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Literature / The Faerie Queene

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Acrasia's Bower of Bliss

Just your typical collection of tales about a Magical Land full of Knights in Shining Armor, the evil knights and monsters they fight, and the beautiful maidens they love. Except half the knights are total newbies who have no idea what they're doing, the monsters are personifications of sins, and the maiden is just as likely as her boyfriend to be a warrior who has to bail him out of trouble.

Maybe it's not so typical after all...

The Faerie Queene is a collection of 6 epic poems (and the few incomplete Mutabilitie Cantos) written by Edmund Spenser as a gift for Queen Elizabeth. The first three books were published in 1590 and the next 3 in 1596. As outlined in a letter to his friend Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser's plan was to write 24 books — the first 12 each starring a knight who personifies one of the 12 Private Virtues, and the rest starring the Public Domain Character Prince Arthur, who personifies the 12 Public Virtues — ending with an epic battle against the Faerie Queene's Arch-Enemy the Paynim King and her marriage to Arthur. Unfortunately, Spenser Died During Production; thus, we never meet the Faerie Queene in person, and Prince Arthur is never united with his True Love.

Gloriana, the Queen of Faerieland, an obvious and flattering Expy of Queen Elizabeth, dwells in the magnificent royal city of Cleopolis where she runs the local Heroes "R" Us, the Knights of Maidenhead. The Knights are human beings who were Switched at Birth with Changelings (a supposedly favorite prank of The Fair Folk in those days) and serve the Faerie Queene in hopes of attaining honor and glory. The pattern of most of the stories is: a nearby kingdom is being terrorized by some threat, someone comes to Cleopolis to plead for aid, the queen sends a Knight to help them, the Knight and his companion go on a journey full of obstacles relevant to the virtue the Knight represents, the Knight defeats the villain. On the way, they eventually run into Prince Arthur, who fell in love with the Faerie Queene after seeing her in a dream. He is on his way to find her but keeps getting sidetracked by needing to help every character he meets along the way.

The poems are strong Christian allegory full of symbolism and British legend. It was Spenser's first epic, a departure from the pastoral poetry he specialized in. It is widely studied in college English classes and a highly interesting read. Don't let the archaic language frighten you.

By far the most famous story is that of Saint George and his slaying of the dragon, re-told here in the eleventh canto of Book I.

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    In general 

The entire series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Britomart, Belphoebe, Palladine; giving it probably the strongest female presence of any of the classic epics.
  • An Aesop: Combined with Meaningful Name to make it clear that in the end, virtue always kicks vice's butt. Spenser even said in his introduction that he was hoping to demonstrate morality.
  • Allegorical Character: The protagonist of each book represents a different virtue.
    • The Redcrosse Knight represents holiness, as made clear by the fact that he is constanly saved by the Crucial Cross on his shield, his humility, and his devotion to Una, who herself represents the truth.
    • Sir Guyon represents temperance, which is made obvious since most of the villains he faces are Anthropomorphic Vices showing two extremes which he mediates.
    • Dame Britomart represents chastity and most of her antagonists are seducers and rapists attempting to take advantage of women not armed like fair Britomart.
  • Allegory: The whole poem is an allegory where the triumph of virtue over vice is represented with the exploits of various knights. The poem also serves as an allegory for what Spenser saw as the superiority of the Church of England to the corrupt Roman Catholic Church.
  • Angelic Beauty: Belphoebe's appearance is described as if she were a god or angel. Her skin is said to be as white as an angel, her rosy cheeks resemble ambrosia, and her eyes are like the stars. And just like biblical angels, her beauty is so overwhelming that it terrifies those that see her (or at least Braggadochio).
  • Arcadia:
    • The description of Venus' island in Book IV calls to mind The Georgics and other classical accounts of idealized nature. The island is said to be a second paradise where thousands of nymphs played undisturbed in babbling brooks and chaste lovers take in the sweet scents of the flowers abounding.
    • Book VI's second half focuses on the joy and beauty of life as a shepherd as opposed to the stress of riches and knighthood.
  • But Now I Must Go:
    • The Redcrosse Knight finally returns his beloved to her home and marries her, but in the end, he must leave to fulfill his duties as a knight and protector of the realm.
    • The last two cantos of The Faerie Queene see Calidore leave his newly rescued beloved to finish his quest to capture the Blatant Beast.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Belphoebe is introduced in an irrelevant episode of Book II where she scares off the minor villain Braggadocio. Then, when Squire Timias is dying of his injuries in Book III, who appears, but Belphoebe to rescue him.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • In Book I, all seems lost when the dragon burns Redcrosse to death with his very breath, but Redcrosse happens to fall into a sacred pool blessed by God with the ability to bring the dead back to life. This saves Redcrosse and lets him defeat the dragon, as well as making it so that God plays the role in this holy warrior's victory.
    • A nearly literal example in Book IV. Marinell despairs at having no way to rescue Florinell, but thankfully, his mom goes to ask the sea god Neptune to rescue her and he does quite easily.
  • Door Stopper: The Faeire Queene is one of the longest poems in the English language with over 35,000 lines. For comparison, that's the size of three and a half Paradise Losts, and The Faerie Queene was never even completed!
  • The Epic: The poem is a suitably important tale about noble knights doing battle with monsters in the early days of Great Britain's history. Like the classical epics, it is divided into Books and like medieval epics, those books are divided into cantos and like both, the story is incredibly long.
  • Epic Catalog:
    • Canto X of Book I is a list of British monarchs written much in the style of Homer's catalog of ships. The source for the name and story of each monarch is Geofrrey of Monmouth's collection of British legends.
    • The eleventh canto of Book IV is largely made up of an account of every single sea god, titan, river, and aquatic hero in Neptune's court.
  • Expy: Britomart is closely based on Bradamante, the female knight who is one of the protagonists of Orlando Furioso.
  • Garden of Eden:
    • The final cantos of Book I are set in Eden, which is imagined as a lush kingdom whose people are being plagued by a dragon. In the Allegory of the poem, Eden represents a just and pious society, while the dragon threatening it represents sin (especially Pride).
    • The Bower of Bliss is a sensual imitation of the Garden of Eden set up by the temptress Acrasia to lower the guards of passing knights with its sheer beauty. It lacks the true glory of Eden, but since Eden was also the site of the original temptation, the comparison is apt.
  • The Ghost: The Faerie Queene, so important that she gives the book its name, never gets an appearance.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Britomart's golden hair is often remarked upon and in a poem where Beauty Equals Goodness, serves as sign of kindness and love hidden under her courageous and fearsome helm.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Satyrane, half human/half satyr; physically looks human but has a wild streak and love for nature.
  • The High Queen:
    • Gloriana the Faerie Queene never appears, but is praised by every hero who has met her for her wisdom and goodness. She also serves as the Greater-Scope Paragon of the story, since all the faerie knights that act as protagonists serve under her.
    • Canto X of Book II mentions various virtuous queens of yore meant to reflect Spenser's real-world patron, Queen Elizabeth. They include Guendoline, who imprisoned her lecherous husband after defeating him in battle, and Bunduca, who died defending Britain from the Romans.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Each of the poem's protagonists are mighty heroes who achieve great feats of strength, but are more praised for their virtue. Each is chaste, active, slow to anger, kind, and humble.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Redcrosse Knight and Sir Guyon are both notable for fighting with a shield in hand to save themselves from their enemies. Redcrosse obviously has the symbol of a cross on his shield, which helps fellow Christians identify him as an ally, and Sir Guyon has the face of the Queen of Faerie as his, which does much the same.
  • Meaningful Name: Some characters are simply named for their symbol, like Redcross the knight. Others have names in Canis Latinicus or Le Français des Chiens, such as Sansloy the rapist and Sansfoy the traitor ("lawless" and "faithless", respectively, spelled in an archaic way).
    • Some names even have a double meaning. For example, Archimago could be translated as "archmage" or "arch image" (from the Latin imago), describing his identity as Evil Sorcerer and master of illusions.
  • Mooks: Vast hordes of mooks are effortlessly put to flight by the good guys.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Long-predating Tolkien, elfes are established as a powerful race associated with womanly beauty, old magick, and great wisdom owing to their creation and enlightenment by Prometheus. In practice, though, the act just like humans. They wear armor, ride horses, succumb to sin, and partake in bloody duels reminiscent of medieval warfare.
  • Our Giants Are Different:
    • In Book I, the giant here is only twelve-feet tall, intelligent enough to speak, and civilized enough to have his own castle not too far from human civilization.
    • Book II establishes that giants have existed since the time of Adonis and that two of them were strong enough to kill an elven-king. Spenser also notes that each had a different number of heads, just to make things weirder.
    • Ollyphant from Book III is similar in size to the others, but has the unique supernatural aspect that he can't hurt virgins.
    • Book IV introduces a giantess's son who conquered whole nations with nothing but his deadly gaze.
  • Secondary Character Title: The Faerie Queene herself never appears and is far less active than even her male counterpart, King Arthur. This is ultimately unintentional, as the latter half of the poem was supposed to detail Arthur's meeting with the Faerie Queene.
  • Take That!: The Catholic Church is frequently on the receiving end.
  • Those Two Guys: Braggadocchio and Trompart, mostly harmless nuisances who go around together posing as a knight and his squire.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Middle Englishe: Spenser uses several archaisms to try to imitate the Middle English of Chaucer and his fourteenth century contemporaries, with varying degrees of success and failure. Several words with the "y-" prefix (used in Middle English to indicate the past participle, already more obsolete and exceedingly quaint by Spenser's time than "thou", for instance, is now) were made up by Spenser himself.

    Book 1 
Book One
  • Protagonist: The Redcrosse Knight, the Knight of Holinesse
  • Mission: Slay a dragon and free the king and queen he's holding captive
  • Accompanied by: Princess Una (and a dwarf who carries their supplies)

This book provides examples of:

  • The Archmage: Archimago is an old man who is a master of all forms of magic due to his extreme knowledge and bargains with the Devil. His name was a combination of the Latin words arch (meaning "first") and imago (meaning "finalized form"), thus literally "first and final form", a subtle reference to Alpha and Omega, one of the titles of the Judeo-Christian God. Many scholars agree that, this being an allegory, the name is a clever tip-off to the fact that the character embodies religious hypocrisy. The term "archmage" is a later bastardization of the name, first by Shelley, and eventually by Le Guin who gave the name its present day spelling and connotations.
  • An Arm and a Leg: King Arthur cuts off a giant’s arm in his attempt to rescue Redcross, which makes the giant so furious that he strikes Arthur harder with his club than he could have with two hands. If not for his magical shield, Arthur would be dead.
  • Attack the Mouth: Redcrosse slays the dragon by shoving his sword down its throat just as it rushes towards him in an arrogant bid to swallow the knight whole.
  • Author Tract: The whole thing involves extended metaphors about how awful the Catholic Church of Rome and Spain is.
  • Beautiful All Along: Inverted to the extreme with Duessa who is so cunning that she somehow manages to come off as beautiful until stripped of her trappings at the end, revealing that she is as hideous on the outside as she is inside. The juicy details given by Spenser include her bald, infected scalp, toothless, rotten gums, reeking breath, sagging tits, genitals the details of which we are spared, a fox's tail covered with shit, and an eagle's talon and bear's foot.
  • Blind Seer: The personification of Contemplation is blind from old age, but only he is able to show Redcrosse a vision of what Heaven will look like if he stays on the path of holiness.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: While the dragon is Redcross' and Una's target, Archimago and Duessa are the villains who separate them for most of the story, harass the heroes in every book, and send nearly every monster they fight after them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the end, Eden is saved from the dragon and our Knight in Shining Armor is finally betrothed to the princess, but shortly after, the knight must leave the princess for a whole six years to fight in a war.
  • Break Them by Talking: Despair's method of choice to drive his victims to kill themselves.
  • Breath Weapon: The dragon temporarily defeats the Redcrosse Knight by breathing hellish fire on him, filling him with what the author calls a thousand pains worse than the sufferings Hercules felt before his death.
  • Chest Insignia: "On his breast, a bloodie cross he bore..."
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Fidessa's holy book is said to be written in blood, a reference to the bloody death of Jesus on the cross.
  • Crucial Cross: The Redcrosse Knight is so-named because he has a bloody cross painted onto his breastplate and shield. As part of the allegory of the work, Redcrosse represents holiness and his victories against vicious dragons, giants, and witches represent the steadfastness of God's grace in the face of evil.
  • Damsel Errant: Una fetches Saint George to defend her parents and their kingdom. They do become a couple.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: Lucifera is constantly looking admiring her beauty in a mirror, even when she has a crowd of princes and queens waiting to meet with her.
  • Distressed Dude: Redcross is drugged and trapped in Orgoglio's dungeon, forcing the princess to go and find another knight to rescue her rescuer.
  • Dragons Are Demonic: The dragon is seen attacking the Kingdom of Eden, viciously attacking a shield with the symbol of the cross, burning the Tree of Life to the ground, and even spewing fire said to be just like the fires of Hell. Spenser lays it on pretty thick that he's trying to make his dragon a symbol of the Devil.
  • Dragons Versus Knights: All of Canto XI is dedicated to the epic, two-day long battle between the Redcrosse Knight, armed with sword, shield, and lance, and the dragon, armed with its whole body. Since Redcrosee is a Knight in Shining Armor representing holiness, having his Final Battle be with a beast biblically associated with the Devil is quite fitting.
  • Driven to Suicide: The goal of Despair is to drive every man he meets to suicide, and judging by the variety of corpses around his lair, he's made good progress. Ironically, seeing the Redcross Knight escape his clutches drives him to hang himself.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Una has her kingdom attacked by giants, has her true love renounce her for something she never did, and has to wander uncivilized Britain alone fending off monsters and knights before she can come back home safe and sound. But when she does, she is welcomed by her mother and father, is married to the Redcrosse Knights, and is allowed to live the rest of her days in security and happiness.
  • Earth Mother: Charity is an archetypical mother, surrounded by children and bare-breasted so she can feed the babe in her arm.
  • Easily Forgiven: Una (the True - that is, Protestant - Church) to Redcross after he abandons her; she seems more angry at Archimago and Duessa for tricking him.
  • Embodiment of Virtue: Every character introduced in Canto XI is a personification of some virtue.
    • Fidelia is seen teaching Redcrosse the Bible to represent one learning about God through their faith.
    • Speranza gives him an anchor to hold him steady to represent hope keeping you from being moved by evil.
    • Charissa entertains Redcrosse as he learns the ways of goodness and introduces him to Lady Mercie, representing both how love can bring joy and teach us to be kind to others.
    • In the hospital, seven men are seen in service of God, each one representing one of the seven beatitudes from The Four Gospels.
  • Erotic Dream: Archimago sets up his first attempt to destroy Redcrosse by magically giving him lustful dreams, causing the knight to wake up full of shame as a Shapeshifting Seducer comes onto him.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Archimago is a deceitful and venal old man who can only cast a spell by making a Deal with the Devil. He offers Sacred Hospitality to Una and Redcrosse, only to assault them with nightmares and illusions meant to drive them to unchastity and hatred toward each other For the Evulz. He keeps torturing them until he tries to break up their marriage, at which point Una's father throws him into his dungeon.
  • Family Theme Naming: The three Persian brothers who heckle Redcrosse and Una during their journey are named Sans foy, Sans ioy, and Sans loy.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Despair uses an image of Hell filled with fire, sulfur, and brimstone (oh my) to strike fear into Redcrosse and convince him that killing himself is preferable to sinning in the future and going to Hell. The use of this depiction by a villain implies that Spenser might not like those who use it in real life.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Una is so lovely even a hungry lion can't bring itself to attack her. In fact, when a fearsome knight assaults Una, the lion is so devote to her that it risks its hide to attack the knight.
  • Given Name Reveal: It is only in Canto X that the Redcrosse Knight (and the audience) is given his real name that he will be remembered by on Heaven and Earth: Saint George, patron saint of England and The Dragon Slayer of legend.
  • God Is Good:
    • In Canto IX and X, it is God's mercy as told by Una that saves Redcrosse from suicide at despair's hand and contemplation of God that sees him fully recover from the lingering depression Despair left him in.
    • In Canto XI, the kingdom is only saved because God guided chance to allow Redcrosse to fall into a Healing Spring and then the Tree of Life when struck by the dragon's breath.
  • Healing Spring: There's a spring of silver water in Eden called the Well of Life with the properties of good medicine. It happens to be just behind Redcrosse when he falls to the dragon, and when he rises from the water next dawn, he is so fully restored the dragon thinks he's fighting a different knight.
  • Heaven Above: Like Moses walking up to Sinai, the Redcrosse Knight must spend weeks atop the closest mountain peak to the sky he can find to prepare to commune with God. At the end of his time on the mountain, Redcrosse can even see the kingdom of Heaven above him.
  • Heroic BSoD: Redcross makes the mistake of taking on Despair while he is still in the middle of one of these, which leaves him in even worse shape than before. Una has to get her friends Faith, Hope, and Charity to whip him into shape.
  • The Hero's Journey: Two — Redcross is on his own Journey, of course, but so is Una, and the Boon she has to bring back to restore her kingdom just happens to be a knight.
  • Hero's Muse: The Redcrosse Knight is guided and inspired by his love, Una, who is the personification of the "true church".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The dragon rushes straight at the Redcrosse Knight "with outragious pride" in hopes of finishing the two-day fight in one bite. This does end the fight with a single blow, but its Redcrosse, as he shoves his longsword down the dragon's maw.
  • Humble Hero: Redcrosse is the first to credit others who helped him defeat foul monsters and to point out his own faults when praised.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Sansloy establishes his merits as a vile villain after pretending to be corteuous night by trying to rape Una. Even a lion can tell what he's doing is evil and tries to get involved.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: After getting engaged to Una, Redcrosse puts off their wedding for six years so he can finish his service to the Faerie Queene. Though it makes him sad, Redcrosse anothers his vow above all else.
  • Lust: The representative of Lust is an ugly, filthy man named Lechery who rides around on a bearded goat. He holds an exposed heart in his hand and loves nothing more than to prey on weak women and get them to cheat on their husbands.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Archimago and Duessa manage to manipulate both Redcross and Una very effectively throughout the story, whether to send them into the lair of a monster or to convince them that the other has forsaken them.
  • Master of Illusion: Archimago and Duessa are both capable of making themselves appear as heroic knights, conjure dreams of beautiful maidens, and cover entire battlefields with false clouds all to cover their hideous faces and fell deeds.
  • More than Mind Control: The encounter with Despair sees him break St. George's spirit and force him to kill himself not through magic, but with nothing other than words and guilt.
  • Murder by Suicide: Despair's modus operandi is persuading poor passerbys that they'd be better off dying rather than continuing to live and do more and more evil to merit greater punishments in Hell. He nearly manages to get the Redcrosse Knight to drive a dagger through his chest.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Part of Redcross' encounter with Despair sees the knight remember in horror all the damnable sins he's done in life and how likely he is to repeat the same sins again.
  • Near-Villain Victory: In the climax, Redcrosse is immolated by the dragon's breath and falls dead, leaving Una and the kingdom of Eden defenseless agains the monster's rampage for a whole night. It is only at sunrise that Redcrosse emerges from a magical pool, restored to life.
  • Neutral Female: Una does nothing in the Final Battle except watch as the dragon claws, bites, and immolates Redcrosse to near-death. Earlier, she steps in to save Redcross from Despair and instructs him from the sidelines during his first battle with the Dragon Errour. The fact that she finally stays out of it is actually a sign that Redcross has matured enough to handle the fight on his own.
  • No Name Given: Redcross doesn't know his birth name or anything about his family, until Contemplation informs him he is Saint George.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: The half-serpent/half-female monster introduced in stanza 14 of canto I, of which it isn't quite specified which half is which, has "A thousand young ones, which she dayly fed / Sucking upon her poisonous dugs."
  • No-Sell: The first half of the battle between Redcrosse and the dragon ends when Redcrosse lands a blow directly on the dragon's head... only for his sword to just bounce off the dragon's scales. Cue Breath Weapon.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Archimago tricks Redcrosse into thinking Una has cheated on him.
  • Numerical Theme Naming: Una represents unity, so her name is Latin feminine for one, and her evil mirror image Duessa represents duplicity, so her name calls to mind the Latin "duo" and the phrase two-faced.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The dragon at the end is a terrifying red dragon who has captured the kingdom of Eden and eaten many of its inhabitants. It has wings like sails, a tail many fathoms long, and of course fire breath as hot as the flames of Hell. Notably, the dragon has no hoard of treasure to speak of.
  • The Scrooge: A member of Lucifera's court named Auarice is a childless old man who carries overflowing sacks of silver and gold at his side. Despite this, his clothes are frayed, he's starving, and its clear he isn't even spending money on his health, since he so refuses to give up a single coin when he could hoard it.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer:
    • Archimago has a spirit assume Una's form and come half-dressed to the Redcrosse Knight in his bedroom. Redcrosse flatly refuses the spirit's advances even though he loves Una, valuing his chastity too highly.
    • Archimago tries to seduce Una by assuming Redcrosse's form, but Sansloy attacks him thinking he's Redcross and nearly kills him before realizing the mistake.
  • Sleepyhead: The counsellor Idlenesse spends most of his days asleep and can barely keep his eyes open since he doesn't exercise or do anything physical. This leaves him the perfect avatar of Sloth.
  • Snake People: The first monster Redcrosse faces is a hideous woman who is half serpent. She has the ability to projectile vomit of bile and poison, where her brood of vipers rests until called upon to assay her enemies.
  • Standard Hero Reward: After saving Una's parents' kingdom from the dragon, Redcross is betrothed to Una.
  • Symbolic Baptism: When the demonic red dragon kills the Redcrosse Knight, he falls into a pool of holy water and is submerged for the night. When the sun rises, the Redcrosse rises too, full of new life and strength he had never had before. Obviously, this symbolizes the process of being born again and the graves that Spenser believed come with baptism.
  • Telephone Polearm: You can tell the giant is a real threat to the likes of St. George and King Arthur because his club is really a tree trunk. Spenser probably borrowed this idea from either The Aeneid or The Thebaid, where a giant and a half-giant respectively fight with tree trunks.
  • Transflormation: In a scene straight out of either The Aeneid or The Divine Comedy, the knight relaxes beneath a tree and grabs one of its branches, only for it to bleed and scream that it's a man. Apparently, this poor soul was seduced by a witch and cursed to turn into a plant before discovering her identity.
  • Ugly All Along: Duessa, who is so cunning that she somehow manages to come off as beautiful until stripped of her trappings at the end, revealing that she is as hideous on the outside as she is inside. The juicy details given by Spenser include her bald, infected scalp; toothless, rotten gums; reeking breath, sagging breasts; genitals the details of which we are spared; a fox's tail covered with shit; and an eagle's talon and bear's foot.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: The only woman among the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins is Vanitie. She serves most directly for the queen of the sins, Lucifera, who spends most of her time staring at herself in the mirror.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The personification of love, Charissa, is a rare female example. She's represented as beautiful mother who is shirtless since she's constantly breastfeeding her many children who she happily attends to.
  • Weaponized Offspring: Errour's poisonous vomit is also deadly because her serpentine offspring swim in it. The knight has to spend just as much energy shaking off snakes and vipers as he does blocking the monsters blows.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Una is accompanied by a lamb. When Redcrosse charges ahead and leaves her in the dust, the next time Una shows up, she's alone - lambless apparently.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The giant is introduced subduing the Redcrosse Knight and capturing him, but only because Redcrosse had drunk from the a cursed fountain that fatigued him. This gives King Arthur a chance to come in and save the day without making our protagonist looking too weak.

    Book 2 
Book Two
  • Protagonist: Guyon, the Knight of Temperance
  • Mission: Arrest The Vamp Acrasia and destroy her Bower Of Bliss, a paradise where she lures knights, sleeps with them, then turns them into animals a la Circe
  • Accompanied by: A palmer

This book provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Origin Connection: The Prometheus myth repeated here identifies him not as the creator of humanity, but the creator of elvenkind. This was likely done to make the story consistent with Christian anthropology while also bolstering the seriousness of the elven characters by associating them with well-respected Classical Mythology.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Ambition is personified as the queen of the nether-world who helps men grow in power and wealth by leading them to tear down their fellow men. Despite her beauty and status, our hero Sir Guyon refuses to take her hand in marriage because everything good in her has been ruined by her rivalry and envy with others who strive for greatness.
  • Anti-Regeneration: Arthur realizes the only way to stop Meleger from returning to "life" after each killing blow is to separate him from mother Earth, so he tosses him in a lake.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Arthur stabs through the seven layer of armor in Guyon's shield to impale and kill the villain who stole it.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: It is said that the British queen Bunduca killed herself rather than be captured by the Romans. The author praises her for this murder by comparing her to other ancient women like Semiramis, Hypsiphil, and Tomyris.
  • Book Ends: At the start of the book, Guyon and the Palmer are too late to save a knight named Mordant (and his wife) from Acrasia's curse. At the end, they arrive on time to rescue her new victim, a knight named Verdant.
  • Burning with Anger: The wrathful Pyrrochles is described as wielding a flaming sword, wearing armor so bright that it looks like he's Wreathed in Flames, and giving off smoke with every step he takes. When Pyrrochles' furious blows tire him out, Guyon is described as having his courage "kindled", allowing him to overpower his fiery foe.
    "'I burne, I burne, I burne,' then loud he cryde, / 'O how I burne with implacable fire, / Yet nought can quench mine inly flaming syde, / Nor sea of licour cold, nor lake of mire, / Nothing but death can doe me to respire.'"
  • Celibate Hero: Sir Guyon has no lover and refuses every untoward advance made to him in order to maintain his duty as a knight to be chaste. His dedication to chastity is to the point where he feels nervous just dancing with a woman at Alma's castle.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: Stonehenge is casually explained to be an elaborate gravemarker for The Good King Aurelius, who reigned within a generation of Constantine.
  • City of Gold: The underworld is almost entirely built of dusty gold, which Mammon mines to bribe the good men of the world to his evil ways. Unlike most examples of this trope, this isn't a beautiful sight, but a disgusting, evil place too dark for the gold to even be seen.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The book ends with the realization that one of Acrasia's victims actually prefers living life as a filthy pig rather than being a man. Guyon and the palmer feel a mix of pity and disgust for a man so deceived and denigrated that he can't even imagine the joys of human life.
  • Cool Horse: King Arthur's horse Spumador is said to be "born of heavenly seed" and as it barrels through an angry Half-Human Hybrid army, it is compared to horses who drew Apollo's sun-chariot.
  • The Corrupter: Mammon spends three days trying to convince Guyon to serve him and abandon temperance by arguing for the glory of gold, offering to betroth him to Ambition personified, and even offering him a Forbidden Fruit from the Underworld. Still, Guyon politely refuses him at every opportunity and leaves without falling prey to Mammon's guile.
  • Defiant to the End: Pyrrochles refuses to be spared by Arthur and pretty much orders him to kill him or be killed himself. Arthur is disappointed, but doesn't hesitate to execute Pyrrochles.
  • Desecrating the Dead: Downplayed Trope; two evil knights come across Sir Guyon's unconscious body and assume he's dead, which doesn't stop them from trying to loot his armor and shield right in front of an old man who is (prematurely) mourning him. He tries to shame them for insulting the dead, but they ignore him.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Amavia, after her husband dies a delayed death from Acrasia's poison.
    • Impatience and Impotence kill themselves after their captain, Meleger, is slain by Arthur. Impatience dives in a lake alongside Meleger and drowns, while Impotence falls on Meleger's blade.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Guyon mentions that one of the other knights of the Faerie Queene is named Arthegall. Book V, published six years after this book, would feature Arthegall as its main protagonist.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In contrast to the Sans brothers from book I, the violent knights Pyrrochles and Cymochles legitimately love each other and protect each other from those seeking revenge on their family for their many, many cries. When Arthur injures Cymochles, Pyrrochles can't help but weep for his brother mid-fight, and redoubles his efforts to defeat Arthur so he can save his brother.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Guyon releases Occasion and Furor at Pyrrochles' request, but as soon as he does, Furor starts to savagely beat Pyrrochles and Ocassion encourages everyone to get more and more violent. Guyon tries to intervene and capture Furor and Ocassion, but the wise Palmer advises him that Pyrrochles would only release the two captors again and that his pity is in vain. Allegorically, this represents the need to completely avoid moments of temptation and anger, since engaging with them only leads to more pain.
  • Feathered Fiend: One of the many obstacles the witch sends against Guyon and friends as they sail to her lair is a horde of every evil bird you can think of. Predatory owls, Creepy Crows, stritchs, shrills, and even winged bats and harpies all harass the good guys as they near the end of their quest.
  • Forced Transformation: The knights that give in to Acrasia's advances and abandon all reason to lust are gradually transformed into wild animals fueled only by the base passions they succumbed to. The story is clearly borrowing from the episode in The Odyssey where Circe turns men into pigs, but the difference is that the men here are complicit in the process that turns them into animals.
  • Gate Guardian: Alma's palace is guarded by a porter who spies upon every visitor from his tower day and night and rejects any who intend to speak foolishly or act criminally by striking his alarmbell. This is largely symbolic of the impossibility of getting into Heaven when tempted to evil.
  • Give Me a Sword: Arthur breaks his spear killing Cymochles, leaving him unarmed against Pyrrochles until an old man tosses him Cymochles' sword. Since Cymochles and Pyrrochles stole this sword from a knight they thought was dead, it's karmic that Arthur uses this to win the fight.
  • A God Am I: Mammon introduces himself as the great god of the world and claims that all the goods of the world come from him. He even tries to convince Sir Guyon to worship him, but the knight mocks him for his vain claim to divinity.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The library of Eumnestes contains records of everything he remembers from his thousands of years on Earth. This includes chronicles on all the kings of Britain and the history of faeries, both of which take up the bulk of Book X.
  • Harmful to Minors: Amavia's baby is left to wallow in the blood of his parents after his father is poisoned and his mother kills herself in despair. The despicable sight of an infant innocently covered in blood is enough to drive Guyon to avenge the parents.
  • Happy Ending Override: After much ado is made about capturing and punishing Archimago in the last book, this book immediately establishes that he got away and continued to torture the good knights of the realm for the foreseeable future. Presumably, it wasn't mentioned in the last book precisely to keep that happy ending intact for at least a moment.
  • Ironic Hell: Pontius Pilate is damned to wash his hands forever with no chance of getting off the filth and blood for literally and figuratively washing his hands of sentencing Christ's to death at the crowd's demand.
  • Kick the Dog: The dead couple and their orphaned infant Guyon finds in the forest illustrate the damage Acrasia's evil can cause and how urgent it is that he stops her.
  • Lean and Mean: Maleger, the captain of the forces attacking temperate Alma's castle, is a giant man who is so oddly thin that he looks like a ghost.
    "As pale and wan as ashes was his looke,
    His bodie leane and meagre as a rake,
    And skin all withered like a dryed rooke,
    Thereto as cold and drery as a Snake,
    That seem'd to tremble euermore, and quake[.]"
  • "Leave Your Quest" Test: Phaedria specializes in tempting knights to abandon their duties with her beauty, irrelevant jokes, and a beautiful island where she lures her guests to sleep. The unvirtuous knight Cymochles is easily swayed by her, but chaste Guyon sees past her temptations and only listens to her out of a sense of politness before leaving.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Archimago tricks Sir Guyon into thinking that the noble Redcrosse Knight is a rapist in order to get the two to kill each other. Guyon nearly strikes Redcrosse down as soon as he sees him, but upon seeing the blood-red cross on his shield, he realizes Redcrosse is a holy man and gives the knight the time to explain his innocence.
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": The first generations of elves all have elf in their name. They are all descended from Elfe, whose sons were Elfin, Elfinan, and Elfinine, who themselves had kids named Elfinell, Elfant, Elfar, and Elfinor. Then Elifcleos founded Faerie and the theme naming is finally broken with his son Oberon, who was special enough to get his own name. His brother Elferon didn't warrant such special treatment, and died young to add insult to injury.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The enchanted sword Mordurre was enchanted by Merlin for Arthur, so when an enemy tries to use it to cut Arthur's head off, the sword deliberately moves out of the way.
    "His owne good sword Morddure, to cleaue his head. / The faithfull steele such treason no'uld endure, / But swaruing from the marke, his Lords life did assure."
  • Magic Staff: The palmer's staff is able to stop storms and calm rampaging monsters because it is made of the same material as Mercury's caduceus. It has the same powers as Mercury's, so it can theoretically tame the Furies and other demons of the Underworld.
  • Mammon: Mammon is an old man who claims to have given all the kings of the world their riches and commands Sir Guyon to bow to him. Guyon refuses and Mammon proceeds to tempt him by taking him through a tour of The Underworld, where many of his riches and servants dwell.
  • Mega Maelstrom: The Quicksand of Vnthriftyhed and Vvhirlpoole of Decay are giant aquatic hazards capable of sucking giant ships filled with precious cargo into them to be lost forever. Metaphorically, each represents the inability of riches to persist due to a lack of frugality or the mere passage of time.
  • Methuselah Syndrome: Eumnestes is a librarian so old he remembers the infancy of Methuselah and has first-hand accounts of all the wars of ancient Greece, which he spends all day reading through with the help of his young assistant, Anamnestes.
  • Mr. Imagination: Phantasies is an old man living in the castle of Alma whose room is filled with a fly for every passing thought a person can have and drawings of every image one could imagine. He meditates on these day in and day out, making him seem a bit of a madman.
  • Not Quite Dead: Arthur drives his sword right through Meleger's chest and is distracted by the lack of blood just enough for Meleger to get a cheap hit in. Figuring blades don't work, Arthur crushes the man and enjoys his victory... only for the man to get up and keep hitting him.
  • Numerological Motif: There's a flurry of references to Christian numerology in the description of Alma's castle. The castle is shaped like a circle and a triangle simultaneously (representing God's perfection and the three-persons of the Trinity) that is also somehow proportioned off the numbers three and nine.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: After Arthur truly defeats Meleger, he collapses from blood loss and begins to die. Thankfully, his squire is there to return him to Alma's castle to have his wounds tended to.
  • Power Trio of half-sisters:
    • Elyssa, Deficiency
    • Medina, Moderation, or the virtuous Golden Mean.
    • Perissa, Excess
  • Public Domain Artifact: The Holy Grail is mentioned in Canto X as being brought to Britain by St. Joseph.
  • Put on a Bus: Canto XI kicks off with Guyon getting on a boat and leaving Alma's castle as the author spells out that Guyon is also leaving the story for the time, but will come back later.
    "But let them pas, whiles wind and weather right / Do serue their turnes: here I a while must stay, / To see a cruell fight doen by the Prince this day."
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Guyon and Arthur learn of the ancient British queen Bunduca, who bravely fought agains the occupying Romans. Her captains betrayed, but she fought 'til the bitter end.
  • The Savage Indian: Meleger's arrows are said to look like the deadly and cruel arrows used by American Indians, negatively associating that race with this 1590 poem's vile villain.
  • Save the Villain: Guyon wants to help Pyrrochles against Furor, but the Palmer tells him it's none of his business since Pyrrochles released Furor himself.
  • Scrubbing Off the Trauma:
    • Canto II begins with Guyon attempting to guiltily clean his hands of the blood of the couple he failed to save from poisoning and death, only for none of the blood to come off.
    • Canto VII: The ghost of Pontius Pilate is trapped in the river Cocytus forever failing to wash his hands clean of Christ's blood.
  • Show Within a Show: The histories Guyon and Arthur read at Alma's castle.
  • Tempting Apple: Mammon's last offer to convince Guyon to worship him is to offer him a beautiful golden apple, the same fruit that Eris used to kickstart the Trojan War. Despite having gone three days without food, Guyon refuses, and the narration assures us that it is only this that saved Guyon from a certain death.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Guyon only ever kills Pyrrochles' horse throughout the story (and even considers that shameful), in sharp contrast to Redcrosse.
  • To Hell and Back: Guyon spends three days being lead through the Underworld by the fiend Mammon, walking past Anthropomorphic Personifications of evil and damned criminals as Mammon offers him a share of the many treasures buried there. Guyon refuses, so Mammon is honor-bound to return Guyon to the surface, where Guyon immediately faints from starvation.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Pyrrochles releases Furor and Occasion only to be fiercely attacked by him and suffers injuries that would have eventually killed him if not for Archimago's help. Later, he takes King Arthur's sword from Archimago despite warnings that he will not be able to slay its rightful owner with it, and predictably loses that fight. If he had taken Guyon's sword along with his shield (leaving Arthur's sword with Archimago), he and Cymochles would've likely won that fight (and slain Prince Arthur).
  • The Underworld: Mammon rules the Underworld with his daughter, Prosperina, which takes after the Greek account of the Underworld than classic depictions of Hell. Persephone's garden is there, Tantalus is seen reaching for food that moves out of his reach, and souls are even seen wailing beneath the river Cocytus.
  • Unicorn: Unicorns Monoceroses are mentioned amongst a school of sea monsters that assault Guyon's ship, alongside the likes of the Hydra. This depiction owes a lot to the animalistic description of unicorns in the writings of Pliny the Elder.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Prince Arthur reacts to his foot and hip getting stabbed by losing all composure and fighting off two opponents with incredible speed. The narrator even compares him to a raging bull or a starving lion desperate for food. The two knights can barely block all of his blows and they quickly fall to his fury.
  • The Vamp: Phoedria throws herself at any man who comes near her island in hopes of leading them astray and leaving them forever stranded in the middle of the deadly sea.
  • Victory by Endurance: Guyon defeats Pyrrochles by dodging his massive blows over and over until Pyrrochles is too exhausted to fend off Guyon's attacks.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Archimago teleports right out of his chains immediately after the Redcrosse Knight leaves him alone. By immediately, we mean it is the first thing that happens in the book, just after he got caught in the ending of the last one.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: The first two things we learn about Alma is that she's a virign in a white gown, and sure enough, she's noted for her kindness and chastity despite much pressure to marry a rich knight.
  • We Can Rule Together: Mammon offers Sir Guyon enough coin and gold to make a mountain out of if the knight agrees to serve him. Guyon refuses.
  • Won't Get Fooled Again: Archimago tries to get his revenge on the Redcrosse Knight only to find out that he now knows all of his tricks after their encounters throughout Book I. After all, "the fish that once was caught, new bait will hardly bite."

    Book 3 
Book Three
  • Protagonist: Britomart, the Knight of Chastity
  • Mission: Originally to find the knight destined to be her husband, Artegall, but eventually becomes to save Amoret from the evil sorcerer Busirane and reunite her with her husband, Scudamour
  • Accompanied by: Her old nanny disguised as her squire, Glauce

The Book of Chastity breaks away from Spenser's pattern. Britomart is a British princess who has come to Faerieland disguised as a male knight on a personal mission to find Artegall. Book Three also introduces the by-plots of Belphoebe's romance with Arthur's squire, Timias, and the woes of Florimell, a Damsel in Distress who is always on the run because everywhere she turns, she finds another man trying to rape her, until she is captured by the sea god Proteus and thrown in his dungeon for refusing to sleep with him.

This book provides examples of:

  • Beat Still, My Heart: The masked woman prodded along by Despight and Cruelty holds her ever-bleeding heart in a silver basin.
  • The Casanova: Paridell proves his worth as a descendent of Venus by trying to seduce every woman he comes into contact with. While he strikes out with Britomart, he manages to used a well-placed mix of flattery, poetry, and faux-vulnerability to convince Malbecco's young wife to leave him.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Busirane has locked up Amoret and daily digs a knife into her chest in a bid to torture her into loving him. This goes on for seven months.
  • Cupid's Arrow: There's an extended metaphor that as Timias' arrow wound is mended, the wound from Cupid's arrow only grows deeper as he falls in love with Belphoebe.
  • Dark Is Evil: Prince Arthur goes on a monologue detailing how night is a corruption from Hell, hiding the crimes of sinners, obscuring the beauty of God's creation, and giving the wicked rest while leaving the scrupulous turning in bed in fear, guilt, and sorrow.
  • Death Glare: Britomart rejects a pervert's advances with but a look, which the author spends a verse describing as a fiery arrow piercing the man's black heart.
  • Designated Victim: The Damsel in Distress Florimell, to the point where Spenser feels guilty for all the torment he puts her through.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: After Florimell rejects a witch's son, the witch assuades her sons carnal desires by creating an animated duplicate of Florimell out of snow and ice. He doesn't seem to see the difference.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Proteus is described four cantos before his introduction as the prophet who Cymoent went to to learn about her sons fate.
  • Empathic Environment: The hills and mountains even start to cry as they watch a sea nymph mourn her fallen son.
  • Fallen Cupid: The evil enchanter attempting to force a maiden to love him decorates his house with imagery of Cupid and his dominion over the gods.
  • Famous Ancestor: Paridell claims to be a descendent of Paris, kidnapper of Helen and hero of Troy. This foreshadows that he will kidnap the bride of his host (fittingly named Hellenore), as Paris did.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Hellenore stumbles upon a group of satyrs and embraces their revelry and wild nature after being sheltered for so long in Malbecco's castle. When he tries to get her back, she sics the satyrs on him and they knock him out of sight with their horns.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Belphoebe heals Timias' arrow wound, only for the squire to develop a new wound from Cupid's arrow. He keeps his love to himself, though, knowing Belphoebe's celibacy and his own low station would make it impossible for them to be together.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: While the other books almost exclusively focused on their protagonist, our hero Britomart is constantly Out of Focus during cantos that follow Marinell’s mother, Prince Arthur, Florimell, Timias, Paridell, and Malbecco. Those other characters also go long stretches without appearing before popping up agan for a canto that gives them the spotlight again.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: An extreme example with Malbecco. When given a choice between saving his treasures from a fire or protecting his wife from a rapist, he chooses to save his money. He suffers dearly for this.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Malbecco represents jealousy more than any other vice. He wants little more than to possess things for no purpose other than to keep others from having them, and he only leaves his home to deny others the things he wants. In the end, he ends up alone in a cave, living forever in squalor until there's nothing left of him but his unending jealousy.
  • Iconic Item: Satyrane concurs Florimell is dead when he finds her golden girdle in the mouth of a beast.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Boreas and Proteus establish themselves immediately as vile brutes by attempting to force themselves on Florimell the moment they see her.
  • Insomnia Episode: A recurring trouble in Book III is characters being unable to sleep due to love-sickness:
    • In Canto III, we hear about how Britomart had trouble sleeping for days after experiencing Love at First Sight out of a mix of fantasy, confusion, and guilt that eventually compels her to hunt down her love.
    • In Canto IV, Arthur has a monologue that lasts through the night about how Dark Is Evil and the night brings out the worst of men's fears, regrets and sorrows that make it difficult for them to sleep anyway. The canto ends at dawn, with Arthur riding away completely exhausted.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Malbecco is a miser who locks his wife and refuses to let anyone from the outside world into his home. In the end, his wife leaves him for a group of satyrs out in the wild, his money gets lost in the woods, and he lives alone the rest of his days alone in a small, dark cave
  • Light Is Good: Arthur's diatribe against the night includes a brief praise for the day and how it exposes violence and lies for all to see and gives rise to truth and honesty that humanity needs in order to thrive.
    "For day discouers all dishonest wayes, / And sheweth each thing, as it is indeed: / The prayses of high God he faire displayes, / And his large bountie rightly doth areed."
  • Love at First Sight: Britomart falls desperately for Artegall upon first seeing him from a distance. She's aware of how ludicrous this is and even feels guilty about it as she goes to sleep each night thinking of him. It takes her nurse's reassurance to convince Britomart that what she's feeling really is love, not just Lust or some narcissitic projection
  • Magic Mirror: Britomart’s father had a scrying mirror from Merlin, which showed Britomart a vision of her one true love when she stumbled upon it.
  • Muggle in Mage Custody: Amoret is captured by the Evil Sorcerer Busirane, who tries to force her into becoming his lover.
  • My Beloved Smother: Marinell's mother is adamantly against her son falling in love and forces him to remain celibate.
  • The Muse: Spenser invokes the muse Clio in Book 3 so that he can do justice to the ancestors of his patron, Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Part of Prince Arthur's sleep-deprived rant is railing against the night for allowing thieves and murderers to hide their crimes and another part is praising the day for exposing such sins and striking fear to those who commit them.
    "Our life is day, but death with darknesse doth begin."
  • Nocturnal Mooks: At night, the castle of the Evil Sorcerer Busirane is flooded with all sorts of masked evil-doers who each represent some vice brought about by lust. Allegorically, this represents the types of evil Spenser saw as a result of the illicit actions people perform under the cover of darkness.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Britomart's magic spear will unhorse any mounted foe, apparently without ever seriously injuring them.
  • Oxymoronic Being: In the end, Malbecco becomes a being both alive and dead, sustained by deadly poisons that eat away at his life while barely sustaining him.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Amoret and Belphoebe. Amoret was raised by Venus to become the perfect wife and Proper Lady; Belphoebe was raised by Diana to become a Virgin Power Action Girl.
  • The Power of Love: A major theme of the book is the greatness of love and its distinction from lust. Britomart's love for Arthegall is one of her major motivating factors in adventuring on and Spenser himself repeatedly describes love as the noblest thing in the world.
    "Well did Antiquitie a God thee deeme, / That ouer mortall minds hast so great might, / To order them, as best to thee doth seeme, / And all their actions to direct aright / Thou doest effect in destined descents, / Through deepe impression of thy secret might, / And stirredst vp th'Heroes high intents, / Which the late world admyres for wondrous monime[n]ts."
  • Prophecy Twist: Proteus prophesized that would Marinell meet his doom at the hands of a woman. His mother assumed this meant he would fall in love with a woman and die doing some great deed for her, but in actuality, her mighty son was defeated in single combat by a female knight known as Britomart.
  • Rescue Romance: Timias falls in love with Belphoebe after she saves his life by healing his wounds.
  • Retcon: After Spenser decided to expand the series beyond three books, he rewrote the ending so that Amoret and Scudamour do not reunite as soon as Britomart rescues her.
  • Ring of Fire: Busirane's castle is protected not by a gate, but a massive wall of sulphuric fire. Britomart is fierce enough to cut through the flames, but sad Scudamour is not so powerful.
  • Rule of Three: Timias' monologue where grappling with his crush on Bellphoebe is three stanzas, each ending with "Dye rather, dy, than euer X." The first time he says it its to dissuade himself from loving her, then to dissuade himself from ever being disloyal to her, and lastly to promise never to forsake his love for her.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Malbecco is portrayed as a horrid, shrewd villain for refusing to let random knights into his home and even our heroic Britomart is okay with threatening to burn the man's manor down in retaliation for forcing them to find shelter in a pig's pen.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Britomart is introduced just as an average knight and it is not until a while spent focusing on her that it is revealed she's a woman. The same trick is used in Canto IX, where she's introduced as a "straunger knight" with male pronouns that switches to female once Britomart takes her helm off.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Proteus attempts to bed Florimell by taking on dozens of glorious forms like different faerie knight and kings. When she still refuses, he takes on more intimidating forms like a giant and a storm to try and threaten her into accepting his advances.
  • Series Continuity Error: Prince Arthur learns that the lost woman he’s been chasing has been wandering since Britomart killed her true love five days before. The problem is that Britomart did that in canto 4, long after Arthur first saw the woman running mad in canto 1.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Florimell. Virtually every male character who sees her wants to rape or abduct her.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Marinell and Florimell would make a lovely couple, but since a prophesy said Marinell would die due to a virgin, Marinell's mother forbid them to be together.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Deconstructed with the old miser Malbecco and the beautiful Hellenore. Malbecco is so insecure that he prevents Hellenore from leaving his manor and refuses to let any handsome traveller into his home, Sacred Hospitality be damned. This nearly gets his house burned down and fully gets his wife to jump ship and abandon Malbecco for the first handsome man who takes a pass at her.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Britomart grievously injures a random challenger she comes across on her journey, at which point the narrative shifts to detail the man's entire backstory and the mourning process his mother goes through.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The giant Ollyphant can easily fell armored knights, but cannot harm chaste virgins, so he flees in fear at the sight of a woman.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The sea goddess Cymoent laments having to live on after her son is mortally wounded and goes so far as to argue that immortality is worse than death precisely because she has to see her friends and children die.
    "O what auailes it of immortall seed / To beene ybred and neuer borne to die? / Farre better I it deeme to die with speed, / Then waste in woe and wailefull miserie."
  • The Worf Effect: Britomart is introduced handily defeating the powerful hero of the previous book, Sir Guyon, and soon after defeats six knights that were giving Book I's protagonist a run for his money. Though attributed in part to her enchanted spear, both victories make it clear she is just as powerful as other epic heroes.
  • Wowing Cthulhu: The grief Cymoent feels upon her son's death is so profound that the world's sea monsters do nothing but watch with mouths agape as she approaches her son's corpse.

    Book 4 
Book Four
Book Four is a Continuation of Book Three. Britomart finds Artegall, Florimell is released from her dungeon and engaged to Marinell, but first Satyrane invites all the knights in the land to a tournament and beauty contest. The prizes for the winning knight and the most beautiful girl will be... each other! Entering the tournament are best friends and brothers-in-law (they married each other's sister) Campbell and Triamond from one of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, "The Squire's Tale," another series cut short by Died During Production. Britomart, still in disguise as the Knight of the Ebon Spear, wins the tournament, and enters Amoret in the beauty contest. The judges decide the "Snowy Florimell" (a clone of Florimell a witch made for her son) is the most beautiful girl, but she fails the final test: the real Florimell's golden girdle, which can only be worn by a virgin, won't fit her. In fact, it won't fit anyone but Amoret, which Britomart argues makes her the most beautiful. But the value of virginity and true love is the main point of Book Three. The Virtue of Book Four is Friendship, personified in Campbell's and Triamond's friendship and Britomart's and Amoret's (once Amoret realizes her rescuer is not a man who is keeping her near him to take advantage of her).

This book provides examples of:

  • Admiring the Abomination: Britomart looks in awe at the mighty, strong body of the giant she killed.
  • Anaphora: Halfway through the first canto, the narrator emphasizes how numerous and similar the examples of discord are by beginning each like with "some of" and then describing some episode of discord.
    "And eke of priuate persons many moe,
    That were too long a worke to count them all;
    Some of sworne friends, that did their faith forgoe;
    Some of borne brethren, prov'd vnnaturall;
    Some of deare louers, foes perpetuall[.]"
  • Apple of Discord: Ate drives two brothers in arms, Paridell and Blandamour. to betray and attack each other by playing off their mutual lust for Florimell's clone.
  • Beauty Contest: Satyrane holds a tournament to determine the strongest, most-skilled knight, followed by a beauty contest for the knights' ladies. The prizes for the winners would be a magic girdle… and each other! The beauty contest entrants are judged for their beauty but the magic girdle can only be won by a chaste and faithful soul. The princess they pick to win (who's really a clone — long, sad story) tries over and over to put it on but can’t, and even though second-place can wear the prize, the princess-clone keeps the prize and the win for herself. The winning knight passes up the prize of a date due to being secretly female.
  • Blasphemous Praise: Artegall is so awestruck by Britomart's beauty that he bows to her and compares her to angels and gods.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Campbell is so fed up with the hundreds of men pestering his sister to marry them that he says that any man who wants to propose must defeat him first. He ends up killing two powerful knights to give his sister some peace.
  • The Bus Came Back: Canto 11 starts with the narrator making note of how long it's been since Florimell got taken away by Proteus and decides to return her to the forefront of the story.
  • Cain and Abel: Love and Hatred are here portrayed as brothers constantly bickering and fighting with each other. They are only stopped from attacking one another by Lady Concord. Hatred resents this, but it's good for him, since Love is the stronger of the two.
  • Cock Fight:
    • The brothers-in-arms, Blandamour and Paridell, are goaded by Ate into battling each other as soon as they see the beautiful Florimell.
    • Canacee's suitors routinely battled each other for her hand, despite the fact she rejected all of them repeatedly. It got so bad her brother had to make an example of the three strongest "warlike wooers" by beating them. The lovers left her alone soon after.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: In Satyrane’s tournament, Satyrane’s massive team of dozens of knights fares the worst and the two man team of Triamond and Campbell does better than that, but the victor is the one-woman team of Britomart. She handily smacks Artegall and dozens of others knights around, while later she has to give considerable efforts to fight evenly with the man when he’s alone.
  • Cosmic Deadline: Canto II ends with Spenser trying to get on to the big tournament fight, but admitting that there's not enough room to fit it in the same canto. So he abruptly finishes by pointing out he'll just have to tell the story in another canto.
  • Creepy Cave: A rapist giant brings the woman he kidnaps to a terrible, dark cave he blocks up with a boulder. The narrator goes to some lengths to get across how terrifying the place is with talk of ghosts and "eternal night."
  • Deadly Gaze: Corflambo has fiery eyes like a basilisk that can kill any men who looks into them. He used this power to conquer kingdoms and nations by his lonesome.
  • Death by Despair: Marinell grows increasingly sick and nearly dies of a broken heart upon learning that Florimell is captured by Proteus.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: You’d think Triamond would hold a grudge after Campbell killed his triplet brothers, but after they come to blows, they gain a lot of respect for each other and become Bash Brothers themselves.
  • Died During Production: In-Universe. The poem introduces Campbell and Triamond as two heroes Geoffrey Chaucer would have written about had he not died mid-way through The Canterbury Tales. The narrator even asks Chaucer's spirit if he has permission to re-tell the story.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Brother and sister Campbell and Canacee married sister and brother Cambina and Triamond.
  • Double Speak: Centuries before Orwell, Spenser says that Ate double-spake through her two tongues, never meaning just one thing, but always having two things in her divided mind.
  • Dramatic Drop: When Artegall knocks Britomart’s helmet off, he is so shocked to see the beautiful face of a woman that his arm goes slack and his sword falls to the ground.
  • The Dreaded: Even knights who can defeat twenty men single-handedly will flee or faint at the sight of Daunger, a horrible giant who guards the second gate to Venus' temple. In reality, though, he's not that much of a threat. He respects anyone brave enough to challenge him to let them pass without a fight, so brave men like Scudamour can pass his gate without breaking a sweat.
  • Duality Motif: Every pair in Ate's body is mismatched to highlight her duplicity. One foot is long, the other short; one ear is giant, the other is tiny; and one hand can only push, the other can only pull. This duality even extends to single organs like her tongue, which she inexplicably has two of to Double Speak with.
  • Elopement: The princess Ameylia decides leave her kingdom to marry the poor squire Amyas without her father interfering. Unfortunately for both of them, when the two go to meet each other in the forest, they each run into a different giant that kidnaps them.
  • Engagement Challenge: Campbell challenges all of his sister's suitors to battle him for the honor of marrying her. The suitors choose three of them to act as champions to defeat Campbell. Two die, but the third battles Campbell to a draw and is able to marry as he intended.
  • Evil Laugh: The kidnapper giant can't help but laugh as the knight battling him hits the Damsel in Distress the giant is using as a human shield.
  • Fan Sequel: Campbell's and Triamond's side of the story, to "The Squire's Tale"
  • The Four Loves: Canto 9 opens with Spenser identifying three of the kinds of love: affection towards kindred, passion for the opposite sex, and zeal among friends.
  • Garden of Love: Venus' island is noted for having just about every lovely tree or flower you could want, making it a "second paradise" suited for the worship of love.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: Concord, who gave birth to the demigods Peace and Friendship, is said to wear a golden dress and crown of white pearls as a sign of the authority the Almighty granted on her to keep harmony between Heaven and Earth.
  • Heaven: Scudamour makes reference to the Greek equivalent of Heaven, Elysium, in praising Venus' island. He goes so far to say those happy souls blessed in the afterlife would be jealous and miserable if they found out how much better this island was.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Given the focus of this book is friendship, this is a given.
    • Campbell and Triamond are brothers-in-law who travel and battle together with more regard for the others glory than their own. When Triamond is knocked out of The Tourney, Campbell impersonates Triamond and enters the battle to save his honor, and when Triamond catches wind of it, he does the same despite the deadly injury he got the other day.
    • The squires Amyas and Placidas are both willing to reject the love of a beautiful lady and be enslaved in order for the other to be free and find their loves. The two are so close that most people, even Amyas' fiancee, can't tell the two apart.
    • The island around Venus' temple is not only occupied by romantic lovers, but the platonic sort whose friendship are so strong to last beyond death. The narrator makes reference to historical and mythological examples of this trope (like David and Jonathan, Achilles and Patroclus, and Pylades and Orestes) to give a sense of what he's talking about.
  • Heroic BSoD: What does Marinell do when he finds out Proteus has his girlfriend? Storm the castle and rescue her? Devise a plan to secretly steal her away? Challenge Proetus to a duel? Nope... he lies on his bed, weeps, and can't eat or sleep until his mother Cymodoce steps in and saves the girl.
  • Human Shield: The giant gets an upper-hand against Timias by grabbing the damsel Amoret and using her to block Timias' spear and force him to hesitate to fight back.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Belphoebe kills the rapist giant just as he's about to escape by shooting an arrow that splits his throat in twain. We get a not-so-pretty description of the blood gushing out right after.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Amyas and Placidas aren't related or anything, but even the woman who are madly in love with Amyas can't tell the difference between the two. The poem implies their similarity is largely because of how close they are as friends and the degree to which they share their values.
  • In the Back: Satyrane throws a javelin at Triamond while his attention is elsewhere. This cowardly move cripples Triamond and forces him to sit out most of the second day of The Tourney.
  • Losing Your Head: Corflambo's decapitated head still manages to blaspheme and curse for a bit after his body is killed by Arthur.
  • Love at First Punch: Britomart and Artegall don’t physically meet before Britomart casually defeats him in Satyrane’s tournament. Artegall challenges her to a proper duel for revenge and when they knock each other’s helmets off, they immediately fall in love.
  • Loved I Not Honor More: Artegall postponing his and Britomart's marriage until he finishes his mission for the Faerie Queene (see Book 5 for that).
  • Love Hurts: When the lovers are separated, as a lot in this book are.
  • Love Makes You Crazy:
    • Timias temporarily loses his sanity, secluding himself in a cave, when Belphoebe thinks he cheated on her. Ironically, Belphoebe realizes how much he loves her when she finds him in this state.
    • Also Marinell when he realizes Florimell is being held prisoner by Proteus, to the point where Cymodoce relents and gets Neptune to intervene.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The theme of the prologue to the book is that love is the motivator of every great deed throughout human memory, including the bad ones.
  • Magic Music: The myth of Orpheus is mentioned, with special focus on how his music calmed the ocean's waves and summoned dolphins to rescue him from some pirates.
  • Merger of Souls: When Priamond, Diamond, or Triamond die, their ghost goes to one of the other two brothers and becomes one with their spirit.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Belphoebe sees Timias embracing Amoret and assumes he's being faithless to her, not realizing Timias is attending to Amoret's wounds. She leaves before he can explain and he becomes a hermit in despair.
  • Mook Chivalry: The twenty knights who guard Amoret each come out to fight Scudamour one-on-one rather than just ganging up on. Justified, since this mooks are bound by the code of chivalry to give this man an honest chance to fight.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Campbell kills pretty much anyone who courts his sister Canacee. He gives them the option to back down, but if they insist on being with her, they gotta duel him and they always lose.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: The time Arthur's squire spends living alone in the forest leaves him so disheveled that Arthur doesn't recognize him while talking to him from five feet away.
  • Numerical Theme Naming: There are three brothers Priamond, Diamond and Triamond.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: We get a closer look at fairies proper here, with Agape demonstrating most of them in this setting tend to be beautiful, magical, and very private.
  • The Power of Rock: It is said the only thing short of God's intervention that can defeat discord wrought by demons is music. The narrator mentions this by reference to Orpheus playing his harp to bring peace to the Argonauts and David singing his psalms to alleviate the evils of Saul.
  • Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You: Artegall is so lovestruck by Britomart that he bows before her mid-battle and says she can kill him if she pleases.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: Neptune lectures Proteus on how prophecies are not supposed to be used to deliberately mess with people.
  • Putto: The winged joys and loves darting around Venus are compared to little angels wielding harps and another child of Venus, baby Cupid.
  • Rejection Affection: Canacee's many suitors only become more infatuated with her the more she rebuffs them and shows her sense of modesty.
  • Restraining Bolt: The enchantment on Florimell's girdle restrains the wearer from acting on lust and looseness.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: The sons of Agape are all stout and strong men who grow up to become knights all vying for the same woman.
  • Serial Romeo: Lustful Blandamour can't help but fall for every pretty lady he sees. He falls for Amoret even when he has Duessa by his side and moments later falls for Florimell's doppelganger at the mere sight of her.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Timias is so in love with Britomart that when she rejects him, he rejects all women and goes to live alone in the woods.
  • Slut-Shaming: The Squire of Dames laughs and publicly mocks Florimell for being guilty of lust, as proved when she is unable to wear a magical belt made for chaste women.
  • Snicket Warning Label: Spenser begins canto I by bemoaning the terrors Amoret and Florimell go through in the story and admitting he wishes it never had been written at all.
  • Staying Alive: Triamond is able to survive death twice because his brothers souls merged with his upon their deaths. When a killing blow hits him, one of brother’s souls dies instead, to Campbell’s terror.
  • Threshold Guardian: A variety of strange figures wait at the gates of Venus to keep unworthy knights from entering her temple. This doubles as an allegory for the vices that keep people from pursuing their love.
    • Doubt and Delay guard the first gate. While Doubt does little to prevent heroes from passing through, Delay will distract them with idle chatter, rumors, and outright lies to dissuade them from continuing further or at least delay them. It takes conviction and focus to ignore her and move forward to the temple.
    • Daunger is a giant with a deadly glaive who tests the courage of whoever comes through. Those that actually go to fight him are pleased to find out that he isn't actually looking for a fight, he only gives off that impression to weed out cowards from going further.
  • The Tourney: A great jousting tournament to test Canacee's suitors strength and devotion. Her brother Campbell acts as their opposition, fighting with such intensity that most of his opponents are killed.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The triplet sons of Agape are all doomed to short lives despite being the kindest and most functional family we see in the story. They fight for others, never quarrell amongst themselves, and only seek to adventure to help others, yet the Fates decided their mother should live to watch each of them die in youth.
  • Truly Single Parent: Venus is said to be able to be both sire and mother, having both male and female aspects hidden under her veil.
  • Two-Faced: The guardsman named Doubt has two faces on opposite sides of his head, like Janus from Roman mythology. Each face spends it time darting its eyes around in paranoia.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: As opposed to the previous book, a lot more of the characters cross paths and involve themselves in the same events. So what would be a chapter about Satyrane alone in the last book here also advances the stories of Britomart, Florimell, and Campbell. Characters do go off on there own, hence the second line.
  • The Unmasking: Britomart takes off her helmet at a party and the entire crowd turns to see this fearsome knight's golden locks fall down to her heels. They learn Samus Is a Girl and a beautiful one at that, which astonishes the crown and assuages Amoret's fears that Britomart was some man hoping to take advantage of her.
  • Vampiric Draining: Ate is sustained by drinking the blood and sucking the life from those who succumb to stupid feuds and rivalries. She was born to feed this way by the demons who raised her.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: When Scudamour first sees Amoret, the chaste woman is wearing a linen dress lined with silver.
  • Wedding Smashers: It turns out that Busyran kidnapped Amoret at her wedding, taking advantage of how drunk and unsuspicious everyone was to carry her away.
  • The Weird Sisters: When her boys were young, Agape went to see the three Fates to learn their future. They appear pretty much as described in Greek and Roman myths. They go by the names Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos and spend their days pulling, spinning, and cutting the threads of life.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Amoret's and Scudamour's parties eventually meet up, but Spenser forgets to rewrite the epic reunion scene he cut from the first version of Book Three.
  • Woman Scorned: It is a bad idea to be embracing another woman when your warrior-knight girlfriend is in the other room, because if she sees you, she will think long and hard about cutting you in twaine. Thankfully for Timias, Lady Britomart is righteous enough not to resort to wanton violence even if she (thinks) she's been cheated on, so she doesn't go threw with killing them (like she wants to).
  • Women Are Wiser: After deciding too many knights have been killed fighting over Canacee, Cambina uses magic to force their brothers to stop fighting and be friends instead of killing each other.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The Fates themselves tell a grieving mother that they can't extend the short threads of life that belong to her sons because once determined, destiny absolutely cannot be changed.
    "For what the Fates do once decree, / Not all the gods can chaunge, nor Ioue him self can free."

    Book 5 
Book Five
  • Protagonist: Artegall, the Knight of Justice
  • Mission: Defeat the giant Grantorto and free a queen Irena and her kingdom
  • Accompanied by: The man of iron, Talus

In the middle of the book, Artegall loses a duel to the evil Amazon queen Radigund because he refuses to finish her off when he has the chance because of her beauty. When she imprisons him, it's not the famous Arthur who comes to his rescue but Britomart.

This book provides examples of:

  • Ax-Crazy: Talus. He kills everyone who looks at him the wrong way, and at one point cuts the hands off and drowns a woman who they've taken prisoner. The only thing that keeps him nominally on the side of good is that he works for Artegall, who has to curb some of his more bloodthirsty rampages.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Blatant Beast causes some trouble at the end of the book that's largely irrelevant, but it does serve to establish him before becoming the main antagonist of the next book.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Radigund makes all the male knights she defeats and imprisons wear women's clothes and do women's chores.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Britomart fights Radigund to save Artegall.
  • Distressed Dude: Artegall is captured by the Amazons, forcing his lover Britomart to save him from certain doom and humilitation.
  • Does Not Like Men: Radigund, in classical Amazon fashion, resents all men and takes pleasure in emasculating them. She captures Artegall and forces him to crossdress and perform womanly duties for her.
  • Downer Ending: Despite saving Irena from Grantorto, Artegall is shunned when he returns to Faerieland thanks to Envy, Detraction, and the Blatant Beast.
  • Judgment of Solomon: Arthegall arbitrates a dispute between a squire and a knight over a woman (who is apparently incapable of telling them herself). It turns out the knight kidnapped the woman (and killed his own girlfriend when she objected to his running off with her) and is subsequently sentenced to carry her severed head around for a year as punishment.
  • Sequel Hook: The sudden appearance of the Blatant Beast at the end sets up his role as antagonist of Book Six.
  • Spot the Imposter:
    • At Marinell's and Florimell's wedding, Artegall outs the Snowy Florimell as the fake, and she melts.
    • Braggadocchio's charade of posing as a knight is also revealed, along with his theft of Guyon's horse.

    Book 6 
Book Six
  • Protagonist: Calidore, the Knight of Courtesy
  • Mission: Capture the Blatant Beast

Calidore disappears from the radar for a good chunk of the action while the story follows Calepine, his girlfriend Serena, Arthur, Timias (who has regained the will to live and fight after being reconciled with Belphoebe), and their encounters with the Blatant Beast, whose bites cannot be healed and work like rumors, cursing the victims with bad reputations.

This book provides examples of:

  • Author Avatar: Spenser wanted an excuse to brag about how lucky he was to marry a beautiful Irish gal, so he inserted himself in the poem as "Colin Clout" and had the guy encounter a poor maid more beautiful than Venus' children.
  • Barbarian Hero: A naked warrior armed with nothing but his fists may sound more like a monster than a man, but the Wild Man is as brave as any knight and just as willing to save damsels from the savages of civilization.
  • Break the Haughty: Mirabella was punished for torturing her suitors with a lifetime spent in the capture of Disdain and Scorne. She can only be free when she fills a vial with tears of true repentance, except the vial leaks, so she has little to no hope of ever reaching freedom no matter how much she mourns.
  • Call to Agriculture: Calidore's storyline in Canto VI sees him abandon his quest to romance a shepherd girl and enjoy the simplicity of her pastoral lifestyle.
  • Cannibal Tribe: The second half of Canto VIII centers around a tribe of cannibals who kidnap Serena in hopes of a tasty meal. They're only kept from eating her because their foul priest wants to sacrifice her life to their gods.
  • Changeling Fantasy: The shepherd girl Pastorella turns out to be a long-lost princess.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Mirabella broke 22 hearts, so she must help 22 men while traveling with and being abused by Disdain and Scorn.
  • Cosmic Motifs: The dancing nymphs and graces are compared to the constellations in the sky, with the woman in the center being said to be more beautiful than them to the same degree the Moon is to the stars.
  • Decapitation Presentation: While lesser men settle for chocolates and flowers as gifts for their girlfriends, Calidore woos his love by presenting to her the head of a tiger that was about to kill her.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Calidore eventually captures the Blatant Beast. Then it escapes and causes people's reputations to suffer til this day.
  • Dirty Coward: Running when a tiger attacks his lover, leaving his clan to be massacred by slavers, and refusing to even tell a braver knight where to find some bad guys are all tell-tale signs of a coward. Coincidently, Coridon does all these things.
  • Downer Ending: The Blatant Beast escapes at the end, any book in which it's recaptured left unwritten.
  • Going Native: Spending time with poor shepherds slowly transform Calidore into one himself.
  • Hooks and Crooks: Calidore manages to use a simple shepherd's crook to rip the head off of a tiger.
  • Human Sacrifice: What would a tribe of savage cannibals without a pagan priest practicing human sacrifices? Ironically, this savage custom is what saves Serena's life, since the preparation for her ritual murder takes long enough for a knight to come rescue her.
  • Love Triangle: Calidore falls in love with Pastorella, but she's already being courted by Coridon. Coridon is intensely jealous as Pastorella falls for Calidore more and more, but Calidore bears no ill will in return.
  • Noble Savage: The Wild Man grew up with no access to speech, weaponry, or society as a whole, but he still acts as kindly and courteously as any noble. He risks his life to fight for a maiden in trouble and continues to protect her.
  • Rescue Romance: Pastorella falls in love with Calidore when he saves her from a tiger.
  • Super-Toughness: A sword blow strong enough to dismember a man fails to even draw blood on Disdain's leg. It only causes a few cracks to form, as if his leg were a stone pillar.
  • Voice of the Legion: A thousand tongues speak a thousand voices whenever the Blatant Beast opens its foul mouth.
  • Whip of Dominance: What weapon could Scorn itself use to torture its captives other than a whip?
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Any wound the Blatant Beast inflicts will not heal unless its victim learns to master themselves and their speech.

Alternative Title(s): Faerie Queene