Here’s my most recent paper that we turned in today for Literary Analysis. I’d love to hear your thoughts on pride!
It has destroyed rulers, taken lives, turned brother against brother, separated lovers. It was the original sin. It can be obvious or obscured, appealing or hideous. Pride. This destructive attitude is difficult to portray, but, Edmund Spenser tackles it in his first book of the Faerie Queene series, Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, translated by Roy Maynard (1999). Originally published in 1590, This allegorical epic follows the journey of Redcrosse, a young, amateur knight and Una, his lady, who overcome life’s trials and errors, and slay a dragon. One of the most prominent themes of this poetic work is pride, and the danger it brings.
This theme of pride is shown throughout the plot, characters, and setting. In the plot, upon reaching Error’s den, Una cautions Redcrosse not to enter, but because of his youthful pride, he plunges in and bouts with Error, who nearly kills him. This amateur knight’s prideful attitude is also evident in the rising action when Redcrosse volunteers to go and challenge Despair, confident that he is strong enough. Unfortunately, his mind is weak, and he almost kills himself, believing in Despair’s logical, persuasive, and suicidal words. Fortunately, in the denouement, Redcrosse overcomes his pride when he slays the dragon, understanding that he needs God’s strength to overcome his foe. Pride is also portrayed through the characters of this allegorical epic. “Proud Lucifera…” (Maynard 77), queen of the House of Pride, could hardly bring her eyes so low to speak, telling Redcrosse and Duessa to rise. Redcrosse sheds his armor, thinking he is safe from the House of Pride. Consequently, while unprotected and exposed, Giant Orgoglio, Italian for pride, captures Redcrosse and throws him in his dungeon. The setting of this book also portrays this prominent theme. The House of Pride. Its visitors are vain, and “…Each others greater pride does spite.” (Maynard 77) Its road is wide, and foundation sandy. In contrast Spenser presents the House of Holiness that is free from pride, has a narrow gate, and is built on a firm foundation. All these examples describe how pride is exposed through the book’s plot, characters, and setting.
The religious turmoil Spenser lived in formulated his view of pride, showed the dangerous aspects of it, and provided the young men of his time with an example of virtue free from it. Spenser’s observation of the Catholic Church, while it was butting heads with the Protestants, confirmed his view of pride, which he illustrated in the House of Pride. Spenser believed pride lead to self-focus, caused a person to rot, and could be either obvious or obscured. The House of Pride was exalted and appealing on the outside, but, “… all the hinder [hidden behind] parts that few could spy,/ Were ruinous and old but painted cunningly.” (Maynard 74) As Shakespeare once wrote, “All that glitters is not gold …” (Shakespeare) Spenser’s accusation of pride in the Catholic Church was well founded. The antagonists of this story allude to the Catholic Church, so it is reasonable to assume that Spenser observed inexcusable pride in the hierarchy of the church. Some of the leaders were self-centered, obvious in their extravagantly ornate clothing and lavish living. The Catholic Church was rotting inside, due to its corrupt leadership. Just like the House of Pride, it looked substantial on the outside, but was rotting within. Spenser recognized this, and showed two dangerous aspects of pride in his book. The obvious, and the obscured. Obvious like Lucifera, queen of the House of Pride. Obscured, like Redcrosse, when he shed his armor, thinking he was safe from the House of Pride. The purpose of Spenser’s book wasn’t just to expose pride in the Catholic Church, but to “… fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline…” (Bartleby.com) In this old English letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser explained his purpose of the Faerie Queene series. Seeing the lack of virtues in the young men of his time, he wanted to warn them of pride’s dangers. So, he formulated his view of pride, showed its dangerous aspects, and modeled success for young men to overcome it.
Spenser’s portrayal of pride is praiseworthy, applicable today, and universal. Spenser did a laudable job illustrating pride and showing two different aspects of it. Of the two, obscured pride is the more dangerous than obvious pride, because one doesn’t always know they are doing it, and it is difficult to discern. Spenser made it applicable for today, by portraying Redcrosse as an Everyman which a reader from the 16th century as well as the 21st can relate to. Because of its universal theme, one can find the consequences of pride in history, movies, and the Word of God. Hitler ended in suicide after his unsuccessful attempt to conquer the world, Anakin fell to the dark side after he resented the Jedi Council because his pride overtook him, and Nebuchadnezzar ended up eating grass for a time, because he took all the credit for himself instead of recognizing that God had blessed his kingdom. From Satan’s fall to eternity, pride has been and always will be a problem. However, one can overcome pride with God’s help, just like Redcrosse, who finally defeated the dragon by putting his faith in God, not relying on his own strength, but embracing, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (New King James Version. Philippians 4:13) Word Count: 899