featured image that says despair
Home » Content » Mythologies » Arthurian Legends » Despair: The Biggest Threat in The Faerie Queene

Despair: The Biggest Threat in The Faerie Queene

Last updated:

Despair is a character that appears in book 1 of The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser. This spirit shows up at one of the darkest points in the Redcrosse knight‘s journey. In fact, it is Despair that comes the closest to killing St. George, more so than Error, Duessa, the Saracen brothers, or even the dragon.

Thankfully, he is saved by Una, but it is oddly prescient of Edmund Spenser to make this particular spirit, the embodiment of actual despair and depression, such a powerful villain. It’s a great move for mental health awareness, considering this text was released 400 years ago.

advertisement for The Arthur Tales

In The Faerie Queene, Despair would subtly convince people that life was not worth living, and that they should just kill themselves (hauntingly dark given today’s day and age).

The Redcrosse knight didn’t think that such a thing could have power over him, but it doesn’t take more than a small chat with Despair before he is ready to stab himself with a knife.

Lucky for him, Una keeps him from doing this and later takes him to the House of Holiness to recover.

It was thought, at the time, that God was the ultimate source of hope, and so by turning to God you could turn away from Despair. That is essentially what happens with the Redcrosse knight.

See our complete list of Arthurian characters for more entries like this one.

Arthurian Bibliography

See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.

Photo of author


Jason is a Mythic Fantasy Author and creator of MythBank. He loves mythology, history, and geek culture. When he's not writing, his favorite hobbies include hiking, chilling with his wife, spouting nonsense words at his baby daughter, and developing this (and other) websites.

Leave a Comment