The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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Summary and Analysis: Book V, Cantos vii-xii

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1951

New Characters
Adicia: Souldan’s wife, who eggs Souldan on in evil deeds.

Belge: An honorable mother of seventeen sons, twelve of whom have been killed by a tyrant.

Gerioneos Seneschall: A deformed tyrant with three bodies who worships his dead father, who was also similarly deformed.

Isis: An Egyptian nature goddess.

Malengin: A shape-shifting robber who lives in an underground labyrinth.

Paynim Knights: Two pagan Knights who chase Samient.

Queen Mercilla: The good and kind queen of the region.

Samient: A fleeing damsel who serves Queen Mercilla.

Souldan: A vile man who tries to kill Queen Mercilla and her people.

Canto vii: Britomart arrives at Isis’ temple and stays the night. Talus cannot enter, but Britomart is welcomed by the priests. Britomart admires the building and the idol of the goddess, prays, and sleeps by the altar. In the night, she has a vision of herself arrayed in robes and jewels while a storm threatens the temple, enlarging the holy flames to dangerous levels. Then, in the dream, Isis’s crocodile comes to life and threatens to eat Britomart, but Isis holds him back and the crocodile fawns before Britomart instead. Britomart then dreams she becomes pregnant and births a lion. In the morning, a priest asks what troubles her, and Britomart reveals her vision. The priest tells her that gods see through all disguises (such as Knightly armor) and that the crocodile is her own lover, Artegall.

Reassured by this interpretation, Britomart rides to Radigund. Because Radigund is afraid of Talus decimating her people, Radigund moves outside the city walls so as to prevent Talus from needing to enter. Britomart and Radigund fight fiercely and well, and Britomart does not hide her sex. When Radigund sees an advantage, she taunts Britomart by telling her to take her death to her lover as an offering. The wound made while Radigund taunts Britomart hinders Britomart from using her shield properly, but rage causes Britomart to smite Radigund through helmet and skull to her very brain. Still angry, Britomart beheads Radigund.

Talus enters the gate and holds it open for Britomart by killing townspeople. When Britomart realizes the carnage, she asks him to stay his hand, and Talus does so. Seeing Artegall dressed as a woman rends Britomart’s heart, but she changes his clothes and causes all the other subjugated Knights to swear fealty to Artegall, thus restoring his manliness. Then Britomart sends Artegall on his mission, again, and sets off to try and calm her emotions.

Canto viii: Spencer praises Artegall for his dedication to his mission from the Faerie Queen despite Britomart’s allure. As he rides, Artegall sees two Knights chasing a damsel, and a third Knight chasing the two Knights. The Lady rides to Artegall for protection, and he accidentally kills one of the Knights by breaking his neck with his spear. Meanwhile, the third Knight kills the other Knight who had been chasing the damsel. Then the third Knight rides at Artegall, intending to fight. They break their spears, but then the Lady, Samient, begs them to stop, for the Paynim Knights are dead and there is no cause for danger. The third Knight is then revealed to be Prince Arthur. Samient explains that she serves Queen Mercilla, a merciful and kind Queen. She continues by saying that a man named Souldan, spurred by his evil wife Adicia, torments and attempts to kill both Queen Mercilla’s people and the Queen herself.

Artegall dons one of the Paynim Knight’s armor in order to gain entrance to Adicia’s court. He brings Samient with him as a pretended prize and refuses to remove his armor, for fear of discovery. Prince Arthur soon arrives and demands that Souldan release Samient. The insolent and rude Souldan fights Prince Arthur for greed and self-advancement, and Souldan uses darts to confuse and strike at Prince Arthur even from afar. Finally, Prince Arthur brings out his magic shield, which blinds the horses pulling Souldan’s chariot. The horses flee, and Souldan cannot control them. Prince Arthur follows until the chariot is overturned and Souldan lies on the ground, cut and bruised. Even his armor is broken and smashed. Prince Arthur gathers and displays the armor as a warning to all men not to be greedy or prideful.

Upon seeing the signs of her husband’s defeat, Adicia runs down to Samient’s prison with a knife in hand, ready to kill her. Artegall stops her and Adicia runs into the forest. Prince Arthur enters Souldan’s castle as victor, and the next day he, Artegall, and Samient leave for Queen Mercilla’s castle.

Canto ix: Spencer begins with a lament: “What Tygre, or what other saluage wight / Is so exceeding furious and fell, / As wrong, when it hath arm’d itselfe with might?” On the way to Queen Mercilla’s palace with Samient, Prince Arthur and Artegall meet the robber and villain Malengin. Malengin stores his stolen treasures in his underground labyrinth. Samient leads them to the entrance of the labyrinth and wails as if in distress to lure Malengin out. Malengin has a staff tipped with iron hooks and a net with which to catch his prey and steal from them. He begins to perform magic tricks and sleight of hand for Samient, to calm her. Meanwhile, he readies the net and captures her. Then Malengin runs with her into his lair, where the two Knights greet him, having sneaked over while Malengin was distracted. Malengin throws Samient down and runs, but Artegall chases him while Prince Arthur guards the labyrinth entrance.

Malengin leaps around the mountains like a goat, so Artegall sends Talus to chase him. Malengin transforms into a fox, a bush, and a bird, but Talus captures him. When Malengin is brought to Artegall, he transforms into a hedgehog; Artegall drops him and Talus has to catch him again. Finally Talus beats him until Malengin dies.

The company travels on until they reach Queen Mercilla’s palace. It is beautiful and enormous, and the court is open to all honest people. Awe and Order stand guard. Queen Mercilla sits on a high throne wearing the cloth of state, which is held up by angels. Angels also sing around the throne. Virgins and a lion sit at her feet. As the Queen was in the midst of dispensing justice and hearing complaints, Artegall and Prince Arthur are placed on either side of her to listen to the next case.

The case is against Duessa, who has committed crimes against Knights and against Queen Mercilla by deceiving two Knights, Blandamour and Paridell, into conspiring to kill Queen Mercilla and take her throne. Many others testify against Duessa, including Kingdoms Care, Authority, Religion, and Justice. However, Pity, Regard, Danger, Nobility, and Grief testify on Duessa’s behalf. Queen Mercilla still sentences Duessa to death.

Canto x: Queen Mercilla, Artegall, and Prince Arthur are just, firm, and remorseful in their treatment of Duessa. Spencer praises them for their fortitude and sorrow. In the Queen’s court, petitions continue to be heard. A widow named Belge sends two of her sons to complain of a tyrant who has killed twelve of her seventeen sons and sacrificed their blood to his father’s idol. This tyrant, Gerioneos Seneschall, has the power, bodies, and limbs of three men, like his father.

When none of the Knights in court step forward to take on the adventure, Prince Arthur volunteers. Belge’s sons accompany him to guide and inform him as they travel. Artegall rides out soon after in search of his own adventures. Prince Arthur and the brothers find Belge hiding in the fens, alone and terrified. Belge, the brothers, and Prince Arthur ride to the city the tyrant has taken over. An armed guard rushes Prince Arthur, but he kills one and the rest flee. Prince Arthur leads Belge back into her castle.

Canto xi: The Prince and Gerioneos battle outside the castle, while Belge and her sons watch. The tyrant has the advantage with his extra limbs, since he can move his sword and fighting axe from hand to hand and attack his opponent by surprise. The Prince cuts off one of Gerioneos’ arms and the tyrant strikes at him fiercely, but only kills Prince Arthur’s horse. The Prince attacks the tyrant again and cuts off two more arms, rendering one side of the tyrant bare and defenseless. Then the Prince drives the sword through all three bodies of the tyrant, killing him.

Belge emerges from the castle to thank the Prince and begs him to finish the job he has started by killing the monster that defends the tyrant’s idol. The monster has the face of a woman followed by body parts from lions, dogs, dragons, and eagles, attached to a worm-like body. The Prince battles the monster and kills her. With the monster dead, the Prince destroys the idol and returns to the city. A joyful parade surrounds him. The Prince remains with Belge until her reign is re-established and then rides on in search of adventure.

Meanwhile, Artegall has been adventuring alone. Grantorio has captured Irena, the woman Artegall was traveling to save. Grantorio threatens to kill her if a champion does not rescue her within ten days. Artegall vows to rescue her within the deadline and rides off in pursuit of that goal. However, almost immediately he finds a Knight and a damsel harassed by a rabble. He and Talus free the Knight, but the Lady is captured. The Knight is Burbon and the Lady is Flourdelis, and Burbon explains that they were happily in love until Grantorio stole Flourdelis with kind words and gifts. Burbon stole Flourdelis back, but Grantorio had sent the rabble to reclaim her. Burbon was Knighted by the Redcross Knight (of Book I), but he laid aside his shield because he was recognized by it and the villains pursued him because of it. Burbon intends to reclaim and use his shield again. Burbon begs Artegall and Talus to help him reclaim his Lady, and they agree despite mistrusting him for laying aside Redcross’ shield.

When they have fought the rabble and freed Flourdelis, she rejects Burbon unkindly. Artegall rebukes her for her “change of love” and upbraids her for lack of faith. Ashamed, Flourdelis mounts behind Burbon and rides away with him. Artegall stops Talus from his continued rout of the rabble and they continue their quest.

Canto xii: Artegall rides to Grantorio’s castle and accepts the challenge to save Irena. When Grantorio takes the field, he wears brown armor and is a giant. Grantorio strikes often and hard, and Artegall suffers. Finally, Grantorio deals what should be the deathblow, but Artegall thrusts his shield between the sword and himself. The sword sticks fast in the shield, and Grantorio is unarmed. From then, the battle is Artegall’s, and he kills Grantorio. The watching people cheer and fall at the feet of Irena, their rightful queen. Artegall restores Irena to leadership and punishes everyone who supported Grantorio.

When word comes from Gloriana that Artegall must return to the Faerie Court, he takes his leave of Irena. On the way, he meets two hags, Envy and Detraction. They had entrapped Irena in the first place and now are angry with Artegall for releasing her. They have a monster with them. When they see Artegall, they shriek and descend upon him. Detraction hurls insults while Envy spits upon him. The monster chases him and barks. Artegall passes through without seeming to hear or see them and forbids Talus to attack them either. Artegall refuses to “swerue / From his right course” to Gloriana.

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