The Faerie Queene Fable and Drama Project -
Setting, Task, and Characters
A place called Fairyland, or Demon’s Land, depending from where you are looking. It is a dangerous land, full of lurking surprises, where the land and waters and everything in them are alive. There are no cities or villages, no churches or religions or settled government. There are no parents. Husband and wife is unknown. There are no fathers at all, and only very rarely a single mother, and she is usually a witch. Where there are brother and sister they are either condemned to be separate, or they are joined in unceasing incest. God has disappeared, or is awaited. And everything, dead and alive, before and after, takes on physical form, so you can travel into anything…
It is a world without places for burial. There is death, but no extinction. Instead there is repetition.
Even the wizard Merlin, who can see all things, is the child of a nun who was raped by a demon incubus. Everywhere succubi suck semen and blood, draining the men dry as hay. The hags and witches are in a state of constant change, wracked by painful appetite. They are nightmares riding the dreams of men and women.
The world is barely built at all. It is very far from anywhere else. Can you imagine the earth before it was settled and fenced? There are wandering woods, open fields and seductive bowers and gardens; there is much water, with islands floating on lakes, and fountains, streams, oceans. You can even travel to the bottom of the sea. There are many craggy cliffs, to crouch beneath, or to fall from, and other parched places, rocky caves and dead trunks. It is a place of enclosures, dungeons, visible living hells. And sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, looms a palace or castle, with secret rooms, alarming tapestries, cellars where unspeakable things may happen. It is hardly safer being inside than not.
There is one rule only, for those who have sense: never fall asleep.
The earth and its forms are still visibly pulsing. You can see them sweat and turn, as some squelchy turd-green bulb moves into a shape that seems to mean things. Nothing has achieved its final form. It is full of seeds and sperm and spilled eggs. Not all of it comes to life. There is spilt seed; there are abortions; there are murdered babies. Pregnant things are everywhere, life incubating and gestating. Places are like eggs, in which the potential is secreted, waiting to be hatched or born.
Where is this place? It borders nowhere else. It isn’t in time, it has no specific date. There are rumours of a queen, far away, but no one has ever reached her. There is a world elsewhere, but this world is essentially forgotten. The questers never remember this world. They have all gone native.
In this world, nothing is forgotten. The people might be absolutely empty, as though they have been plopped down on earth newborn, without a thought in their heads. But memory is held in places, in trees, rivers, fountains, buildings.
The skin has been peeled off. Or some strange violence has happened, and nothing can be taken for granted. The island has natives, but they disappear into the bush, a dark rumour, a smell, always terrifying. Some of the pioneers cling to ideals, others plunge into wickedness. All the time there is a battle for the future.
The pioneers call themselves knights. They wear armour. What lies beneath their armour? The armour holds them upright, if they walk, or if they sit astride a horse. Without the armour perhaps they crumple, like blankets, or drip into the ground, as though melting, or like a strange intelligent gel. Many of them are wounds. This is all they are, if they are not tiny bony boys or girls, hiding inside their suits. Do they have human bodies at all? Or are they perhaps mutants, amoeba, half-made dogs, aspiring to fill their suits?
Many of the figures are just like dinosaurs: mindless innocents or rugged monsters, with tiny brains, forced to repeat over and over the same appetite. Just like a dinosaur – or perhaps a young child.
Living in this land is like living in a dark and serious game – but a game which comes true.
It is a world in which the participants have tasks, or missions: to become a saint; to save the true church; to slay the dragon that besieges the true church’s parents; to be a paragon of chastity; to establish justice; to rule the passions ; to find your true-love---
Each place presents a new challenge, a new peril. If you pass the challenge then you move on, stronger for the fact. If you fail the challenge, succumb to the temptation, then you are in mortal danger. Each moment of decision – to say yes or no, to enter or not –carries moral and political consequences. And your decision establishes a pattern for others. It is part of your task to make the rules of this strange, un-built new land.
The characters appear to be rigidly divided into good and evil. The good characters seek the virtues – love, charity, holiness, order, temperance, self-control, justice, courtesy. The bad characters seek to deny all of these things, and to indulge in cruelty, depravity, deception, sin, disorder. A few types especially recur:
1. The male knight seeking to impose order and control.
2. The male knight seeking love, and through this a kind of saintly possession of himself and/or his beloved.
3. The female knight-huntress, seeking love and resisting all men but one.
4. The hunted damsel.
5. The evil seductress.
6. The monster or embodiment of vice – lust, depravity, pride, despair, greed, jealousy, anger, earthbound atheism.
But is it so simple? Are the supposed virtues necessarily so virtuous? What kinds of behaviour or feeling do they produce? What are the consequences of seeking these ‘virtues’? What or who must be sacrificed?
And what is the relationship between the supposedly good character and the evil witch or monster? Why do they keep on meeting each other? Maybe the fairyland is closer to a dream world? Perhaps the monster and the maiden are the same person?
The people in this world are not fully made-up people, with families and pasts and personalities. Instead, each figure stands for something other – a virtue, a vice; a house, or government, or cause. And each such avatar is not unique. Others can embody the same thing. So instead of individuals, we might have shared characters, shared suffering, or shared guilt. One figure’s actions can be suddenly cut-off, and have to be carried on by another.
Who can you be? What might you be?
Imagine that you are no longer a normal individual, with normal strengths and weaknesses. Imagine instead that you are a single virtue, or a single vice, or a single passion or emotion or action. Or imagine a body for each emotion…
You are Envy, or Lust, or Impatience. Or you are Holiness, Saintliness, Chastity, Justice.
That is what you are. But it is also what you must seek.
This is what it means to be alive. How do you do…?
1. Red Cross Knight: a young, inexperienced manboy, whose destiny is to be a saint – specifically, Saint George. But to become a saint is hard. He has to fight dragons, monsters of Error, resist sexual temptation, be faithful to his love, to the true church. If things go wrong – as surely they do - he has to resist despair.
2. Brit – a young orphan, on the cusp between girlhood and womanhood. Her destiny is to be the Knight of Chastity. She falls violently in love with a man she has never met, a knight in armour she sees in a magic glass. She hides her love-wound in the armour of a knight. She goes hunting for him. All the time she has to resist false suitors and violent opposers. She repeatedly comes upon men and women suffering for love just as she does, and irresistibly she helps them, even if she cannot help herself.
3. Guyon – the Knight of temperance. He has to establish good government, over himself, and over society. Like Redcross, his virtue is constantly assailed by women. Can he establish control over his lusts and his passions?
4. Artegall – the knight seen by Brit in the magic mirror. He is the Knight of Justice, fighting to discipline an unruly populace, helped by his Iron Man henchman, who flays enemies as though cutting down flowers.
5. Florimell/Amoret – young beauties, loved ardently by one knight, whom they love in return, but who cannot be with them; chased by beasts, monsters, demons, or simply dirty men. Tortured by the desire of men, or by their desire for a man.
6. Belphoebe the Amazon, virgin huntress, stunning and diminishing men, the free-ranging twin sister of the captured Amoret.
7. Scudamour/Marinell – beloved and loving, but unable to reach the women of their dreams because they are too weak, or scared, or unlucky, or cursed.
8. Duessa – a witch, foul and ugly inside, but able to put on the disguise of beauty. She seduces men and monsters, and punishes them if they try to leave her, or when she is tired of them, paralysing them into objects, or trees, stones, fountains…
9. Acrasia – the great seductress, who draws men in and robs them of their power and dignity. She is joined in the task by a series of like-minded seducers – the laughing Phaedria, the singing sirens, the beckoning mermaids.
10. Mammon – hoarding his gold and jewels in a cave, tempting the knight to give it all up, with his dazzling daughter a prize.
11. Error Monster, with her kids sucking on her dugs, spewing up books and bile, unkillable.
12. Maleger – life-in-death or death-in-life, a figure of earth, who cannot be killed on dry land, attended by hags called Impotence and Impatience.
13. The Lust Monsters, living in caves, shaped like penises, chasing and eating women.
14. Orgoglio, the monster of Pride, chaining the knight, sucking his energies as he himself battens on Duessa.
15. Busirane, the courtly torturer, in love with Amoret, and trying to force her to love him through sadism – cutting out her heart and placing it before her on a dish, forcing her to join his daily masque in which all the horrors and violence of love pass through his castle.