Martial and chivalric symbolism in Spenser's 'The Faerie Queene'
It is my thesis that Spenser uses the symbolism of combat, heraldry, and chivalry in The Faerie Queene on a scale and in ways not hitherto recognised in criticism of the poem. This symbolism, which I demonstrate was widely known and used in Renaissance England, is of classical, medieval, and Renaissance origin. It is found in The Faerie Queene in relation to armour worn and weapons used, heraldic devices, battles, tournaments, and wounds, and to the orders and institutions of knighthood. I suggest that Spenser uses martial and chivalric symbolism in the expression of both his moral and his political allegory and that narrative events such as battles and tournaments are thus far more closely related to his central themes than has previously been allowed. The first three chapters consider groups of objects or actions and their symbolism in the poem, such as the shield, various weapons, the knight's overall armour, and battles. In the fourth chapter I discuss specifically the overwhelmingly Christian, and thus anomalous, martial symbolism of Book One. In Chapters Five and Six I concentrate on chivalry and the symbolism of the institutions of knighthood, centring each chapter in a study of one of the tournaments of The Faerie Queene.