The Faerie Queene | Study Guide

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene | Book 4, Cantos 7–9 | Summary

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Summary

Book 4, Canto 7

The poet scolds the God of love for tormenting ladies like Amoret, Britomart, and Florimell. While in the woods with Britomart, Amoret is kidnapped by a wild man who is savage and beastlike. He drags her to a dungeon where she hears another woman, Aemylia, weeping.

Aemylia says the man deflowers and then eats the women he captures. She's been captive for 20 days and seen seven women slain. Now only she, Amoret, and an old woman are left. Aemylia, the daughter of a lord, fell in love with a lower-class squire. Her father disapproved of the union, and Aemylia planned to flee with her lover in secret. But the beastly man was waiting for her at their meeting place instead. Aemylia has been able to keep her chastity in captivity, since the old woman satisfies the beastly man's lust.

When the man opens the dungeon Amoret runs away. Fortunately she runs into Belphoebe, out hunting with her nymphs, and her lover Timias. Together, Timias and Belphoebe defeat the beastly man who has chased Amoret into the woods. Belphoebe follows the man to his dungeon and shoots him. She then rescues Aemylia and the captive old woman.

But when Belphoebe sees Timias kissing Amoret's tears, she gets angry and flees into the woods. She fights Timias off with her arrows when he follows her. Grieved, Timias wanders into the woods where he lives alone for a long time.

One day Arthur travels through the woods and finds Timias, now mute and disgraced. He has written the name Belphoebe on every tree. Arthur doesn't recognize Timias as his former squire but senses the man in the woods has a noble past. The poet says Timias's fortunes will eventually be restored, but he won't tell that story yet.

Book 4, Canto 8

Timias's fate is a warning to fear "the displeasure of the mighty," the poet says. Lonely Timias meets a turtledove who comforts him. Timias gives the turtledove a collar decorated with jewels Belphoebe gave him. The dove then flies to Belphoebe and brings her to Timias. She pities the poor man but doesn't recognize him until he speaks, saying she has the power to address this wrong. They reconcile and live happily together again. Timias, meanwhile, has forgotten his former lord Arthur.

One day Arthur meets Aemylia and Amoret, who are sick and starving in the woods after escaping the beastly man's prison. Amoret is especially ill, and Arthur restores her to health with a magic elixir he keeps at all times.

He listens to their story and takes them to seek shelter. They only find the cottage of a foul old woman named Sclaunder, who abuses them verbally all night. She continues to hurl insults at them as they leave the next morning.

The poet then addresses readers who think poorly of two ladies for traveling with an unknown knight. In modern times, he says, most men are greedy and seek pleasure at all costs. But in the ancient age he's writing about, people were much more innocent and gentle to one another. The beauty of the old days has decayed.

Arthur, Amoret, and Aemylia see the squire Placidas with a dwarf, both calling for help. Placidas and the dwarf are being chased by Corflambo, a large, fearsome man riding a dromedary. When Arthur kills Corflambo, Placidas is relieved but the dwarf cries out in pain since Corflambo was his master.

Placidas explains Corflambo is the powerful son of a giantess. Corflambo's daughter Poeana is a frivolous woman who enjoys vain pleasures. Corflambo captured and imprisoned the squire Amyas, who planned to steal away in secret with his lover Aemylia, a woman of higher rank. Poeana fell in love with Amyas and gave him freedom to wander around the garden. The dwarf is the keeper of the garden and Poeana's servant.

Amyas is his best friend, Placidas adds. The two friends look exactly alike. When Placidas tried to rescue Amyas the dwarf noticed him and assumed Amyas had escaped. Poeana also thought Placidas was Amyas and threw him in the dungeon.

The two friends reunited in captivity. There, Placidas devised a plan to free his friend and take his place. Amyas reluctantly agreed. The next day Placidas presented himself as Poeana's lover. Pleased, she gave him even more freedom but sent the dwarf to keep an eye on him. Placidas decided he could escape if he took the dwarf along.

As Placidas talks to Arthur, Aemylia and Amoret approach. Aemylia recognizes Placidas and asks him where Amyas is. To her relief Placidas says Amyas is alive and still in love with her. He retells his story, and Aemylia begs Arthur to help.

Book 4, Canto 9

The poet describes the power of three different kinds of love: family affection, erotic love, and friendship. A virtuous person should have all three kinds. Readers can find inspiration in the strong friendship of Placidas and Amyas.

Arthur figures out a plan to free Amyas from Poeana. He takes Corflambo's head and restores it to his body, making Corflambo appear alive again. Placidas joins Corflambo's body on the dromedary. The dwarf reluctantly leads them back to Poeana's castle where she laments her lost love. Arthur captures her and forces the dwarf to free the many knights and squires imprisoned inside the castle.

Amyas emerges with the other freed captives. Aemylia and Placidas both run to greet him. After they have talked a while, Aemylia realizes she isn't sure which one is Amyas. She's never seen both the friends together. She marvels at how nature made them so much alike.

Arthur ransacks the castle and gives part of the spoils to Amoret and Aemylia. He convinces the distraught Poeana to give in to love and marry Placidas. She agrees and the two couples live happily together.

Taking Amoret with him, Arthur travels onward. She is perfectly safe with him and never fears for her chastity. They run into the knights from the earlier tournament, including Blandamour, Paridell, and two others named Druon and Claribell. They are still fighting to determine who is the best. Britomart and Scudamour watch from afar. Though Paridell and Blandamour are friends, they go back and forth between supporting and attacking each other. Finally, the enraged knights turn on Britomart and Scudamour.

Arthur breaks up the fight and lectures the quarreling knights about their folly. He accuses them of not respecting the tournament's outcome and of dishonoring their knighthood. Britomart and Scudamour both mourn the loss of Amoret. Though Amoret is with Arthur, she and Scudamour may or may not recognize each other. Claribell and the other knights, who have now reconciled, urge Scudamour to tell the story of how he won Amoret's heart.

Analysis

The poem continues to illustrate the difference between true and false friendship and the emotions behind each. Canto 9 opens with the idea that friendship perfects other kinds of love, such as familial affection and erotic attachment. Friendship requires an evolved, noble mindset, which includes the willingness to sacrifice.

Villains lack this higher ability and can only follow their base instincts. The wild man who imprisons Amoret and Aemylia represents a bestial and primal version of lust. Corflambo, riding on a dromedary—a fearsome beast similar to a camel—represents unrestrained or excess passions. Neither of these characters is quite human. They lack the vulnerability and sensitivity required to put others' needs ahead of their own.

Other examples of false friendship may be less dramatic but just as dangerous. Sclaunder, the old woman in Canto 8, spreads slander and gossip by accusing guiltless people of crimes. The four knights in Canto 9, Stanzas 20–21 come to blows over a false woman. The deeper their friendship, the poet suggests, the more violent their argument. The risk of friendship turning into hatred shows the need to get outsized emotions under control.

Belphoebe and Timias's relationship takes a turn for the worse as well. A misunderstanding has grave consequences. True love and chastity, represented by the turtledove, ultimately saves them. And, despite Timias's sorry state when Arthur finds him, Arthur can still recognize he has noble blood. This proves Spenser's later point that nobility and virtue can never be hidden if someone has them innately. Timias' inborn goodness kept him loyal to his lover despite their separation.

Placidas and Amyas's story includes similar features of sacrificial friendship. Amyas and Aemylia love one another despite their differences in rank. Placidas is willing to stay in prison so Amyas can be free. The examples demonstrate friendship's lofty requirements. A true friend will ensure his friend's well-being at the expense of his own, no questions asked. Placidas and Amyas's physical resemblance to one another shows Spenser's tendency to demonstrate internal character traits through outward physical appearance. The friends love each other so strongly they merge into a similar self.

Arthur and Amoret also display friendship when they travel together. Arthur doesn't take advantage of his power to behave inappropriately towards Amoret. Instead, he treats her with the respect he would give a friend.

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