restricted access Besides Good and Evil

Spenser’s The Faerie Queene presumes a stable distinction between good and evil characters, and the structure of the narrative depends upon the clarity of those categories. When good characters behave badly, there is no trouble. The poem’s characteristic work is to reconcile action and identity. When bad characters behave kindly, particularly when they treat each other well, they pose a greater interpretive challenge. In such episodes we glimpse the possibility of a care that is morally meaningless, of a value in life itself, neither good nor evil. Care may be the most grave and dangerous temptation in Spenser’s poem of temptations.