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Book I, Canto XII

August 20, 2010

Spenser reminds us in poetic fashion that the book is almost over. This canto is shorter than the others, so he must have wanted to hurry through the extended ending.

A nearby watchman hurries to tell Una’s parents that the dragon has been slain. The King (Una’s father) opens the city again. The kingdom rejoices and its monarchs head out to honor the dragonslayer with gifts. The court procession crowns Una with a garland while the people of the city all run to see the dragon carcass. Stanzas 10-11 tell how it goes down:

Some feard, and fled; some feard and well it faynd;
One that would wiser seeme, then all the rest,
Warnd him not to touch, for yet perhaps remaynd
Some lingring life within his hollow brest,
Or in his wombe might lurke some hidden nest
Of many Dragonets, his fruitfull seed;
Another said, that in his eyes did rest
Yet sparckling fire, and bad therof take heed;
Another said, he saw him moue his eyes indeed.

One mother, when as her foolehardie chyld
Did come too neare, and with his talants play,
Halfe dead through feare, her litle babe reuyld,
And to her gossips gan in counsell say;
How can I tell, but that his talants may
Yet scratch my sonne, or rend his tender hand?
So diuersly themselues in vaine they fray;
Whiles some more bold, to measure him night stand,
To proue how many acres he did spread of land.

Una and George come to the palace for a feast. Spenser skips a lengthy description, content to have George summarize his story in but one little stanza. The King and Queen are greatly moved by his adventures and show strong emotion during the telling. They ask him to remain in their kingdom but he replies that he has made a vow to serve the Faerie Queene for 6 more years and must return. The King answers that he regrets such a previous commitment, but that he is willing to marry Una to him after he returns from his 6 years of service, because he promised Una to whomever would slay the dragon. Now he calls Una in, who is unveiled and dressed quite differently from her adventure clothing. St. George is stunned by her beauty but the moment is interrupted by a messenger dashing into the room. The messenger reads aloud his letter to the King. It states that the knight he has betrothed his daughter to is already engaged and is a liar. It is signed Fidessa.

Understandably the King is somewhat disturbed by her allegations, so he asks George to be honest about his past. As he briefly summarizes his encounters with the false Duessa, Una defends his conduct and blames Duessa the witch. Una accuses the messenger of being none other than Archimago in disguise. The guards quickly sieze Archimago and throw him into the dungeon, while the King resumes his wedding planning.

Finally we have our long-awaited happy ending – Our Redcross, the true St. George of merry England, is united to Una in what appears to be a full-on wedding. He does have to leave shortly afterwards to complete his vow of service, but Spenser stops the story there. I hope we have all learned how to attain the virtue of holiness, because our next book is coming up soon.

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