The Faerie Queene | Study Guide

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene | Book 4, Cantos 1–3 | Summary



Book 4, Proem and Canto 1

Spenser's overview of Book 4 is "Contayning the Legend of Cambell and Telamond, or Friendship."

This book plans to explore the virtue of friendship. It features the friendship between two knights, Cambell and Triamond. But their story is relatively brief, intermingled with other tales of knights, ladies, and faithful friends.

The poet begins by criticizing a reader who dismisses him for writing about love. Love is the root of all honor and virtue, the poet says. Anyone who doesn't see its importance is incapable of love themselves. All the great philosophers and sages have written about love's lessons.

Continuing the narrative of Book 3, the poet laments the pain Amoret and Florimell suffer. Busirane stole Amoret on the day of her marriage to Scudamour. Amoret now rides with Britomart, the knight who saved her. Amoret believes Britomart is male and nervously wonders what she owes her rescuer.

The women arrive at a castle with a line of knights waiting outside. Every knight has to enter with a lady or sleep outside the door. One knight challenges Britomart for Amoret's hand. Britomart wins their joust. She claims Amoret as a knight then allows the challenging knight to claim Britomart herself as his lady, allowing everyone entry. Amoret is reassured to find Britomart is a woman.

The next day the two continue their journey searching for Scudamour and Glauce. They meet two knights, each traveling with a lady. Though both woman appear gracious, they are evil enchantresses in disguise. One is Duessa, the sorceress from Book 1. The other is Ate, the mother of dissent and destruction who rules in hell. Ate has a divided tongue which can speak two thoughts at once. Her feet and hands also reach in opposite directions. Ate rides with the knight Blandamour. Duessa rides with Paridell, a knight featured in Book 3.

Britomart taunts Paridell who previously lost a joust to her. Blandamour challenges Britomart instead but loses in shame. As Blandamour, Paridell, Duessa and Ate travel, they meet Scudamour and Glauce. Scudamour wears an emblem of the God of love on his shield. He asks Paridell to take his side out of friendship in a joust against Blandamour. Paridell agrees and Scudamour defeats Blandamour, who becomes angry.

Duessa and Ate decide to stir discord among the knights. They tell Scudamour they've seen his lady Amoret kiss and make love to a strange knight with the heads of broken spears on his shield. Scudamour is furious. He believes Britomart is the male knight and Amoret's new lover. Out of revenge, he nearly kills Glauce.

Book 4, Canto 2

Discord can do frightening damage, the poet laments. It takes a godlike man to return discord to peace.

Glauce calms Scudamour and prevents him from killing Amoret. Blandamour, Paridell, Duessa, and Ate continue traveling. They meet Ferraugh, the knight who won the false Florimell in Book 3. Blandamour is constantly distracted by new women and urges Paridell to fight and win the false Florimell. Paridell says it's Blandamour's turn to joust. Blandamour rises to the challenge and wins the false Florimell from Ferraugh. Paridell is envious.

For her amusement, Ate pits Blandamour and Paridell against each other by reminding them of arguments in their friendship. Paridell mentions to Blandamour they agreed to share all their winnings. Why can't Paridell share the lady that Blandamour won? The two joust furiously. They would be fighting to this day, the poet says, if the Squire of Dames hadn't arrived and broken up the fight.

Since he believed Florimell was dead, the Squire of Dames is happy to see she's alive. He is unaware this Florimell is not the real one. Many knights are interested in Florimell, the Squire of Dames says. They've been challenging Satyrane for Florimell's golden garland, which he found by the sea. Satyrane decided to hold a public tournament. The winner will get both the garland and the fairest lady there.

Blandamour and Paridell reconcile and ride to the tournament. There they meet two other knights, the friends Cambell and Triamond. They travel with their respective ladies Cambina and Canacee. The poet says the following story will finish a tale begun by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote the two characters as enemies.

Cambell's sister Canacee was a scientist with a great knowledge of herbal magic. Many lords and knights wanted her love, but she refused them all. Cambell decided to fight the suitors and give the winner his sister's hand. But the knights knew Canacee had given Cambell a ring with the power to heal all wounds, making them reluctant to fight him.

Three brave brothers took the challenge: Priamond, Dyamond, and Triamond. Though Triamond was the youngest, he was the only one with both stoutness and strength. Their mother Agape was a faery who worried for her adventurous sons' safety as they grew older. To see if she could prolong her sons' lives, Agape went to the three Fates, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who decide when all mortals will die. The Fates said they couldn't change the length of anyone's life. But they did agree to let the spirit of the first dead son pass into his next brother's body. The next son would then pass both spirits onto the remaining son. Agape returned home and told her sons to continue loving each other.

Book 4, Canto 3

The poet continues Cambell and Triamond's story. First he complains about the fact every man wants to prolong his life when existence is so painful.

Priamond, Dyamond, and Triamond all fight Cambell for Canacee's hand. Priamond is first to joust. Cambell kills him and his spirit migrates into Dyamond's body. The power of the extra spirit allows Dyamond to keep fighting even when he loses his head. Finally, Dyamond dies and both spirits migrate into Triamond. Cambell continues to fight with renewed strength because of the ring Canacee gave him.

When Triamond receives a deadly wound, one spirit flies out of his body. He continues fighting, to Cambell's shock. Both men suffer more deadly wounds and both recover. They continue to fight. Just when they appear on the point of death again, Triamond's sister Cambina arrives in a gold chariot driven by two lions. Cambina has learned magic arts from Agape. She holds a rod of peace in one hand. Another hand holds a cup filled with Nepenthe, a magical liquid dissolving anger into peace for anyone who drinks.

Cambina touches both fighters with the rod of peace and makes them drink from the cup. Their friendship is instantly restored. Canacee thanks Cambina. Triamond marries Canacee and Cambell marries Cambina in a joyful ceremony.


Friendship, according to the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, is a bond based on recognizing the virtues in others. Aristotle defines true friendship as reciprocal goodwill. Each friend wants the best for the other.

There's a reason Book 4 echoes many of the ideas and storylines of Book 3. The two books work together to demonstrate how the two virtues work together. Friendship is part of love; it applies to relationships between lovers as well as friends. Lovers look out for each other and desire the best for the other person. When the poet says love is the root of all honor and virtue, he includes friendship in this definition.

Cambell and Triamond are an example of excellent and sacrificial friendship. The book bears their name because they exemplify the virtue. But their story is limited to a few cantos. Instead, Spenser focuses on other demonstrations of non-sexual devotion, kindness, and harmony. Just as Book 3 showed false and true love, Book 4 shows false and true friendship.

For instance, a genuinely friendly relationship develops between Britomart and Amoret. As in Book 3 Britomart waits until the right moment to reveal her true identity, defusing tension and resolving conflict. Once Amoret isn't worried about losing her honor by traveling with another man, the two can interact as friends.

False friendship, however, has its own champions. Duessa returns in her role as an enchantress. This time her double nature allows her to appear gracious while secretly being deceitful. Ate, the Greek goddess of ruin, discord, and rash actions, appears as friendship's greatest enemy. Just as lust is the virtue opposed to chastity, discord is the virtue opposed to friendship.

Ate, like Duessa, has a double nature. Her nature appears in the more dramatic form of a forked tongue, a divided heart, and ears hearing different versions of the truth. This appearance demonstrates her ability to cultivate lies, rumors, and gossip.

But she doesn't just disrupt friendships. She topples societies. Canto 1, Stanzas 20–25 show the ruins of monarchs and empires as a result of discord and conflict. Great cities like Babylon, Thebes, and Ilion (or, Troy) have been victims of this strife.

Discord is so consuming that only a godlike power can soothe it once it starts. The poet provides the example of the Greek mythological warrior Jason and his troops who could only be calmed by the musician Orpheus. Other musicians like the biblical King David, the "celestial Psalmist," have a similar power. Characters like Glauce the wise nursemaid and Cambina the tranquil sister of Triamond demonstrate the skill of conflict resolution too.

The attack of Duessa and Ate begins with a particularly vulnerable pair of friends, Blandamour and Paridell. Despite their good intentions they both have character flaws. Blandamour is headstrong and fickle, going from lady to lady. Paridell is lustful and impulsive. Once Duessa and Ate pit the two against each other their previous vows of friendship fall by the wayside. Canto 2, Stanza 29 indicates Blandamour and Paridell don't have true friendship since their harmony isn't based on virtue. Instead their friendship is forged like false gold.

The false Florimell's beauty is similarly insincere. But dangerous emotions like lust and pride can arise around something ultimately false or worthless. Thus the false Florimell becomes a huge source of conflict as knight after knight competes for her.

What does true friendship look like? Spenser begins the tale of Cambell and Triamond by adapting English writer Geoffrey Chaucer's "Squire's Tale" from the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's story also includes a character named Canacee with a magic ring. Like many other writers of his time Spenser respected Chaucer as the first English poet and wanted to follow in his footsteps. But Spenser's story branches out to become a tale of three brothers' devotion and ultimately of two friends joining in harmony.

The prefixes of Priamond, Dyamond, and Triamond's names indicate their birth order—first, second, and third. Both Priamond and Dyamond lack an essential skill, either strength or stoutness. Triamond, the final perfected version of the brothers, has both. Their mother Agape takes her name from the Greek word for charitable love for God and man. Her sons model this kind of love. At the end of the battle they become three brothers with one soul, demonstrating their commitment to one another.

Their sister Cambina stands for peace and concord. The drink she gives them, Nepenthe, is a drink used by the gods to induce forgetfulness and cure suffering. This type of forgetfulness can be essential for peace. For famous men to ascend to heaven as gods, the poet suggests, they must leave their troubles on Earth. The water of Ardenne is a reference to Italian writer Ariosto's epic Orlando Furioso. In Ariosto's account the stream would cause the drinker to feel either love or hatred depending on which spring they chose.

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