Literature Study GuidesThe Faerie QueeneBook 4 Cantos 10 12 Summary

The Faerie Queene | Study Guide

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene | Book 4, Cantos 10–12 | Summary



Book 4, Canto 10

Scudamour says love combines "gall and hony"—happiness and pain. As a young knight, he thought his courage would easily win him a lady. He traveled to the temple of Venus where 20 knights waited to compete for the shield of love. Whoever won the shield would win Amoret. Scudamour defeated the other knights and tried to enter the castle but found the bridge gate locked. The castle's two porters were Doubt and Delay. Doubt had two faces, one looking forward and another looking backward.

Eventually passing Doubt and Delay, Scudamour arrived at the Gate of Good Desert and overcame the giant Danger. He finally entered Venus's palace. In the temple a woman named Concord was guarded by two brothers, Love and Hate. Though the two brothers quarrel, graceful Concord always makes sure they get along. She intervened when Hatred tried to stop Scudamour from entering the inner temple where Venus dwells.

Venus's face was covered with a veil. Many people say she combines both a male and female appearance. Her altar was surrounded with the pleas of various lovers. Beside her sat Womanhood, the oldest and wisest of her counselors. Womanhood was joined by Shamefastness, Cheerfulness, Modesty, Courtesy, Silence, and Obedience. Amoret sat in Womanhood's lap.

Scudamour reached for Amoret's hand. Womanhood stopped him, rebuking him for touching a virgin bound to serve Venus. In response Scudamour showed the shield proving he had won Amoret. Though Amoret protested, Scudamour led her out of the castle.

Book 4, Canto 11

The poet regrets how long he's let Florimell languish in the dungeon of Proteus. She remains captive. Meanwhile Marinell, the sea nymph Florimell loves, has recovered from his wounds thanks to the intervention of Tryphon the sea gods' surgeon.

The sea gods and their nymphs are about to celebrate the marriage of the Medway and the Thames rivers. All the sea gods, including oceans, rivers, floods and other bodies of water, proceed into the banquet hall. The bride follows with her handmaidens. The sea nymphs end the procession. Cymoent (Cymodoce), Marinell's mother, is among them.

Book 4, Canto 12

Since the poet has only begun to recite the names of the seas' many children, he asks the reader's forgiveness for any error.

Since Marinell is half human, he can't attend the wedding. Instead, he wanders the seaside and hears the voice of a woman. It's Florimell, who has never before sung aloud about her sorrow. She pleads for death and deliverance from her dungeon. She pledges loyalty to her lover and finally tells Marinell her suffering is all for him.

Her song touches Marinell; yet, he cannot think of any way he can save Florimell, and he blames himself for her fate. As Marinell grieves, Cymoent notices him wasting away and asks Tryphon to cure him. But, Tryphon cannot figure out the cause of Marinell's disease. Cymoent appeals to the god Apollo, who determines Marinell suffers from love. Marinell reveals his love for Florimell.

At first, Cymoent grieves. She wanted Marinell to marry a sea nymph, not a mortal. But, she feels determined to save her son. She goes to Neptune, the king of the sea gods, and he commands Proteus to release Florimell. The lovers joyfully reunite.


Each book features a location, usually a palace, representing the book's main virtue. In Books 1 and 2 the heroes fought their way to the castles of holiness and temperance. Book 3 described the Garden of Adonis as the home of chaste, fruitful love. Book 4 uses Venus's temple as a monument to friendship.

Since Venus is the goddess of love, Scudamour's journey shows friendship as one of love's essential ingredients. Canto 10, Stanzas 25–27 describes a monument to famously loyal friends: Jonathan and David, a pair from the Bible. Theseus and Pirithous come from Greek mythology. Damon and Pythias, also characters in Greek myth, often represent willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of a friend.

But friendship extends beyond individuals to groups and societies. Concord, the amiable goddess in Canto 10, Stanzas 31–35, represents political harmony. She keeps the world stable; without her even the natural elements would stop getting along. And she manages the conflicting emotions of love and hate in humans. Greek philosopher Aristotle, from whom Spenser borrows many of his ideas about friendship, describes concord as civic friendship essential for social peace.

Fittingly Canto 11 describes a joyful political union: the sea wedding of the Medway and Thames, two rivers in England. The wedding has four separate processions. The sea gods enter first followed by the rivers of the world, the Thames and its tributaries, then the Medway. After the Medway come the Nereids, Greek mythological daughters of the sea gods. Since the Nereids descend from the incredibly fertile Venus, there are far more of them than Spenser can name.

Book 4 ends with a final example of sacrificial love, drawing the interlocking stories of Books 3 and 4 full circle at the close. When Marinell hears Florimell's lament, he finally realizes what she's given up for him. Cymoent similarly shows maternal love when she goes to great lengths to save her son. By bringing separated lovers together despite great odds against them, Spenser reveals the higher powers of destiny at work.

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