The Faerie Queene

by Edmund Spenser

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"Be Bold, Be Bold–but Not Too Bold"

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Context: The exemplification of love's aspects is the major theme of Book III. Britomart, the lady-knight of Active Chastity, is fervently seeking her love, Sir Artigall, the knight of Justice. While on this quest, she finds Scudamore, the Shield of Love, weeping on the ground because Busirane has held Amoret captive for seven months by means of black magic. Busirane, who represents the negation of Chastity and of the will of love, is Lust. Britomart accompanies Scudamore to Busirane's castle where the entrance is guarded by a sulphurous smoking flame. Britomart, alone, is able to penetrate the flame. Inside the castle, she passes through three rooms, each of which teaches her something of the transforming nature of love. In the first, she sees a tapestry depicting the many disguises under which Jove made love, showing that even gods can debase themselves and become bestial in the search for love. Britomart passes through a door capped with Busirane's motto: Be bold. She finds herself in a room of pure gold hung with Cupid's "warlike spoils" which show the destructive effect of love on personal and political power. These two rooms have portrayed graphicly the boldness of love: desire, pursuit, victory. Over the centuries, Spenser's lines have undergone a change in the popular memory.

And as she lookt about, she did behold
How over that same dore was likewise writ,
Be bold, be bold, and every where Be bold,
That much she muz'd, yet could not construe it
By any ridling skill, or commune wit.
At last she spyde at that roomes upper end,
Another yron dore, on which was writ,
Be not too bold; whereto though she did bend
Her earnest mind, yet wist not what it might intend.

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