Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 6090
Argante: A giantess who is infected with lust.
Busirane: A vile wizard who tries to win Amoretta’s consent with torture and fear.
Hellenore: The young and carefree wife of Malbecco.
Malbecco: An elderly miser with a young and beautiful wife he keeps imprisoned out of (unfounded) jealousy.
Monster: A vile thing resembling a hyena, called up by the witch because it feeds on women’s flesh.
Ollyphant: A giant, the twin brother of Argante and also a slave to lust.
Palladine: A female Knight, chaste and brave.
Paridell: A Faerie Knight sent out to search for Florimell.
Paris: The Trojan whose love for Helen, the most beautiful woman in Greece, started the Trojan War.
Porter: The man who answers calls at the gate.
Proteus: A god of the sea with icy breast and beard.
Son: The witch’s son, who is also wicked.
Squire of Dames: A man on a hopeless mission for the Lady he loves.
The false Florimell: A fake woman animated by spirits and created by the witch.
The old fisherman: A fisherman asleep in his boat near shore.
Witch: A wicked woman who lives in a desolate valley far from other people.
Canto vii: Florimell continues to flee, although she has escaped danger. Her horse guides her deep into the woods until he is exhausted and lies down. Florimell climbs off her horse and flees on foot. Finally, she spies a valley with a single, small house. Hungry and tired, she stops there.
The cottage belongs to a witch who works magic on distant people who have offended her. When Florimell enters and startles her, the witch turns her fear to anger and accuses Florimell of being guided by the devil. Used to those who respect and care for honorable Ladies, Florimell cries and appeals to the good sense of the witch and asks for a place to rest. Even the witch is touched by her beauty and simple honor and asks her to sit by the fire.
Florimell rests, and the witch’s son comes home. Amazed at the beautiful woman in his home, he asks his mother who this Lady is, but the witch gives no answer. At first, the son’s fear holds him in check. However, as time passes, lust begins to swell in him. He brings Florimell game from the forest and garlands of flowers, which she accepts out of fear of his vile nature. When Florimell has rested and her horse has found her, she sneaks out of their house in the early morning. She does so secretly because she knows that the vile natures of the witch and son might be revealed if she tries to leave openly. When the son wakes and discovers her absence, he claws at his face in distress because his “love to frenzy turnd.” Potions and charms have no effect, and the witch cannot reason with her passionate son. She turns to her evil arts and calls up a monster resembling a hyena that feeds on women’s flesh, and she sends that monster out to find Florimell.
When the monster almost overtakes Florimell, she flees faster. Her horse carries her as far as he can, and then she leaps from her horse to the ground and runs on foot. The seashore is before her, and she would rather drown than be caught by the monster. At the edge of the water, however, is a poor fisherman’s boat, with the fisherman sleeping inside. Florimell jumps into the boat and pushes away from shore. The monster does not brave the waves, but instead takes his anger out on her horse, killing him.
The brave Knight Satyrane (from Book I, Canto vi) rides past, scares the monster away, and recognizes Florimell’s horse. Nearby, Satyrane sees Florimell’s bloodied golden girdle. Enraged at what he perceives as Florimell’s murderer, Satyrane chases the monster and attacks him. However, the monster is enchanted and can not be harmed. Finally, Satyrane bear hugs the monster and entraps him until the monster submits. Then Satyrane binds the monster’s hands with Florimell’s golden but bloodied girdle and leads him around like a pet.
As Satyrane rides away, he sees a Giantess with a Squire tied to her saddle running from a Knight. Satyrane releases the monster and gives the Giantess a terrible blow. The Giantess drops the Squire and flees, and Satyrane gives chase. However, he cannot catch her and she will not stay to fight. Eventually, Satyrane realizes the futility of his chase and returns to untie the Squire and question him. The Squire reveals that the Giantess is Argante, who had sex with her twin in the womb, and who satisfies her lust with any man or beast that she can capture and imprison on her isle. The Squire also tells Satyrane that his name is Squire of Dames, and he serves a Lady who first tested his love by sending him out for twelve months to become lover to any Lady who would agree. Then he returned to her with three hundred names and pledges of the Ladies he had bedded. The conniving Lady further tested his love by asking that he find an equal number of chaste, brave Ladies who refuse him, and the Squire has been searching ever since. He has only found three so far, but continues to search. The other Knight trying to save him from the Giantess was Palladine, the female Knight who is chaste and brave. Satisfied with these explanations, Satyrane returns to his Lady to tell of Florimell’s supposed death.
Canto viii: When the witch sees the monster return with Florimell’s bloody clothing, she rejoices and believes Florimell dead. Quickly, the witch tells her son. However, the son finds the news the end of all hope, for his love for Florimell is as strong as ever. He turns upon his mother in a rage. She flees to a secret spot where she consults the spirits and asks how to heal her son. The spirits advise her to create a false Lady for the son to love. Using lamps, golden wire, and other materials, the witch does so, and she animates her creation with a sprite. This golden-locked, snowy-skinned, spirit-animated woman is full of guile and flirtation and strongly resembles Florimell.
When the son meets the snowy Lady for the first time, he believes the deception. He lives happily with the false Florimell until the vain and fearful Braggadocchio (from Book II, Canto iii) sees her and steals her from him. Braggadocchio makes no headway with the false Florimell, and a passing Knight sees her resistance to Braggadocchio and requires Braggadocchio to fight for her. Of course, Braggadocchio has no knowledge of fighting. Instead, once they had ridden a furlough apart so they could charge one other, Braggadocchio flees, leaving his squire Trompart and the false Florimell behind. The Knight remains happily with the false Florimell, believing her to be the real woman.
The real Florimell, however, is still at sea. The old fisherman wakes from his sleep and marvels at the beauty in his boat, believing himself still dreaming or that “dazed was his eie.” Florimell thanks him for the safety of his boat and requests that he guide it well, for she fears the sea. The old man rudely leaps at her with lust in his heart, but she rebukes him. He then adds “strength” to his “will,” because he is too set in his ways to learn virtue: “Hard is to teach an old horse amble trew.” The old man attempts to force Florimell as she struggles and screams for help.
Although no Knights are near, the shepherd of the seas, Proteus, hears her cry. Proteus beats the old man and calms Florimell by kissing her and moving her into his chariot. Proteus ties the old man to the back of the chariot, drags him through the waves, and tosses him ashore. Then Proteus takes Florimell back to his underwater cave, where he woos her for days. Florimell refuses him. Proteus begins to threaten Florimell and transforms himself into the shapes of giants, centaurs, and storms. When nothing works, Proteus throws her into an underwater dungeon. Florimell finds that “eternal thraldome was to her more liefe / Then losse of chastity, or chaunge of loue.” Spencer then holds Florimell up as an example all women should follow.
The narrative returns to Satyrane, who meets another Knight, Paridell. Paridell tells Satyrane of Marinell’s death and Florimell’s disappearance, and how all the Faerie Knights are out seeking the beautiful Florimell. Satyrane tells what he has seen, including Florimell’s dead horse and the bloody girdle. Paridell refuses to give up the hunt until a body has been found and announces his intent to continue searching. Satyrane urges Paridell to rest first and accompany him to a nearby castle. Although by tradition all castles are open to Knights, this castle denies them entrance, and Spencer saves the reason for it for the next Canto.
Canto ix: Spencer begins with an apology for his depictions of wanton Ladies and faithless Knights. He justifies his bad examples by saying that even in heaven “a whole legione / Of wicked Sprights did fall from happy blis; / What wonder then, if one of women all did mis?” Spencer then begins the story of why Paridell and Satyrane are denied entrance into the castle. Malbecco, an elderly Knight whose main interest is hoarding ill-gotten wealth, lives there with his beautiful, young wife, Hellenore. His jealousy keeps all men away from her. Thus, no strangers, including Knights, are allowed into the castle. Satyrane laughs at this notion of keeping a woman closed up because “A woman’s will . . .is disposd to go astray.” Satyrane argues that rather than constraint, the way to keep a woman is to anticipate her needs, offer her courtesies, and give her pleasure. Paridell says that Malbecco must be mad to love his bondage, even if it is pretty bondage.
Paridell and Satyrane agree to try to enter by flattery, and if that fails, to enter by force. They speak to the Porter at the gate, who says that everyone is in bed and the keys are with the master. Paridell threatens the Porter, but to no avail. A storm descends, and Paridell and Satyrane take shelter in a pig shed near the castle.
In the darkness, another Knight rides up to Malbecco’s castle to ask for shelter. This Knight, too, is turned away and finds the pig shed. There is no room inside, and the new Knight threatens violence if space isn’t shared. Paridell becomes angry, mounts his horse, and rides out threateningly into the storm. The new Knight knocks Paridell from his horse, and Satyrane intervenes. Satyrane urges them to turn their anger towards Malbecco instead, and so the three Knights ride to the gate. They threaten to burn it down, and Malbecco runs out and offers them lodging, excusing the earlier refusal as an error by his servants.
The three Knights undress to dry their wet garments, and the strange Knight is revealed to be Britomart. All the males in the castle fall in love with her, and her chivalry and fighting prowess as well as her beauty awe Paridell and Satyrane. They sit down to dinner with Malbecco and demand that his wife join them. Malbecco dissembles, but they insist until he brings her out. During dinner, Paridell sits out of Malbecco’s view and exchanges flirtatious looks with Hellenore. With spilled wine, he indicates his love for her, and she drops her own glass into her lap, indicating that his passion is reciprocated. At the end of the meal, Hellenore urges the Knights to tell of their adventures, and Paridell seizes the opportunity to vaunt himself before Hellenore.
Paridell begins by tracing his ancestry to Paris of Troy, who fought the Trojan War over Helen. He continues by justifying his presence outside of Greece with his desire for fame and adventure. Britomart jumps into the conversation because she is proud of her Greek ancestry, as Britons came from the bold Trojans. She laments the loss of Troy, such a marvelous city. Paridell and Britomart trade facts about Troy, and Britomart declares that a third Troy will one day arise in Britain. Paridell tells a story of Britons subduing the cannibals in the Northern isles, and then Paridell apologizes for attempting to fight Britomart, a fellow Trojan, earlier. Hellenore listens to Paridell carefully while “fashioning worlds of fancies euermore” and lusting after him. They soon depart and go to sleep.
Canto x: Britomart and Satyrane leave the castle in the morning, but Paridell pleads that his injury falling from his horse at Britomart’s hand is too serious, and he cannot yet leave. Paridell stays behind, much to Malbecco’s chagrin. Malbecco torments himself and Hellenore by not allowing her to leave his sight.
However, Paridell gradually wins Hellenore’s heart, and she eagerly watches him all the time. They speak in a coded language. He writes ballads for her and serves her every need until the walls of her modesty and faithfulness fall, as any wall will with “continual battery.”
Hellenore finds an opportunity and steals some of Malbecco’s wealth to run away with Paridell. She burns the rest. Spencer calls her the “second Hellene.” As Malbecco runs to save his money, Hellenore runs to Paridell’s arms and then screams that the guest means to ravish her and carry her away. Torn, Malbecco cannot decide whether to save his money or his love, but eventually chooses the money. Paridell and Hellenore escape together.
Malbecco’s anguish increases, as most of his money is burned and his love gone. For days he paces and plots how to win her back. Finally, dressed as a poor pilgrim, he sets out find Hellenore. She is too clever to be caught, and Malbecco is forced to wander for a long time. Finally, he sees a man and a woman riding together and believes it to be Paridell and Hellenore. When he approaches, he realizes it is Braggadocchio and Trompart. The boasting Knight forces Trompart to drag the (seeming) poor pilgrim before him, and then Braggadocio talks down to Malbecco, calling him a wretch. Malbecco explains that he is a “silly Pilgrim driuen to distresse, / That seeke a Lady.”
Reveling in his role as brave and good Knight, Braggadocchio urges Malbecco to tell his story because noble help is near at hand. Malbecco says that he has a noble and wonderful Lady who was lately stolen by a terrible Knight. Then Malbecco attempts to bribe Braggadocchio to find and save Hellenore. Still in his role as Knight, Braggadocchio refuses such a base offer and turns away, distressed at the slight to his supposed honor. Trompart, however, knowing his master well, bows before Braggadocchio and begs him to forgive the simple man for being so foolish.
Intending to take his treasure at a good opportunity, Trompart and Braggadocchio accompany Malbecco in his search for Hellenore and Paridell. As they ride, they see Paridell riding alone. After he had had sex with Hellenore, he abandoned her. Malbecco faints at the mere sight of Paridell and then asked where Hellenore might be. Paridell suggests the forest and rides on. Braggadocchio does not even have to fight him because Malbecco urges Braggadocchio to help rescue Hellenore from the wild beasts of the forest. Spencer informs the reader that Hellenore wandered into a forest and was found by satyrs. The satyrs brought her to their home to be a wife to them all.
Trompart then suggests that Malbecco stay with his treasure outside the dangerous forest, so that his money will not be stolen. Fearful Malbecco does not wish to be left alone, and so Trompart suggests that he blindfold Trompart and Braggadocchio and then hide his treasure somewhere. This is done. They enter the forest and shortly hear a loud commotion. They sneak up on the source of the noise and find Hellenore dressed as the May-Lady, bedecked in garlands, and dancing happily amidst satyrs. The happy wood-dwellers dance all day and conclude the celebration with every satyr kissing Hellenore before she drops off to sleep.
Malbecco crawls through the grass to Hellenore and awakens her. She urges him to leave her alone, and Malbecco tries to persuade her that this unnatural life, abhorred by humans and gods, will have no effect on her if she just returns home to the bonds of matrimony. Hellenore refuses and declares she will stay with the satyrs. Malbecco pleads with her all night, then flees at daybreak.
Jealous and depressed, Malbecco begins to run and then cannot stop. He covers so much ground that his body begins to waste and melt away. Finally, he falls on rocks by the sea and crawls into a cave, where he survives on toads and frogs. There, dread and doubt corrupt his entire body and “transfixe the soule with deathes eternall dart.” His hatred and grief turn him into a living example of jealousy.
Canto xi: Spencer calls jealousy the vilest of passions and begs for love to dwell in jealousy’s stead, as it does for Britomart. As Satyrane and Britomart ride, they see a giant, Ollyphant, the brother of Argante. Both Knights give chase to the giant, but he outruns their steeds. Ollyphant hides in the forest, and the Knights split up to try to find him. Britomart does not find Ollyphant, but finds a fountain where a Knight without his armor lies groaning on the ground. The Knight calls out to the Lord to give justice and good causes heed, rather than allowing vain and endless pursuit of good. The Knight complains that Amoretta is held captive by Busirane, while vile Scudamore remains free and cannot defeat the foe.
Britomart comes forward to comfort Scudamore, startling him out of his lament. Britomart comforts him by telling him that providence has sent him a Knight to help win his cause. Taking no comfort from this offer, Scudamore explains that strength of arms will do no good, as a wizard holds the Lady with fiends as guards and no “liuing means” may free her. The Lady is tormented day and night but refuses to yield to the evil wizard.
Touched by the story, Britomart vows to free the Lady or die trying. She urges Scudamore to join her in this pursuit, rather than giving up. He dons his armor and leads her to the castle. There is no gate, but instead a raging fire that Scudamore says cannot be quenched. He wishes to give up the quest again, but Britomart puts her shield up to her face and runs directly into the fire, which parts to allow her passage. Scudamore tries the same tactic, but the fire rages fiercer than ever before him and he throws himself to the grass, burying his forehead in the dirt.
On the other side of the flaming wall, Britomart discovers gold and silk hidden amongst the walls of the castle. Portraits of love and lust line the walls, along with tapestries of Cupid’s wars and many images of the various conquests of the gods. Written over the doorway is the phrase “Be Bold,” the meaning of which is opaque to Britomart. Britomart marvels at the tapestries, designs, and riches, but also at the emptiness and lack of people. Over every door the phrase “Be Bold” is written, until at last she finds an iron door that says, “Be not too bold,” and there she waits until evening, seeing no one, and she falls asleep.
Canto xii: During the night, a trumpet sounds and wakes Britomart. Then a windstorm begins, but Britomart perseveres in her watch. Finally, the iron door swings open and a heavily costumed man holding a laurel branch enters, beckons for silence, and proceeds forward. On the back of his robe is written his name, Ease. Then a joyous group of minstrels proceed out with bards and poets and music fills the hall. Fancy, Desire, Doubt, Danger, Fear, Hope, Dissemblance, Suspect, Grief, Fury, Displeasure, Pleasance, Despight, and Cruelty process through the hall clad in odd clothes that befit their names. A blindfolded, winged god resembling Cupid emerges and rattles his arrows. He orders his blindfold removed and surveys the company. Then Reproach, Repentance, Shame, Strife, Anger, Care, Unthriftyhood, Loss of Time, Sorrow, Change, Disloyalty, Riots, Dread, Infirmity, Poverty, Death and many more maladies emerge. They march around the room three times and then return through the door they had entered through. The door then blows shut and locks behind them.
Britomart emerges from her hiding place in the shadows and tries to open the door, but it is locked shut with charms and enchantments. Seeing no other option, Britomart waits through the day for the same time the next night. When the door finally blows open again, she enters without care for the shows or charms that she saw the night before. Inside, a Lady is bound to a pillar, and the vile Enchanter Busirane works on books of magic. The captive Lady’s chest is split open and her exposed heart pumps blood into Busirane’s pen, so that he writes his words in her living blood. Upon seeing Britomart, the Wizard turns over his desk and papers and runs at Britomart with a knife. She wrestles with him, and the knife pierces her chest, bringing forth a few drops of blood. Drawing her sword, Britomart strikes back fiercely, knocking Busirane to the ground half-dead. As Britomart readies for the deathblow, the captive woman begs her to stop, else she will suffer from his enchantments forever. Reluctantly, Britomart stays her hand and commands the Wizard to restore the captive to her former health or die immediately. The pair stand.
Busirane reads magic words while Britomart’s sword hovers over his head, ready to kill him at any moment. The ground and house begin to shake, and then the pillar to which the captive Lady is tied shatters and the chain around her waist falls. The wound on her chest heals and she is whole. The former captive, Amoretta, falls prostrate before Britomart and swears allegiance to the brave Knight who has freed her. Britomart raises her to her feet and tells her that Scudamore awaits outside the castle. Amoretta ties the Wizard with the chain that had bound her to the pillar and led him to “wretchednesse and wo.”
Britomart and Amoretta leave the castle, noting that all of the tapestries, portraits and flames have disappeared and thus are revealed as mere enchantments. They return to where Britomart left Scudamore but find no one there. Doubtful Scudamore had believed Britomart dead in the flames and counseled Glauce to leave with him to seek possible quests among the living.
(In the first edition of Book III, Scudamore remains, and he and Amoretta embrace in true love, their very souls entwine in happiness. Seeing them, Britomart sorely envies their ease and passion and wishes for her own quest to end.)
After the example of the healthiest form of chastity in the Garden of Adonis, Spencer returns to Florimell. Just like Una in Book I, when Florimell is exhausted and alone, she seeks out a place that happens to house wicked people. Although Florimell has fled from all men previously, she remains in the house even when the witch’s son comes home. Her fear of the vile nature of the witch and her son grows the more she observes them. When the witch’s son begins to adore her, Florimell does not know what to do but accept his offering and eventually resort to the tried-and-true response to men’s lust: flight.
Because Florimell does not confront or change the lustful, she seems much more passive than most of the female characters in the Faerie Queen. Her response only varies when she is trapped on a boat with the base, lustful male. Only when absolutely forced to do so does Florimell fight. But even then she fails, requiring the intervention of yet another lustful male to aid her, and ending up in an even worse situation in Proteus’ dungeon. Her responses are always fear-based. She is afraid of being deflowered, though she is not necessarily virtuous. In this way, she resembles Marinell, whose chaste behavior was also a result of fearful self-preservation.
However, Florimell’s chastity has elements of the divine and religious. Presumably a sea god flattering a young girl and being in love with her would be at least somewhat tempting. But even Proteus’ shape shifting does not alter Florimell’s attitude. The change in form is only physical, and Florimell’s concern is for her soul. Since force, kindness, and displays of power do not win Florimell over, the lustful Proteus confines her to a dungeon, consigning her to be unseen and therefore keeping her from inspiring lust again. Her imprisonment limits the power of her beauty because no one can see her.
Spencer’s explicit admonition to all women to prefer a dungeon to losing their chastity or changing whom they love recalls the admonitions he made about Redcross in Book I. When Redcross began to dally with Duessa, Redcross warned all men about changing their love too quickly from one woman to the next. Constancy in love remains a major theme to Spencer. One of the reasons Spencer celebrates Britomart is her fixed attention for Artegall. Spencer holds up two examples of inconstant behavior in these Cantos. The giantess Argante and the Squire of Dames both exemplify Spencer’s opinion that chaste women are few and far in between. The Squire of Dames slept with three hundred women in a year, but since then has found only three chaste women. The obvious equation is that no more than one out of a hundred women is chaste, and so chastity is a precious trait. This suggests that even Florimell’s fearful chastity, with all of its negative effects, is still to be praised. Argante represents the far opposite end of the spectrum, the foul embodiment of lust. Argante began having sex in the womb and has been insatiable since, even satisfying herself with beasts. Since Argante acts only to satisfy sensual desire, she is portrayed as incapable of true love. By having Palladine, a chaste female Knight, chase and subdue Argante, Spencer’s allegory seems to read as only chastity defeats unbridled lust.
The Faerie Queen is rife with mistaken identity and doubles. One example of this is that Duessa is the opposite of Una. Enchantment leads to false recognition. The false Florimell is another such example of magic disguising something base and without virtue as something beautiful and worthy. The false Florimell has no soul and was created by the witch only to appease her son when the witch realized that even the supposed death of Florimell would not end her son’s love and longing. This false Florimell is another thread in Spencer’s continued distrust of outward appearances, but the description of her creation by the witch leads to a moment of allusive humor. Petrarch wrote love sonnets about lamps in women’s eyes and the golden wire of beautiful women’s hair, and the witch uses actual lamps, actual golden wire, and other Petrarchan symbols.
In addition to lacking virtue, the false Florimell merely imitates thought. A sprite moves and speaks for her. She imitates the heavenly beauty of real women. Her imitation cannot substitute for or surpass that of real women. In addition, the false Florimell does not seem to care when she is taken by Braggadocchio. Her coy and guileful nature was not created to be loyal or to love, and so no matter who accompanies her, she behaves the same way.
The story of Hellenore, another diversion from Britomart’s quest, illustrates that neither a woman’s love nor her chastity can be forced or enforced. Malbecco’s elaborate imprisonment of Hellenore does not stop her from straying, and she does so with gleeful vengeance. Satyrane’s laughing remark that subduing a woman’s will leads a woman astray is aptly demonstrated. Hellenore is the opposite of Britomart. While Hellenore is trapped by a man, turns willful, and reaches satiation with satyrs, Britomart uses her will to actively seek the one man she loves so that she can be sated. Hellenore’s promiscuity emphasizes Britomart’s steadfastness.
Although political allegory may seem difficult to insert into this narrative about chastity, Spencer does find opportunities. The discussion of the Trojan lineage serves to glorify Queen Elizabeth and England. The Trojans and the Roman empire were considered by many in the sixteenth century to be the two peaks of civilization. Britomart’s assertion that a third Trojan empire will emerge serves to suggest that the British Empire under Queen Elizabeth might create one of the best civilizations possible. Thus, the Trojan link creates a flattering political allegory for British readers and particularly for the Queen. Also, by suggesting this sort of triumph on the part of the British, Spencer downplays the possibility that any other country or institution could achieve similar status. Since Queen Elizabeth’s Protestantism was part of her rule, implied in British success is the failure of Catholicism, which could not possibly rival a third Trojan empire. The Trojan heritage also serves the plot by connecting Paridell and Hellenore with Paris and Helen. Britomart’s noble heritage comes as no surprise.
Malbecco’s use of Braggadocchio to find Hellenore is ironic. As a husband, Malbecco was almost as much of a failure as Braggadoccio is as a Knight. Yet Braggadocchio, with Trompart’s help, manages not only to accept the quest, but even to complete it. Since Braggadocchio successfully leads Malbecco to Hellenore, and they are both failures at their roles, it is no surprise that Malbecco leaves without Hellenore. Braggadocchio has no noble blood, and Malbecco has no true love, only lust and jealousy. Malbecco’s transformation into a creature of jealousy serves as warning to anyone who tries to imprison their loved ones instead of allowing them to choose freely.
Britomart’s discovery of Scudamore mourning over his inability to save Amoretta serves to give Britomart something concrete to do, rather than simply wandering in search of Artegall. Britomart leaps to aid Scudamore and promises to save Amoretta or die trying. Britomart’s strength and determination far outweighs Scudamore’s. While Britomart charges into the flames, Scudamore worries about himself too much to follow. Since Britomart is attempting to rescue someone she has never met because of a story told by someone she has also never met, her bravery is particularly remarkable.
Busirane, like the elderly fisherman, serves the narrative as a symbol of insatiable lust. His castle has three anterooms. The first is full of images of gods lusting after humans. Some show rape scenes, and all of the tapestries are bright and distracting and suggest that lust is a divine trait. The second room is gilded with false gold and filled with instruments of war and war spoils, so that although it appears rich and precious, it is only a false approximation of wealth that glorifies violence. The third room seems empty, but soon hosts a procession of negative emotions. The procession resembles the host of negative emotions that Guyon had to walk past with Mammon to enter Mammon’s cave. Both sets of figures are ultimately harmless because the Knight does not attack them or even pay them much mind. The implication is that both Knights are able to overcome negative emotions because they focus on a goal. Emotions are trumped by reason and duty. Britomart does not try force the locked iron door or attack the procession. Her patience and fearlessness allow her to easily enter Busirane’s innermost room without any significant opposition.
Each of the anterooms in Busirane’s castle displays weaknesses of the mind: lust, violence, and other negative emotions. The first two rooms contain the two largest threats to chastity, as exemplified in poor Florimell. The negative emotions are those that would keep even a brave Knight from attacking Busirane and rescuing Amoretta, the symbol of true love, just as Scudamore remains outside the wall of fire. Thus, the castle itself symbolizes the attacks on chastity that have been modeled throughout Book III.
The plight of Amoretta illustrates the lengths to which one can go without altering true love. Both Amoretta and Florimell are trapped by someone more powerful than they who uses magic to try and coerce their love. However, Florimell’s situation is more prosaic than Amoretta. Florimell’s prison is just a prison. Busirane’s lust leads him to split open Amoretta’s chest and steal her very lifeblood while she is imprisoned. Yet true love cannot be disturbed even by torture or death, and so Amoretta will not renounce Scudamore or give up her chastity to Busirane. Even the promise of vengeance upon Busirane does not obscure Amoretta’s vision of returning to Scudamore; rather than let Britomart kill Busirane, Amoretta begs Britomart to force Busirane to restore her heart to its proper place. When Amoretta and Britomart emerge from Busirane’s castle, Amoretta has been fully restored and still loves Scudamore intensely.
The personal development of Britomart is quite different from that of Redcross or Guyon, but one significant shift occurs during Book III. Britomart moves from being fearful that her love is abnormal or wrong to defending love in its purest form from the evil enchanter Busirane. Busirane seeks to gain Amoretta’s love, but if he cannot do that he intends to render her unable to love by using her blood and removing her heart. Busirane does not respect either Amoretta’s right to choose whom she loves nor married chastity. Obviously, Busirane is an enemy to happily married love and temperate sexuality within the sinless bounds of marriage. By fighting Busirane, Britomart establishes that she has accepted even very powerful love as something positive and worth protecting.
Book III is very strange in terms of plot. Much of Book III does not even concern Britomart and Glauce. Instead, Spencer seems mostly concerned with presenting examples of chaste and unchaste behavior in all sorts of situations. Given the tightly knit plot structure of Books I and II, Book III marks quite a stylistic departure for Spencer. This style continues in the later Books of the Faerie Queen, and some of the other books feel similarly fragmented. However, the same characters continue to surface and interconnect.
The strangely incomplete nature of Book III is exaggerated when one compares the original ending with the one that eventually was published. In the original ending, Amoretta and Scudamore present a model of true love by merging into one being as they kiss, resembling a hermaphrodite. Their love merges and completes them, and they have both male and female components that balance them. Watching them, Britomart yearns for a similar transformation through love. Britomart has already taken steps to become androgynous by donning armor and fighting her own battles, but in this she has effaced her own sex rather than merged into a complete, balanced union of both sexes. Amoretta and Scudamore’s long embrace shows just what Britomart lacks without Artegall, and so furthers Britomart’s acceptance of the need for and delight in true love.
However, Spencer changed that ending in later publications. Rather than witnessing true love, Britomart emerges to find that Scudamore has disappeared. Believing her dead, he and Glauce have traveled off together. This throws Amoretta and Britomart together for the next section of the story. Both Amoretta and Britomart venture in search of their man, but Amoretta does so passively, in that she depends upon Britomart and Britomart’s protection. In the revised ending, Britomart seems stronger and more powerful than Amoretta. Scudamore’s doubt of Britomart and Amoretta’s survival suggests that Scudamore’s weak, doubting nature makes him less of an equal to Amoretta than the alternate ending. Artegall may be excused for not finding or seeking Britomart, since he does not know she exists; but Scudamore’s failure to rescue Amoretta and his capitulation to hopelessness renders him weak. In the revised ending, Britomart’s strength and true love seems purer and stronger than Amoretta and Scudamore’s.
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