The Faerie Queene, Book 1, Canto 1: on the Dragon’s Brood

The first section of The Faerie Queene is a relatively straightforward “knight vs. dragon” scene, in which the dragon is described with various exclamations of her wretchedness, then killed by the knight. What is included in the stanza after the dragon’s death, however, threw me off a little:

“Her scattred brood, soone as their Parent deare / They saw so rudely falling to the ground, / Groning full deadly, all with troublous feare, / Gathred themselues about her body round, / Weening their wonted entrance to haue found / At her wide mouth: but being there withstood / They flocked all about her bleeding wound. / And sucked vp their dying mothers blood, / Making her death their life, and eke her hurt their good.” (217-225)

The inclusion of the dragon’s offspring feeding on her corpse in the narration stuck out to me in that I couldn’t immediately find its meaning. Perhaps the dragon is simply a representation of the evils that oppose man, and her offspring hastily consuming her is just an emphasis of the dragon’s unnatural existence. I am, however, not content with taking it at face value. What else could the dragon’s brood’s cannibalism be read to represent?

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