Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2402
Amidas: The younger, luckier brother betrothed to Lucy but who eloped with Philtra.
Astroeia: The woman who raised Artegall to know right from wrong and justice from injustice.
Bracidas: The unlucky but virtuous brother who fights with Amidas.
Clarinda: Radigund’s handmaiden and fellow woman warrior.
Dolon: A fallen Knight who hates Artegall because he killed Dolon’s son in a fair fight.
Grantorio: An evil giant.
Irena: A good woman who is oppressed by Grantorio.
Lucy: A poor girl with virtue who tries to kill herself and instead marries Bracidas.
Munera: Pollente’s Lady, who receives all the money he robs from others.
Philtra: A wealthy but greedy girl.
Pollente: A Sarazin taking a toll from any who wish to cross a particular bridge.
Radigund: An Amazon warrior woman who hates Knights and delights in their subjection.
Sir Sanglier: A Knight without honor.
Squire: A man who loves a Lady who is taken from him.
Talus: An iron man, unbending and inflexible but strong and unbreakable.
Terpine: A Knight caught by warlike women.
Proem: Spencer laments that the “golden” age is over and life is becoming more base and full of vice. He affirms that this Book’s purpose is to demonstrate Justice.
Canto i: A goodly dame named Irena makes her way to the Faerie Queen and complains of a tyrant named Grantorio keeping her from her heritage. The Faerie Queen calls upon Artegall to remedy this ill because he was trained by Astroeia in his youth to know the intricacies of justice. Artegall takes his Squire, Talus, who was left for Artegall by Astroeia. Talus is an iron man, “immoueable, resistlesse, without end.”
As they travel, Talus and Artegall meet a Squire crying beside a beheaded woman. The Squire tells the two travelers that as he and his love sat talking a stranger rode up beside them, threw down his own Lady, and picked up the Squire’s love. As the stranger rode away with the Squire’s Lady, his own Lady followed crying to be taken with him or killed. The stranger beheaded her. Artegall asks what direction this Knight went, and the Squire tells him and reveals that his shield was a bloody field with a broken sword. Talus speeds off after the man and overtakes the Knight, Sir Sanglier. Talus captures and binds Sir Sanglier and brings the Lady back to where Artegall and the Squire wait.
Sir Sanglier denies that the headless woman is any Lady of his. Rather, he says he was simply riding with his own Lady. Since both Sir Sanglier and the Squire deny the dead woman as their own, Artegall thinks of a way to force the one who loves the still-living Lady to reveal it. He threatens to cut both the living and the dead women into halves and give them each a part. Sir Sanglier does not protest, while the Squire says he will take the dead woman if that is the only choice. Artegall rules the Squire worthy of the living and Sir Sanglier only worthy to bear the head of his Lady before him, to show what he had done.
Canto ii: Artegall meets Florimell’s Dwarf, who tells him that the real, still-living Florimell and Marinell have been joined in love and Florimell has been rescued from a dungeon. The Dwarf says that he will be at Florimell’s wedding only if he can cross a bridge where a Sarazin kills those who do not pay money to pass. This Sarazin, named Pollente, is strong and clever. Pollente gives all of his stolen riches to a greedy woman named Munera.
Artegall rides out to fight Pollente. First, he kills Pollente’s squire. Then he rides at Pollente, across the bridge. Pollente lets down a trap where both men and horses fall into the river, and then Pollente’s steed attacks Artegall’s. Pollente’s experience in the water shows, while Artegall has never tried this kind of fight before. Finally Artegall forces Pollente to dismount and swim, and Artegall is his equal in swimming. Pollente flees to the land, and Artegall follows, kills him, and posts his head atop the bridge.
Artegall and Talus approach Munera’s castle, and Talus tries to gain entrance. Seeing Talus’ inevitable entrance, Munera begs him to stop and throws money and gold over the side of the castle wall to bribe him. They enter without bothering to pick it up. When Artegall and Talus find Munera hiding under a pile of gold, Artegall chops off her hands and feet and displays them for all to see.
As Artegall and Talus ride on, they meet a giant holding a pair of balances. He had enthralled many vulgar people by speaking about inequality and hopes for uncontrolled freedom. Artegall takes the giant aside to speak with him about respecting the Creators and their creations. He chastens the giant to respect the natural order and find the reasons for why things are as they are, rather than striving to change what he does not understand. The giant argues that tyrants, lords, and the rich oppress other men and that equality is vital. The giant also says that he will level the mountains and return the ocean to its proper level. Artegall defends the status quo by arguing that the “great Maker” did not create us to ask questions. He continues, “The dales doe not the lofty hills enuy. / He maketh Kings to sit in souerainty; / He maketh subjects to their powre obay.” Artegall wins the argument when he shows the giant that no amount of wrongs can outweigh a few rights. The giant still seeks the wrong, and so Talus throws him into the sea, where he drowns.
The people who had believed and trusted in the giant react to his death violently and arm themselves. Artegall sends Talus to find the cause of their trouble, and they attack. However, Talus cannot be harmed and defeats the crowd. Then Talus returns to Artegall and they journey on.
Canto iii: A fabulous wedding and feast ensues for Florimell and Marinell, both so lately suffering and now so happy. During a tournament, Marinell defeats many Knights, to his own greater glory. For three days Marinell dominates the tournament successfully. On the fourth, his enemies trap him. Artegall and Braggadocchio free Marinell. At the end of the fighting, Florimell greets every Knight. Braggadocchio lifts Artegall’s shield, to great acclaim, and Florimell thanks him. The vain Braggadocchio makes a stupid response, saying it was not for Florimell he fought, but his own Lady. Then he brings the spirit-animated witch’s creation of the false Florimell forward. Everyone is thunderstruck at the two seeming twins, only the false Florimell has an aura of perfection that no real woman could have.
Disgusted with Braggadocchio, Artegall interrupts the silence. He tells Braggadocchio to reveal his wounds and dents in his shield to prove he was the one who fought to free Marinell. Artegall then accuses Braggadocchio of having a creation, not a real woman. When the real Florimell and the false Florimell are placed side by side, the false melts away and vanishes. Only the girdle remains. When Florimell tries it on, it fits her perfectly, unlike all the other women who could not get it to stay on their bodies in Book IV.
At that moment, Guyon comes forward to kill Braggadocchio for stealing his horse (see Book II). The crowd holds him back, and Artegall judges who is the rightful owner of the horse. Guyon names a black spot on the inside of the horse’s mouth, and that spot does exist, and so Artegall rules the horse is Guyon’s. Braggadocchio rails at Artegall, and in his wrath Artegall almost draws his sword. Guyon calms him, saying the judge should not be overcome by wrath, and Artegall agrees. However, Talus punishes Braggadocchio and his groom by disfiguring them and breaking their weapons. The rest of the group continues with the wedding feast.
Canto iv: After the wedding feast, Artegall rides on and encounters two brothers fighting. Their Ladies implore them to quit, but the brothers are vengeful and aggressive and continue. Artegall persuades them to stop and tell him what is the matter. The older brother, Bracidas, explains that their father gave them an island each, but his own island has eroded away and the soil been added to his that of Amidas, his younger brother. Amidas also stole Bracidas’ Lady, Philtra, and her wealthy dowry. This left Amidas’ own Lady, Lucy, a poor, virtuous girl, without love or protection. Lucy threw herself into the sea but repented once she began to drown and grabbed onto a sea chest floating in the waves. She and the chest washed up on the elder brother’s beach, and he married her with the chest as dowry. Inside, they found great treasure. Philtra claimed it was her dowry, which had been carried away during a shipwreck. Bracidas says that Philtra and Amidas have no claim to the chest, which was only found because of Amidas’ stupid cruelty. Amidas then claims he can prove the chest is rightfully Philtra’s.
Artegall asks if they will lay down their swords and submit to his judgment, and the brothers agree. His judgment is that the sea’s “imperial might” cannot be second-guessed, and that the sea gave the chest to Bracidas. Then Artegall rides on.
The next situation Artegall rides into is a suite of warlike women about to hang a man named Terpine. When Artegall nears, the women surround him with venomous intent, and he sends Talus to scare them away. Perplexed, Artegall approaches Terpine and asks what is going on. Terpine begins by explaining that Radigund is an Amazon warrior woman who, once scorned by a Knight she loved, hates Knights and wars against them wherever possible. When Radigund captures a Knight, she dresses him in women’s clothing and makes him sew and do women’s work. If the Knight refuses such emasculation, Radigund hangs him. Upon hearing this story, Artegall frees Terpine and asks him to show the way to Radigund’s city. The city gates are opened for the two Knights and Talus, but inside they are greeted with arms and arrows. A battle ensues.
When Radigund sees Terpine, she attacks like a lioness, like a bear, and only pauses when she holds him down with one foot and is ready to kill him. Like an eagle, Artegall fiercely drives her away from Terpine. Talus disperses the warlike maids and breaks their weapons while Artegall and Radigund battle. When night begins to fall, they stop battling, and Talus quits wreaking havoc on the townspeople and Radigund’s warrior maids. Artegall sleeps outside the castle walls, while Radigund spends a sleepless night worried about the damage wrought upon her city.
Finally, Radigund sends a warrior Lady to speak with Artegall. Radigund and Artegall agree to settle the dispute through single combat and agree that the loser will submit entirely to the will of the victor.
Canto v: In the morning, Radigund and Artegall begin their one-on-one fight. Radigund attacks with savage ferocity, and Artegall tries to wait until it subsides, but Radigund’s savagery does not diminish. Finally Artegall attacks as if Radigund were an anvil, beating upon her so hard that sparks fly. Her shield shatters. Artegall makes ready to kill the unconscious Radigund, but when he removes her helmet, her beauty and fine features move him to peacefulness. She awakes from her swoon and attacks him mercilessly. Artegall does not fight, but only defends himself: “So was he ouercome, not ouercome, / But to her yielded of his owne accord.” Artegall and Terpine are taken prisoner, although Talus will not allow himself to be constrained and fights free.
Artegall is disarmed and dressed in women’s clothing, then brought to a hall full of Knights in women’s clothes. They must work on linen or starve. Artegall takes up his womanly task and begins work. Spencer laments, “Such is the crueltie of womankind, / When they haue shaken off the shamefast band, / With which wise Nature did them strongly bynd, / T’obay the heasts of mans well ruling hand. . . virtuous women wisely vnderstand / That they were borne to base humilitie.”
Although Radigund’s pride won’t let her admit it, Artegall’s strange and submissive behavior sparks infatuation in Radigund’s heart. Finally, Radigund admits her newfound love to her handmaiden, Clarinda.
Through hints, Clarinda conveys the possibility of Radigund’s love to Artegall. In the process of convincing him to woo Radigund, Clarinda too falls in love with Artegall. When Radigund demands to know what Clarinda has accomplished, Clarinda lies to keep Artegall away from Radigund, out of jealousy. Radigund orders Artegall’s food decreased and work increased, and then urges Clarinda to try again. Clarinda continues to lie, telling Radigund that Artegall denies her and Artegall that Radigund denies him. Artegall’s food continues to decrease while his work increases, and Radigund’s despair grows.
Canto vi: Talus goes to Britomart, Artegall’s true love from Book IV, and tells her of Artegall’s sad, emasculated plight. When Britomart hears about the “harlot’s bondage” that keeps Artegall from completing his quest, she asks how he could be trapped if he is not forced and not overcome in fight. Finally, dissatisfied with Talus’ answers, she dons her armor and rides out after Artegall. A strange Knight, Dolon, gives her lodging for the night, but Britomart cannot sleep and does not take her armor off. Talus waits outside her door like a guard dog to ensure that no one disturbs Britomart. In the night, the sleepless Britomart watches the bed collapse into a hole—the bed itself was a trap for the unwary. Armed men march on her chamber, and Talus defeats them. Dolon, the fallen Knight whose house it is, hates all Knights and acts treacherously towards them. Because of the iron man, Talus, Dolon believes he has captured Artegall, who killed Dolon’s son in a fair fight. When Britomart sallies out of her room to avenge the treachery of Dolon, she finds the castle deserted. She rides on and at the bridge where Artegall overthrew Pollente, Dolon and his company await her. Britomart vanquishes them and tosses them from the bridge.
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