I. The Plot: Prince Arthur tells Una of his vision of the Faerie Queene and of his quest for her. After exchanging presents with the Redcross Knight, he bids farewell to Una and her companions. These pursue their journey and soon meet a young knight, Sir Trevisan, fleeing from Despair. Sir Trevisan tells of his narrow escape from this old man, and unwillingly conducts the Redcross Knight back to his cave. The Knight enters and is almost persuaded to take his own life. He is saved by the timely interposition of Una. This is the most powerful canto of Book I.
II. The Allegory: 1. The moral allegory in Canto VII presents the transition of the Soul (Redcross) from Pride to Sin (Duessa) through distrust of Truth (Una), and it thus comes into the bondage of Carnal Pride (Orgoglio). In Canto IX the Soul suffers a similar change from Sin to Despair. Having escaped from actual sin, but with spiritual life weakened, it almost falls a victim to Despair through excess of confidence and zeal to perform some good action. The Soul is saved by Truth, by which it is reminded to depend on the grace of God.
2. The allegory on its religious side seems to have some obscure reference to the long and bitter controversies between Protestantism (Calvinism) and Roman Catholicism allied with infidelity.
1. O GOODLY GOLDEN CHAINE, chivalry or knightly honor, the bond that unites all the virtues.
18. THANKLESSE, because not knowing whom to thank.
26. In Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Arthur is taken from his mother, Ygerne, at birth, and committed to the care of Sir Ector as his foster-father, i, 3. In Merlin Sir Antor is his foster-father.
33. RAURAN MOSSY HORE, Rauran white with moss. A “Rauran-vaur hill” in Merionethshire is mentioned by Selden. Contrary to the older romancers, Spenser makes Prince Arthur a Welshman, not a Cornishman.
34. THE RIVER DEE, which rises in Merionethshire and flows through Lake Bala.
39. MY DISCIPLINE TO FRAME, etc., to plan my course of instruction, and, as my tutor, to supervise my bringing up.
45. IN HER JUST TERME, in due time.
57. OR THAT FRESH BLEEDING WOUND, i.e. his love for Gloriana.
59. WITH FORCED FURY, etc., supplying “me” from “my” in l. 58 the meaning is: the wound ... brought ... me following its bidding with compulsive (passionate) fury, etc. In the sixteenth century his was still almost always used as the possessive of it. Its does not occur in the King James Version of the Bible (1611).
63. COULD EVER FIND (the heart) to grieve, etc. A Euphuistic conceit.
64. According to the physiology of Spenser’s age, love was supposed to dry up the humors ("moysture”) of the body.
70. BUT TOLD, i.e. if it (my love) is told.