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Duessa: The Temptress in The Faerie Queene

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Duessa is another of the main villains in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. She is frequently depicted as being beautiful and seductive, when in fact her true form is much more ugly. When we finally see her seductive form stripped from her, she appears as an old hag, with eagle talons for hands and bear claws for feet.

When we first meet her, she is appearing in disguise as a woman named Fidessa, further contributing to her deceptive nature.

Eventually, she seduces the Redcrosse knight, which leads to a lot of problems on his part.

When we see her in Orgoglio’s castle, she becomes his mistress, and manages to ride a pet monster. She is eventually defeated by Prince Arthur.

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The Etymology of Her Name

Duessa’s name comes in sharp contrast to that of Una, whose name means oneness. Duessa, on the other hand, has a name that suggests a duality, so it makes sense that she is constantly trying to deceive people.

What Does Duessa Represent in the Faerie Queene?

Duessa, as her name suggests, represents duality in every negative sense of the word. She represents the Catholic Church in all of its perceived evil, and is the perfect contrast to Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, who represents Elizabeth I and everything that is good about the Protestant church. At least, that was the perception at the time that Spenser wrote this poem.

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.

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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.

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