Thursday, March 11, 2010

Una and Duessa - Truth and Lies

In Spencer’s Faerie Queen, as in all allegories, the meaning of the text which is important for understanding is difficult to find. Towards the end of Canto One a sensual scene is dreamed by the Knight of the Red Cross. It seems like Una, whose name is first given here, the knight’s lady, is taken to his bed. He wakes up suddenly and finds a false Una in his room. She claims she loves him, but the next morning the enchanter that created the false Una shows her having intercourse with another man. The Knight of the Red Cross is outraged and leaves deserting the real Una who wakes up and goes after him.
Una can mean one and truth. The Knight is called Holinesse. Holiness and truth are both attributes of God. The false Una is named Duessa. She represents the Roman Catholic Church which teaches falsehood emphasizing the appearance of piety rather than the actions of faith. Falsehood, Duessa, fools our knight, Holinesse, into temporarily abandoning truth, Una, to go pursue personal glory.

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