The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Summary and Analysis: Book II, Cantos vii-xii

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New Characters
Alma: A good virgin who is Lady of a castle beset by villains.

Boatman or Ferryman: The man who guides Guyon’s boat as he seeks Acrasia.

Brutus: A royal descendent who cleared Britain of giants and became King.

Bunduca: A female martyr who rose up against the Roman rule but whose forces were decimated and so she killed herself.

Caesar: An Emperor who took over much of Europe and attacked Britain.

Fiend: The guardian of riches, who stalks visitors in hopes he can kill them when they touch or steal an item of wealth.

Giants: Enormous, strong creatures that destroyed the land that was to become Britain until Brutus arrived.

Impotence and Impatience: Two hags in attendance on Maleger.

Lady Estrilde: A woman who King Brutus has an affair with.

Maleger: The captain of the villainous band attacking the castle of Temperance.

Mammon: A false God of wealth and riches.

Maximinius: A Roman ruler of Britain who inherited a weakened country with too few battle-ready men, and it was during his rule that the Pagans overran Britain.

Pagans: Any type of non-Christian, particularly those who believe in polytheistic religions.

Philotime: Mammon’s daughter and holder of the Chain of Ambition.

Picts: Scottish men.

Prays-Desire: A sad Lady who seeks honor and fame and who Prince Arthur finds fascinating.

Prometheus: A legendary Greek figure who supposedly created man and stole heavenly fire to give his creation life.

Sabrina: The first female ruler of Britain, daughter of the slain Brutus. Shame, Care, Horror, Fear, Fraud, etc: The personifications of negative emotions that guard or warn off visitors to hell and the place of riches.

Shamefastnesse: A woman who represents shame as a binding force holding people in patterns of good behavior, and who fascinates Guyon.

Tantalus and Pilate: Seekers of the golden apple, trapped in the black waters of Cocytus.

Canto vii: Although Guyon has lost the Palmer, his guide, he continues to travel on the far side of the Idle Lake. He traverses a barren desert, and when he sees a shady glade he decides to rest there. Under the trees he finds a filthy man surrounded by gold and riches. Upon seeing Guyon, the man pours his gold into holes in the ground, but Guyon stops him. Guyon inquires why the man lives in the desert, alone, with these riches. The man replies that he is Mammon, the greatest god below the sky, and he graces people with all the world’s good: riches, renown, and honor.

Guyon tells Mammon to impress those who love wealth, rather than his own humble self, because he has no interest in “worldly mucke” that “low abase[s] the high heroicke spirit.” Mammon replies that money buys shields, horses and other necessities, and besides wealth is one thing that men “having not complaine, and having it upbraid.” Guyon replies that intemperance causes weak men to crave financial gain, but it is superfluous to a well-lived life.

Then Guyon tells the story of how men came to find and crave wealth. At first, in their innocence, men were happy with the work of the creator. However, they began to wound earth and find underground veins of gold and silver, and that caused pride, avarice and greed. Mammon laughs at Guyon’s appreciation for such a rude, “antique age” and offers to let him take whatever gold he wishes, so long as if he refuses he does not lament it later.

Without knowing the origin of the gold, Guyon will not accept it. Mammon then brings him into his cavernous underground lair to meet the guardians of...

(This entire section contains 6081 words.)

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Mammon’s cave, who are also the guardians of Hell: Pain, Strife, Revenge, Despight, Treason, Hate, Jealousy, Fear, Sorrow, Shame, and Horror. Mammon brings him to a small door adjacent to Hell’s open cave. Guarded by Care from Force and Fraud, the door is between Sleep (which might let Force or Fraud in) and Hell’s gate. Mammon enters the door, which slams shut behind them. A fiend begins to follow them, watching Guyon in hopes that he will steal or touch something and can thus be killed. Mammon leads Guyon to a solid gold cave full of coffers and human bones. Through another door is the greatest collection of wealth ever in the world, guarded by a warrior sprite.

However, Guyon still refuses Mammon’s lure by saying he wishes for identity and freedom, rather than riches. So Mammon led him into another room, full of forges and metal-workers. Mammon tells Guyon that this is the source of the world’s wealth and it is not stolen at all. Guyon is unmoved and asks permission to continue on his quest.

Angered, Mammon leads him to a golden gate guarded by the powerful villain Disdain. The sight of Guyon causes Disdain to cry out for battle, but Mammon warns Guyon against such an act, and with his reason pacified, Guyon proceeds. Inside the gate, an assembly of people worships an artful woman who has dressed carefully, applied make-up, and surrounded herself with pleasant lighting, all of which conspires to make her beautiful and fair. She is Mammon’s daughter, Philotime, who controls all the world’s dignity and honor because she holds the Chain of Ambition, which extends from heaven to hell. People try to ascend the Chain, but are beaten back by those above and held back by those below.

Mammon offers Guyon his daughter as a spouse, which would assure him great status and power. Guyon demurs by saying that he loves another. Angry, Mammon guides Guyon to the Garden of Prosperina. Next to Prosperina’s throne is a tree laden with golden apples and surrounded by the black waters of the river of Cocytus. Souls weep and wail from the water, and Guyon sees many souls reaching for the golden apples. These poor figures forever drown in the waters, for that water cannot kill but can only stop the soul from progressing, so that the soul suffers death time and time again. Guyon asks one soul who he is and what he is doing, and the soul replies that he is Tantalus and begs for food or drink. Guyon declines, saying that Tantalus is an example of intemperance and deserves his fate. Guyon speaks to another soul, who says that he is Pilate, the “falsest judge” who “delivered up the Lord of life to die” and so was “soyld with foule iniquitie.”

Mammon interrupts this and asks Guyon to sit and rest and contemplate the wealth he must want. Guyon sits, but remains so long that his body begins to fail for want of food and sleep. Three days have passed underground, and no mortal may stay so long in this cave of the dead. So Mammon is forced to return Guyon to the surface. At the surface, Guyon passes out.

Canto viii: The author laments man’s position in the world, partly because angels and devils fly to aid people in good and bad acts, which means that divine beings can cause man’s downfall. However, divine love can save many men, and so the author asks, “[W]hy should heavenly God to men have such regard?”

The author then returns to the Palmer, who finds Guyon in a trance after the traumatic escape from Mammon’s lair. The Palmer sees a beautiful young boy child sitting by Guyon, and realizes that it is Cupid. The child tells the Palmer that Guyon has had many trials, but that courage will restore him. Then the Palmer is given charge of Guyon, by the gods’ order, to keep him safe. Cupid then shows his wings and flies away.

After taking Guyon’s pulse and finding that he is still alive, the Palmer begins to rejoice. However, two Paynim Knights, directed by the Archimago, ride up to battle the still-unconscious Guyon. Pyrochles spouts off about Guyon’s bad habits leading to his bad death, but the Palmer plays along and shames him for insulting a “dead” man. Pyrochles’ brother, Cymochles, then threatens to take Guyon’s shining armor, for what use have the dead for armor, but the Palmer argues that this would be a blight on their Knighthood, for it is a foul act to steal from the dead.

Pyrochles and Cymochles do not listen to the Palmer, and they seize Guyon’s shield and helmet. At that moment, a Knight rides up. It is Prince Arthur. Seeing the Knight laying in his armor, Prince Arthur asks what tragedy has happened. The Palmer tells him that the Knight is alive but unconscious and that Pyrochles and Cymochles have just tried to steal his armor. Prince Arthur reprimands the brothers for taking advantage of a man “whom fortune hath already laid in lowest seat.” The Paynim Pyrochles raises the sword that Archimago stole from Prince Arthur and tries to use it to smite Prince Arthur.

The blow causes Prince Arthur’s horse to stumble, but Prince Arthur lands safely and uses his spear to wound the Pagan Pyrochles. In the process, he destroys the shield Pyrochles has stolen from Guyon. Infuriated at the wound his brother has received, Cymochles attacks Prince Arthur after calling upon his gods to help him. Prince Arthur has no sword, and fighting on foot with a spear daunts him, especially since Pyrochles has regained his feet and both brothers are facing him armed and ready. However, Prince Arthur’s stout heart gives him courage, and using his spear, he holds off both brothers until Cymochles drops his shield for a moment and Prince Arthur stabs him, thereby wounding him. The maddened Pyrochles seriously wounds Prince Arthur in return and breaks his spear. Prince Arthur uses a truncheon to hit Cymochles, and the Palmer is so touched by his courage that he gives him Guyon’s sword.

Rejuvenated, Prince Arthur begins to win the fight. However, he does not wish to strike at Guyon’s shield and damage the picture of the Faerie Queen painted on it any further. Yet he quickly dispatches Cymochles, causing Pyrochles to tremble with fear and hatred. Pyrochles leaps at him, but the sword will not obey him, as it is Prince Arthur’s enchanted sword. He throws the sword aside and attacks Prince Arthur barehanded but is quickly subdued. Prince Arthur does not kill him, but demands that Pyrochles act as his vassal. Pyrochles refuses and is beheaded.

Guyon wakes to find the Palmer beside him, his sword and shield gone and the bodies of the Sarazins on the plain. He wonders at this, and Prince Arthur reassures him that he was only doing his Knightly duty, obeying his lifelong oath to protect and serve.

Meanwhile, the hidden Archimago and Atin flee.

Canto ix: After returning Guyon’s shield and recovering his own stolen sword, Prince Arthur asks Guyon who the Lady painted on his shield is meant to resemble. Guyon replies that it is the Faerie Queen herself, and describes her as such: “My liefe, my liege, my Soueraigne, my deare, / Whose glory shineth as the morning star.” Prince Arthur reveals that he seeks the Faerie Queen, and Guyon offers to guide him, but says he must finish his current adventure first. Guyon explains about his mission to Acrasia for the Palmer and the bloody-handed child as the pair of Knights ride.

At nightfall, they come upon a massive, barricaded castle. Fearing whatever enemy causes the people to erect such fortifications, the Knights ask for shelter. The watchman advises them to flee and explains that the castle has been under siege for seven years, and he cannot open the gates for anyone. As he finishes his explanation, a horde of villains descend from the rocks and caves around the castle. Prince Arthur and Guyon fight then valiantly, and the villains are dispersed like “scattered sheepe” but are able to regroup under the direction of their captain. However, they cannot withstand the power of Prince Arthur and Guyon, who handily triumph. Then they approach the castle gates once again, and the good Lady of the castle, Alma, gratefully entertains them. Prince Arthur and Guyon request to see the view from the castle, and Alma brings them to the castle wall. The castle wall is part circular, representing woman, and part triangular, representing man. A built-in chamber houses a guard who denies entrance to rogues and dissemblers. In the castle kitchens, Diet, Appetite, Concoction, and Digestion bow to the Lady Alma. A massive cauldron bubbles and is taken care of with ingenious machines and excessive care.

Alma then leads them into a pleasant room full of men and women courting each other. The Prince immediately focuses upon a Lady who is holding a poplar branch and looks surprisingly sad. He asks about her sadness, and she reproves him. Prince Arthur is drawn to this sad woman named Prays-desire. Guyon, meanwhile, becomes infatuated with a woman who is both modest and blushing. Guyon begs her to tell the cause of her blush and apologizes if he is to blame. Alma explains to Guyon that the woman is Shamefastnesse herself, the source of the shame that holds people in good behavior out of fear of what would happen if they were to misbehave. Alma pulls the Knights away from their courtly games to show them a turret where carefully built beacons burn in inspired, well-worked stone. Inside the turret live sages who advise Alma on how to govern her castle. In one of the sages’ rooms they find a library with the books that interest each of them most, and Alma gives them leave to read.

Canto x: The subject of the book that Prince Arthur has chosen to read from Alma’s sage’s room is the history of Britain. Spencer takes this opportunity to discuss the empty, savage land that Britons took over and claimed. The interior of that land was full of vicious giants until a Briton named Brutus arrived, killed them in battle and became King. After an era of peace and stability, King Brutus found himself distracted from his wife by a Lady Estrilde, with whom the King had an affair. His wife killed him for this. Sabrina, King Brutus’s daughter by his wife, ruled the land sagely and well until her son came of age, and then she surrendered the throne to him.

Several more traditional, male rulers followed Sabrina. For seven hundred years, all rulers were descendents of Brutus, until an ambitious and cruel mother murdered the final son in the line. Some of the rulers were good and some were weak, but the power and glory of Britain continued to rise. Then another line of rulers arose, and the empire of Britain continued to expand, through Britain’s subjugation of Ireland, Denmark, and other countries.

When Caesar attacked Britain, he was repulsed twice. Then a foreign traitor betrayed Britain, and Caesar won admittance. The Romans ruled, but Christianity was slipping into Britain. Although the Holy Grail legends had always existed, they had largely been ignored. Then a King who died without an heir converted to Christianity, so the issue became relevant to the people again. The Romans ruled until Maximinius came to power after many wars had decimated the population of Britain. Picts and pagans overran Britain until a British ruler was named King.

Prince Arthur’s book ends abruptly on a page about the descendents of that British ruler. Prince Arthur’s rapturous awe of his country has only increased, and he calls out, “How brutish it is not to vnderstand, / How much to her [Britain] we owe, that all vs gaue, / That gaue vnto vs all, what euer good we haue.”

Meanwhile, Guyon reads another history book. His concerns the history of the Faerie race and kingdom. His book begins with the story of Prometheus, who created man and stole fire from heaven to animate his creation. The book calls this created man “Elfe” or “Elfin,” and while wandering, this man meets a creature, a “fay”, whom he deems to be heavenly. The elf and the fay are the progenitors of all Faerie kind. Each Faerie ruler overcame whole countries or species (like goblins) and added to the fame and glory of their race.

Both Knights read happily for hours, until Alma calls them away, citing the late hour and the supper waiting for them, and they leave their books and begin to feast.

Canto xi: Spencer spends a stanza and a half discussing the “fort of reason” and the besieging forces of passions and “strong affections.” Then Guyon rides away from the castle of Temperance and boards a ferry to continue his journey at the Palmer’s behest.

Prince Arthur stays at the castle, and no sooner has Guyon left than the villains attack the castle again. Their captain arranges them into 12 groups and sets them cleverly on different parts of the castle, where it is likely to be weakest. The captain targets five of the castle’s bulwarks in particular: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and the unnamed bulwark which is attacked with lustfulness (touch, presumably).

Seeing Alma’s distress, Prince Arthur volunteers to fight the enemy. He rides outside the castle, and just the sight of his armor causes the attacking hordes to yell in fear and then to attack fiercely. Prince Arthur defeats many of the horde, and the captain of the attacking forces comes to find the cause of the disarray in his ranks. The captain, Maleger, wields arrows like those the Indians use and rides a tiger. Two hags, Impotence and Impatience, follow him.

Maleger fires arrows at Prince Arthur, and when the Prince readies his spear to attack, Maleger flees on his tiger, riding so swiftly he can barely be seen. As he flees, Maleger continues to shoot deadly arrows at Prince Arthur. One hag gathers up the spent arrows and returns them to Maleger, so he never runs out of ammunition. Prince Arthur stops to tie her hands. The other hag dashes over to stop him and the two overwhelm Prince Arthur. Only the intervention of his trusty Squire saves Prince Arthur’s life, and the author comments that “fierce Fortune” can take even the best of men and ruin them, and only when blessed by “grace” will even the strongest survive. The shame that Prince Arthur feels “unite[s] all his powers to purge himselfe from blame” because he thinks again “of glorie and of fame.”

Maleger rides up to the prone Prince Arthur and throws away his bow and arrows to pounce upon him, but Prince Arthur is like a bear taunted by dogs, who throws the oppressors off with ever-increasing rage and power. “Yet wrothfull for his late disgrace,” Prince Arthur smites Maleger, knocking him to the ground. Then Prince Arthur picks up an immense stone and throws at the villain, who retreats and avoids it. Maleger is wounded again and again, but sheds no blood. The landscape can be seen through the wounds in his flesh, but still Maleger stands and fights.

Doubt seizes Prince Arthur, who goes cold and immobile at the thought of “wounds without hurt, a bodie without might, / That could doe harme, yet could not harmed be.” Then Prince Arthur throws aside his trusty sword shield and attacks Maleger with bare hands, crushing his body, and throwing it so hard that it bounces off the ground. Believing himself safe, Prince Arthur begins to relax when blows rain down on him again. An idea comes to Prince Arthur when he remembers that earth is Mother Earth, the giver of all life. He fights Maleger without letting Maleger touch the ground, carries him miles away to a lake, throws Maleger in, and kills him.

Wounded and weak, Prince Arthur tries to return to Alma but must be helped by his Squire. They return to the castle of Temperance and are comforted and cared for.

Canto xii: As Guyon travels toward Acrasia, the boatman steers away from the Gulf of Greediness. Its enormous mouth sucks the sea in a whirlpool, and rocks covered with ruined ships surround the gulf. They are the Rocks of Reproach. The Palmer cautions all aboard against loose living and the lure of luxury because the Rocks of Reproach will maim and mutilate any who give in to those temptations.

The boat then passes the Wandering Islands, beautiful yet treacherous islands that confuse and befuddle men. All in the boat fix on their course and stay it, but a beautiful damsel calls from one of the islands and gives them reasons to stay with her. When they ignore her, she boards a boat without oars and overtakes them. It is Phoedria, who rowed Guyon about the Lake of Idleness. She boards and displays loose behavior, but the Palmer reproves her, and she goes back to her island.

The boatman guides them between the quicksand of Unthriftyhood and the whirlpool of Decay only to have a storm and sea monsters overtake them. The Palmer recognizes them as illusions from a witch, strikes the sea with his staff, and the monsters vanish. The trio successfully navigates through many other perils.

Then a mist of confusion descends upon the boat. Horrible winged creatures surround them, but the ferryman continues to row and the Palmer steers them a straight course to land. Guyon arms himself, and he and the Palmer disembark and journey on. They meet wild beasts that succumb at the sight of the Palmer’s good staff, which has virtue in its very wood. Finally the Palmer and Guyon reach the Bower of Bliss, which has a weak, decorative fence to keep those inside trapped. The gates hang open, but a soft figure, Genius, sits before them. Genius embodies the great qualities every man wishes to see in himself. Genius greets each guest with wine, but Guyon breaks his staff, overturns the wine, and enters the Bower.

The Bower has soft green grass and endless flowers. It is not subject to normal weather, but is always temperate and warm. Guyon ventures forward, “bridling his will,” and not allowing himself delight. He finds another gate, made of twining branches and flowers, and beneath the gates is a woman in disarray. She holds a cup into which she squeezes fruit, turning it into wine. She offers the cup to Guyon, but he tosses it to the ground, and the woman, Excess, lets him pass.

The next area of the Bower is so beautiful Spencer inserts a remark about nature and Art: “nature had for wantonesse ensude / Art, and that Art at nature did repine; / So striuing each th’ other to vndermine, / Each did the others worke more beautifie.” A beautiful fountain flows with precious water in impossible and beautiful formations, and handsome young boys play in the waters. Naked women wrestle in the water without caring for their own decorum. Guyon slows and watches two of the women who alternately hide and reveal themselves by staying below or above the water.

The Palmer rebukes Guyon and urges him to focus and continue forward. They reach Acrasia’s hiding place, and the Palmer urges Guyon to surprise her so she cannot flee. A beautiful sound fills the air, something even songbirds cannot imitate. Inside, Acrasia hovers over her latest lover and sucks his spirit—which has been made molten by the lascivious excess—through his eyes. Lovely women and lascivious boys surround the pair and sing. Someone chants about taking advantage of your time to love while you still can, but Guyon and the Palmer advance steadily, secretly, towards Acrasia and her lover.

Guyon and the Palmer capture Acrasia and her lover in a net, and all the attending men and women flee. The Palmer’s net cannot be undone, and Acrasia is held captive. The lover is freed and counseled to return to his blameless life before the Bower. Guyon destroys every beautiful aspect of the Bower of Bliss. Then they retrace their steps with Acrasia and the lover. When they reach the wild beasts, the Palmer pacifies them with his staff, and Guyon asks what they are. The Palmer replies that Acrasia the enchantress transformed her lovers into animals and “sad end (quoth he) of life intemperate.” With a stroke of his staff, the Palmer restores the creatures to their former manly shapes, but they are full of shame, wrath, and fear and cannot appreciate the transformation. Guyon laments that man chooses to be a beast, and the Palmer replies that those who delight in filth will do so, but he and Guyon must leave.

There are four significant and symbolic events in these Cantos of Book II. First, Mammon’s cave tempts Guyon with wealth and ambition, and Guyon collapses from the temptation. Second, Prince Arthur fights the inimitable Maleger and barely wins. Next, Guyon and Prince Arthur enter the Castle of Temperance and see the living example of a city with moderation and temperance, a parallel to the vision of the House of Holiness in Book I. Finally, Guyon overthrows the Bower of Bliss and defeats Acrasia.

A secondary but still important segment of this Book is the summary of the history of England.

Unlike the first half of Book II, this section of the Faerie Queen does not present characters with varying degrees of temperance to illustrate the desired middle ground for living. Instead, the second half of Book II is devoted to temptations and resistance of excess. In this battle for temperance, Guyon fights with his mind, not his sword. His moral quest requires endurance, moderation, and stealth. Temperance does not demand feats of arms.

Guyon’s entry into Mammon’s cave is a choice he makes after Mammon invites him in. Although Guyon willingly accepts this invitation and wishes to see as much of the cave as possible, Guyon does not give in to temptation all the way. However, his very curiosity shows that he is not yet beyond temptation. Without the Palmer, Guyon gives in to curiosity and in effect gives in to his desire, the desire to see. Mammon, as a miser and the personification of wealth, is a word that literally means “wealth.” It also has a Biblical allusion: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24). Another Biblical reference to money clarifies why God and mammon would be incompatible: “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). Mammon’s cave thus represents the most unholy, excessive collection that a man could be tempted by, for to accede to this vice leads to all other vices. Guyon’s entrance into the cave is thus a very dangerous act. However, his curiosity gives Guyon the ability to perceive and comprehend exactly what it is that he rejects while he lives a temperate life. After seeing the contents of the cave of Mammon, Guyon will be able to make reasoned, informed choices about temperance. Ironically, one suspects that the reasonable Palmer would have guided Guyon away from this temptation, keeping Guyon from knowing exactly what excess Guyon would have denied.

When Guyon rejects Mammon’s initial offer of money, his reasoning is that he does not know its source and therefore might be accepting blood money, or money gained through foul purposes. This is a particularly Aristotelian idea of virtue revealed through action. Mammon’s response to Guyon’s rather naïve and somewhat stupid argument that he has no need of money if he lives a worthy life is much more convincing than Guyon’s rejection. Mammon references the usefulness of money to aid a worthy life, such as in the purchase of shields with which to avenge those who have been wronged. Yet Mammon lives in the desert guarding his wealth, with the money serving no purpose whatsoever.

The second temptation that Mammon presents to Guyon is that of ambition and recognition. Mammon’s daughter, Philotime, is offered as a prize that would guarantee Guyon fame and glory. Philotime at first seems to resemble Acrasia in her beauty and power over others. However, Philotime only seems beautiful. She uses artistry to maintain her beauty. Like Mammon, she seeks control over as many as possible. Quantity, not quality, is the focus of both father and daughter. It is not her beauty that lures; rather, the chain she holds expresses her lure. The chain of ambition implies the successes that Guyon does want—fame, recognition, power, glory, beauty. Philotime holds those possibilities, and so even in artifice she has massive appeal. But the chain does not reach to spiritual benefits, only to the material and physical. Besides, any recognition that Guyon receives must come from worthy action for it to mean anything. Guyon rejects Philotime not only because he is temperate and cautious, but also because his idea of glory and fame relies upon his own actions to secure that recognition. Without action, Guyon cannot consider himself to have attained the goals that Philotime offers.

Finally, Mammon tempts Guyon with the golden apples that have secured so many men the love of a woman. Greek myths are rife with stories where golden apples trick or legitimately win over women who previously would not have a man. For example, a golden apple was awarded to the prettiest goddess as decided by Paris. The golden apple was given to Aphrodite because she promised to help Paris seduce Helen of Troy, which began the great and tragic Trojan War.

Guyon escapes the cave of Mammon, but the strain causes him to fall unconscious. The episode in Mammon’s cave gives Guyon Christ-like overtones. Guyon is underground for three days, and then emerges on the third day just as Christ is resurrected on the third day. While underground, Guyon is subjected to three temptations just as Christ was subjected to three temptations in the wilderness. Christ’s wilderness stay lasted forty days, while Guyon’s temptations and trials last forty stanzas. The collapse itself can be explained as Guyon’s spirit and will being stronger than the limitations of his body. Although Guyon rejects temptation, three days without food, water, or sleep is the maximum his body can sustain, and so his frail, human limitations lead to collapse.

The Palmer finds him and stands over him, but just as Redcross could not always rescue himself, Guyon too needs a protector at this point. When Pyrochles and Cymochles come, the Palmer saves Guyon’s life by pretending that he is dead, and so Pyrochles and Cymochles have no reason to kill him. Then, when Guyon’s Knightly accoutrements are about to be taken away, Prince Arthur intervenes to save his honor. Just like the Redcross Knight, Sir Guyon requires grace to survive, even though unlike Redcross, Guyon has successfully rejected temptation. That grace takes the form of the good Prince Arthur.

Price Arthur’s summary defeat of Pyrochles and Cymochles illustrates their weakness as warriors, although Spencer had already made clear their moral weaknesses. This episode is significant because it frees and saves Guyon from death and offers him another chance to fulfill his self-made vow of defeating Acrasia.

When Prince Arthur and Guyon approach Alma’s castle, they seek aid but find a battle. The castle has strong defenses and an orderly structure, but the inhabitants still welcome the aid of the two Knights in defeating the strange brigands. Upon victory, the Knights are shown a castle which is a model of order and good reasoning. Inside its walls are useful things put to useful purposes, careful safeguards against evil and excess, designated flirtation zones, and history books. Each element balances the other elements. Because Alma means “soul” in Spanish, the castle itself could be seen to represent a whole being, one with temperance and good guidance from a reasoned and intelligent soul. The history that Prince Arthur reads in the Castle of Temperance focuses on the Roman occupation of England. Since Book I was concerned with St. George, who was a martyr for his Christian beliefs during the Roman occupation, the narrative connects between books yet again. Furthermore, the importance of Britons ruling Britain becomes clear. Only when Britons rule does prosperity and peace result. Otherwise, martyrdom, Picts, and pagans overrun the glorious land.

The Castle of Temperance fortifies Guyon, although not as much as the House of Holiness fortified Redcross for his battle in Book I. Yet the Castle reinforces Guyon’s tendencies towards temperance and causes him to finally head directly for the enemy that his quest demands he defeat. The feasting, historical reading, and example of Alma give Guyon strength, and his reunion with the Palmer gives him initiative and drive to return to his duty rather than allowing temptation to seize him.

After Guyon leaves, Prince Arthur’s battle with Maleger begins. This battle is characterized by paralysis, stasis, and immobility-- themes first introduced in Book I. At first, Prince Arthur is trapped as if on a treadmill, chasing Maleger without the ability to catch him. Maleger’s store of arrows is continually replenished by Impotence, but Prince Arthur has no similar weapon to use at long range against his foe. Prince Arthur is shown in a vain, prolonged stasis, at a disadvantage, and unsure what action to take. When Prince Arthur tries to kill Impotence, Impatience overthrows him and the two nearly manage to kill Prince Arthur. Spencer comments on this remarkable turn of events by saying that only God’s grace saves any man, no matter how powerful, and only the intervention of Prince Arthur’s Squire saves him from death at the hands of the two hags. It must be remembered that Prince Arthur is a Christ-like figure in the Faerie Queen, and so for him to be so near death and to require God’s grace to survive illustrates the plight of all men. If Prince Arthur must depend upon grace, then surely all men must.

Prince Arthur’s best tactic in his battle with Maleger is his simple endurance and obstinacy. Although frustrated, angry, and confused about what action to take, he continues the battle as best he can. When an idea comes to him, he takes action upon it immediately. By separating Maleger from the Earth and drowning him, Prince Arthur wins the battle. However, the actual victory is unsatisfying. What matters in this fight is not the final triumph, which is glossed over rapidly, but the facts that even Arthur requires grace and that it is a virtue to fight despite seeming helplessness. This double-edged sword means that although a good warrior knows that his survival is utterly dependent on something outside himself that he cannot influence (i.e., God), at the same time he cannot give in to helplessness and must act as best he can at all times. Prince Arthur defeats Maleger by acting as best he can and accepting God’s grace.

In light of the philosophical overtones of Prince Arthur’s battle with Maleger, the overthrow of Acrasia and the Bower of Bliss seem anticlimactic. The overwrought, Baroque-like Bower does not inspire admiration in Guyon. Guyon’s temperance is so sturdy at this point that only once in the entire garden is he even slightly tempted by his passions, and a few words from the Palmer are enough to remind him of his duty. The sneaky attack on Acrasia is unsatisfying because there is no challenge and no victory procession. Unlike Redcross, Guyon’s victory gives him no immediate gain. Instead of a betrothal, a feast, and the promise of a kingdom, Guyon is simply urged to leave the premises by the Palmer. The lack of resolution for Guyon suggests that Temperance is a never-ending quest, and one that never calls for celebration or relaxation. Continuing to strive for temperance is the best reward for temperate behavior.

One must keep in mind, however, that Guyon’s quest was not to achieve eternal salvation. Redcross was lucky enough to receive reassurance that he would achieve sainthood, but Guyon’s highest achievement is to fulfill his vow of destroying the worldly embodiment of temptation, the Bower of Bliss, and its architect, Acrasia. This corresponds to the virtue itself--one cannot be commanded to be temperate, or to find temperance. External authority will not lead to temperance, but only deprivation or the hunt for excess. By definition, temperance is a personal quest and a personal goal.


Summary and Analysis: Book II, Cantos i-vi


Summary and Analysis: Book III, Prologue-Canto vi