An interactive outline of Book 1 of The Faerie Queene


An outline is perhaps the worst way to approach understanding The Faerie Queene. An outline implies a hierarchy of importance and abstraction. The events depicted in The Faerie Queene create complex and interesting chains of causation, ones which an outline just can't represent. Events are often interlaced: one rolling into another or the action of one overlapping another.

Thus, The Faerie Queene's structure doesn't fit with the varying degrees of importance implied by an outline. Take canto 4, for example. The procession of the deadly sins is really the central episode there, but the outline, having seven main headings, implies that there are seven equally important events that happen in that canto.

Students should also realize that I have tried to give the plot of groups of stanzas without divulging why any of it is important. The first few stanzas of canto 1 are labeled as "Cast of characters" as they describe Redcrosse, Una, and the Dwarf. If you read those stanzas and don't realize why Redcrosse's armor or Una's lamb are important, you've missed the point. Spenser described The Faerie Queene as a "dark conceit." It's my intention to leave most of that darkness intact.

I also would encourage students not to cite the text from this website. Instead, they should use whatever edition has been assigned in class. There are several reasons why one might not want to use the text of The Faerie Queene from this website.

If you have used this outline and would like to provide feedback, please email faeriequeeneoutline@gmail.com.