenser’s message in this poem: The Roman Catholic Church is corrupted and interprets Christianity incorrectly. Fidessa’s name, Fidessa’s description and dress as well the death of Fidessa’s Fiance are key elements in understanding Spenser’s message about the Roman Catholic Church.

Fidessa appears to be the young, beautiful daughter of an emperor. Fidessa is the quintessential young maiden in the chivalric tale. She is beautiful (the knight can’t keep his eyes off her [26]), and is dressed in a grand manner (13). She is accompanied her champion, who was brought into her life by the noble prince with whom she had been betrothed (23-24). Fidessa is a beautiful, innocent girl who seems to need protection and help. Her father is an Emperor (22). By examining the way Fidessa’s character is depicted, we can see who she is and what her symbolism is. Fidessa’s intricate, scarlet-colored dress is reminiscent of a woman in purple in the Book of Revelation of The Bible. She represents false religion. Fidessa is an analogy for the Roman Catholic church because her father was a Roman Emperor. Spenser compares Roman Catholicism and false religion. Spenser is not a fan of the Catholic Church (which is understandable given that Elizabeth was Protestant).

Spenser uses symbolism to describe the character of a name throughout his works. Fidessa, which means “faith”, suggests that Fidessa represents faith. Fidessa actually has the name Duessa. This means “two-faced”, and informs readers that Fidessa is a duality. Fidessa being accompanied by Sans fey, a Saracen who represents “false religion” or false piety, shows that Fidessa has false faith. Her champion knight being a Saracen is an important and odd fact. It’s ironic, after all, that a girl with a faith-based name has a “infidel”. Fidessa’s insincerity will be revealed to the reader. Fidessa has a name that means faith, but she is not sincere. This fact fits in with Archimago’s theme to separate the Redcrosse-Knight from the truth. Archimago tricked the Redcrosse-Knight into thinking Una was immoral and caused him abandon his quest.

Spenser shows his views regarding the Roman Catholic religion through Fidessa’s death. Fidessa’s fiance represents Jesus Christ as a “faithful”, a “meek” and a “debonaire”. This Christ figure dies a “dead innocent” death and is then mysteriously removed. Fidessa searched for her fiance’s corpse for many years. Fidessa’s fiance is Jesus Christ. Fidessa’s represents the Christian Church. Christ’s “body” does not exist because He ascended to heaven and rose from the grave. Fidessa’s search for Christ’s body is an example of the Roman Catholics’ theology being based on a misinterpretation. Therefore, the Catholic Church as a whole is invalid.

Fidessa has an important role in Spenser’s poem “The Faerie Queen” as it helps him convey one of its main themes: the Roman Catholic Church being a hypocritical, false institution. Spenser cleverly weaves his opinions into the allegorical tale he has written. This allows the reader to both enjoy the tale of the chivalric knight’s adventures and the author’s viewpoints.


  • camdynelliott

    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

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