She rarely appears during the actual events of the poem, but it is her influence that drives most of it. The vast majority of knights in the book are on missions for her, or are seeking after her.
In fact, it is her absence that makes her most mysterious, adding to the wonder of the Faerielands in The Faerie Queene. She always seems to exist more in our imaginations rather than in real life.
Who Does Gloriana Symbolize?
Gloriana symbolizes Elizabeth I in Spenser’s mind. Elizabeth I was his patron, and he held her in high esteem, as is clear throughout the entirety of the epic poem. Keeping Gloriana as this mysterious sovereign figure who never appears tangibly in the poem allows Spenser to avoid portraying Elizabeth I’s avatar in an unflattering way, which was a convenient way for him to sidestep any unintended criticism.
She is not the only representation of Elizabeth I (Belphoebe represents Elizabeth’s virgin queen status), but the Faerie Queene does represent the power that Queen Elizabeth holds, her “glory”, hence the name: Gloriana.
See our complete list of Arthurian characters for more entries like this one.
- Norris Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Debra Mancoff – The Arthurian Handbook (Second Edition)
- Alan Lupack – The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
- Ronan Coghlan – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
- Anonymous – Lancelot-Grail, the French Vulgate
- Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur