Literature Study GuidesThe Faerie QueeneBook 3 Cantos 10 12 Summary

The Faerie Queene | Study Guide

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene | Book 3, Cantos 10–12 | Summary



Book 3, Canto 10

Britomart and Satyrane leave Malbecco's castle but Paridell stays behind, claiming he's too sore to travel. His real plan is to convince Hellenore to leave with him. A skilled seducer, Paridell wins her easily. Hellenore then goes to the closet where Malbecco keeps his greatest treasure—his money. She steals some of the money and sets the rest on fire. As Malbecco mourns the loss of his riches, Hellenore escapes with Paridell.

Soon Malbecco realizes the trick and goes out to seek Hellenore. In the forest he finds two people he thinks are Paridell and Hellenore; he's actually found Braggadocio and Trompart. The crafty Trompart hears Malbecco's story and decides to trick him out of his remaining money. He promises Malbecco he will help find Hellenore.

They later find Paridell alone. Hellenore has left him for a satyr. Malbecco insists on going to the satyrs' grove to look for her. Trompart convinces him to leave his money behind.

All night Malbecco watches Hellenore dance with and make love to the satyrs. In the morning he tries and fails to get Hellenore to come back with him. He returns to his money, but Trompart and Braggadocio have stolen it all. Devastated, Malbecco finds a dark cave and builds a home there. He eventually forgets he is human and becomes Jealousy itself.

Book 3, Canto 11

The poet calls for Jealousy to be banished and replaced with Love.

Britomart and Satyrane continue on their journey. They see a man fleeing the giant Ollyphant, twin brother to the giantess Argante who captured the Squire of Dames. Ollyphant fears Britomart, whose chastity gives her the power to kill him. He runs away.

As Britomart and Satyrane hunt the giant in the forest, they find a knight grieving and crying on the ground. The knight, Scudamour, has a sad story. The wicked wizard Busirane is holding his lover Amoret captive. Despite Busirane's torture Amoret remains faithful to Scudamour. But Scudamour sees Amoret's sad fate as proof that good and righteousness are never rewarded.

Touched by his plight, Britomart vows to save Amoret or die trying. She and Scudamour travel to Busirane's castle, which is surrounded by flames. Scudamour wants to give up. Britomart decides to take a chance. She enters the flames and they part to let her pass. When Scudamour tries to follow, the fire forces him back.

Busirane's castle is covered with grand tapestries. The first tapestry shows the triumphant and tragic love affairs of the gods. An altar surrounds a golden statue of Cupid blindfolded with a bow and arrow. A wounded dragon lies at Cupid's feet. The phrase Unto the Victor of the Gods this be is written underneath. Britomart finds a door with the words Be bold written on it. She's not sure what the command means.

She enters a second room. More colorful tapestries show conquerors and captains who have fallen victim to love. The command Be Bold appears everywhere. Another door has the words Be not too bold written on it. Britomart waits until evening then falls asleep.

Book 3, Canto 12

A trumpet blast wakes Britomart as she sleeps in Busirane's chamber. A storm swirls outside and opens the doors inside. A masque or performance begins in front of Britomart. Minstrels, bards, and performers introduce the characters, led by Ease who carries a laurel branch. Fancy, Desire, Doubt, Danger, Fear, Hope, Dissemblance, Suspect, Grief, Fury, Displeasure, and Pleasance follow. Next comes Amoret led by the villains Despite and Cruelty. The villains tear Amoret's heart out and lay it in a silver basin.

Busirane follows riding a lion. Reproach, Repentance, and Shame follow him. A confused group trails behind including Strive, Anger, Care, Unthriftihood, Loss of Time, Sorrow, Change, Disloyalty, Riot, Dread, Infirmity, and Poverty. Death comes last. Even more pains and fantasies are included; the poet can't name them all. They march around the room three times then leave through a door.

The door locks and Britomart can't follow. She decides to wait until the following night when the masque reappears. This time she follows and finds Busirane torturing Amoret. Britomart forces Busirane to undo Amoret's enchantment and heal her. Amoret—believing the armored Britomart to be male—pledges her loyalty. Britomart binds Busirane and leaves the castle with Amoret. She notices with dismay all the tapestries have disappeared.

The flames outside have been quenched. Scudamour and Glauce are gone. They assumed Britomart and Amoret were dead and departed to mourn.


Canto 10, Stanza 4 says false love, like jealousy or lust, acts just as wittily and strategically as true love. The poet believes people underestimate the power of false lovers like Malbecco and Paridell, both competing for Hellenore with selfish motivations.

Malbecco imprisons Hellenore, showing a perverted form of love that is similar to possession. He has a similar covetous attitude towards his money. Both passions lead to his downfall. Spenser often personifies character traits in a literal way, turning Malbecco into Jealousy itself.

Hellenore isn't much more virtuous. She enjoys causing destruction, rejoicing when Malbecco's money and castle burn. The satyrs and their bagpipes are symbols of lechery or sexual overindulgence, the new life Hellenore chooses.

The poem contrasts Amoret's sacrifices for faithfulness and Scudamour's noble pursuit of love. The Author's Letter indicated Britomart would succeed in the quest where Scudamour failed. Britomart, the champion of chastity, is the only one to understand the nature of the threat Busirane's castle poses. In Canto 11, Stanza 22 she tells Scudamour they have provoked a monstrous evil and must now do battle with the gods. Since she understands the flames are divine, she can pass through them unharmed.

The tapestry Britomart views reinforces the diverse and harmful relationships throughout Book 3. Spenser presents a parade of the Greek and Roman gods' deceitful affairs, drawing on Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses and the myth of the weaver Arachne. Like a monster, love can change form and shape, becoming both good and evil.

The warning to be bold but not too bold is a warning and a challenge. It presents another nod to love's dangers. Love inspires acts of valor and courage. But excesses of emotion and extreme acts lead to destruction, as the defeated conquerors and captains in Canto 11, Stanza 52 demonstrate. And love is always risky; it requires boldness of pursuit. But no one wins except Cupid himself, the triumphant victor of the gods.

Busirane's masque is in the tradition of court masques in 16th-century Europe. These royal entertainments included detailed costumes and allegorical figures who might have represented certain emotions or concepts, as they do in the masque Britomart sees. The masque serves as a metaphor about how lovers at times disguise their true passionate feelings.

Since ease or relaxation is required to indulge lust, Ease introduces the masque. The rest of the players are emotions associated with both false and true love: desire, doubt, fear, hope, and more. Dissemblance or the ability to hide one's true intentions is necessary for the ritual of courtly love, which required coyness and pursuit. Displeasure and pleasure enter with wasps and bees, signifying the danger in both feelings.

The emotions grow darker and riskier as the masque proceeds, showing the possible consequences of love gone wrong. Reproach, repentance, and shame follow Busirane, demonstrating regret after sexual sin and the possibility of divine punishment. The sacrifice of Amoret's heart shows the pain often involved in true love.

And like many features of false love the masque is not what it seems. Like the tapestry it's one of Busirane's enchantments that disappear after Amoret's rescue. A 1596 version provides a different ending to Book 3 with a happy reunion between Amoret and Scudamour. Spenser ended Book 3 on an uncertain note in the 1596 version of the poem. Britomart and Amoret remain separated from their lovers. Their plotlines will continue in Book 4 which expands on a different version of love—the kind found in friendship.

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