Literature Study GuidesThe Faerie QueeneBook 6 Cantos 10 12 Summary

The Faerie Queene | Study Guide

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene | Book 6, Cantos 10–12 | Summary

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Summary

Book 6, Canto 10

Though Calidore has abandoned his original quest, the poet can't blame him. Anyone who enjoys the bliss of the pastoral life would find it hard to leave.

As Calidore wanders the fields one day, he comes to an open plain on a hill called Mount Acidale. This is where Venus and her daughters, the Graces, rest. Calidore spies the Graces, a hundred ladies dancing with another lady in the middle of the ring. The shepherd Colin Clout is playing his pipe.

The sight amazes Calidore. As soon as the Graces notice him, however, they scatter. Colin is angry with him for breaking up the dance. Calidore apologizes to Colin and asks what the ceremony was. Colin explains the Graces teach humans kindness and courtesy. The woman in the middle is a country girl who impressed the Graces with her chastity and courteous bearing and became an honorary Grace. Colin and Calidore talk for a long time. Calidore is fascinated by Colin's stories.

Coridon continues to compete with Calidore for Pastorella's affection. When a tiger attacks the three shepherds as they gather strawberries Coridon flees in fear. Calidore subdues the tiger with his shepherd's crook. From then on Pastorella ignores Coridon, finding him a coward. Calidore continues to be his friend.

Though the shepherds prosper for a long time, eventually their fortunes change. Calidore is hunting in the woods when the Brigands, a lawless group of people, descend on the fields and drive away the flocks. The Brigands then capture Melibee, Coridon, Pastorella, and the other shepherds. They take them to a faraway island dwelling in a dark cave, planning to sell them into slavery.

Book 6, Canto 11

The captain of the Brigands takes a liking to Pastorella and offers her kindness, hoping she will sleep with him. Pastorella tries being kind to him in return. When this only increases his lust, she pretends to be sick.

A group of merchants comes to buy the enslaved shepherds. They inquire about Pastorella but the captain wants to keep her for himself. An argument ensues and the Brigands flight like hungry dogs. They kill many of their captives including Melibee and his wife. Coridon manages to escape. The captain protects Pastorella until the Brigands turn and kill him. She is wounded but survives.

Meanwhile, Calidore is shocked to find the fields empty and the cottages spoiled. Coridon makes it back to the fields and tells Calidore what happened. Coridon does not know if Pastorella is alive or dead. After a while Calidore convinces Coridon they should return for vengeance and to save Pastorella if she lives.

They set off with their shepherds' hooks. Calidore secretly brings his sword as well. They find the flocks of sheep that have been stolen by thieves. The thieves lead the two men to the Brigands' hideout. Calidore enters while Coridon stays behind.

Overjoyed to find Pastorella alive, Calidore slays the Brigands and frees her. He takes the Brigands' wealth and the stolen flocks and gives them all to Coridon. Calidore and Pastorella leave together.

Book 6, Canto 12

Though Calidore's adventure took him in unexpected directions, he now returns to his original quest—to slay the Blatant Beast. He and Pastorella go to stay in the Castle of Belgard. The lord Bellamour and his wife Claribell welcome them.

Claribell's father, a ruler of many islands, wanted Claribell to marry the Prince of Picteland and increase his own wealth. He tried to keep Claribell and Bellamour apart. But they met in secret and gave birth to a baby girl. The baby had a small purple birthmark on her breast like a rose. Worried her father would kill the baby, Claribell asked her handmaid to find the child a home. A shepherd took her and raised her as his own.

After staying with Bellamour for a while, Calidore feels ashamed he's abandoned his quest. He sets off alone. Meanwhile Melissa, Claribell's handmaid, notices Pastorella has a purple birthmark. Claribell realizes Pastorella is her daughter. Pastorella has a joyful reunion with her parents.

Calidore follows the beast's trail of destruction through churches and to a monastery. The beast robs the altars and threatens the monks. Calidore tracks the beast to a narrow place, and they fight. When the Beast opens its mouth, all kinds of sounds come out. Animal noises combine with human slander and lies. After a struggle, Calidore shuts the beast's tongue and takes it captive. He parades the bound beast through Faery land.

After many years, however, the beast breaks out of its chains. No knight has been able to capture him since. He travels the world and attacks people, especially poets and writers. The poet doesn't even think his own words have escaped the beast.

Analysis

Like other epic heroes Calidore has been sidetracked from his main quest. Odysseus in the Greek poet Homer's Odyssey and Aeneas in the Roman poet Virgil's Aeneid both enjoyed extended stays with lovers before continuing their journeys.

Though Calidore is resting in a peaceful environment rather than indulging in sensual pleasure, he's still avoiding responsibility. The Blatant Beast gets the chance to do more damage. And when Calidore departs from the fields to hunt, he leaves the shepherds vulnerable to attack. His grave mistake mirrors the Redcrosse Knight's stumble into Despair, Guyon's journey through the underworld with Mammon, Britomart's rescue of Amoret, and Artegall's captivity by the Amazons. Each knight makes what they believe to be a good decision at first. But they veer off course from their main quest as a result.

Calidore's escape isn't noble, but it is understandable. Even the gods need a rest from their daily lives. Venus finds refuge in the tranquil Mount Acidale. Her daughters the Graces represent the charm, pleasure, and respect associated with courtesy. Canto 10, Stanza 23 describes how the Graces teach men the rules of civil behavior. Civility, a key ingredient of courtesy, involves knowing one's place in a social hierarchy and acting in the correct manner. These actions maintain the social order and help people live at peace with one another.

The piper Colin Clout is Spenser's alter ego. The line "Who knowes not Colin Clout?" is his wry, self-aware joke. Colin's love, the woman the dancing Graces honor, may symbolize one of Spenser's wives. In Canto 10, Stanza 28 the poet asks Queen Elizabeth I's pardon for praising the courtesy of his own love instead of praising the queen. Colin has his own social responsibilities to consider, and his lover comes first.

Soon circumstances require Calidore to return to his own rightful place in society. He doesn't belong with the shepherds; he belongs with the knights. When he fights the Brigands, he arms himself again, assuming the responsibility he has neglected. And this action proves to be the only way to save Pastorella. Coridon's cowardice in battle suggests he belongs in the fields, right where Calidore leaves him.

Pastorella, however, gets a surprising ending—or perhaps an expected one. Calidore saw nobility in her all along. The Book 12 reveal of Pastorella's aristocratic heritage may indicate courtesy comes from noble birth after all.

But regardless of their descent, everyone is harmed by the Blatant Beast, who stands for slander. Calidore finds the beast has invaded the sanctuary of the church. The beast's presence suggests no one escapes the effects of slander, not even the clergy and hermits who are supposed to be role models for virtue. And when the beast opens his mouth, he has hateful words for everyone—rich and poor, good and evil. His many tongues show how rapidly false statements can spread. Canto 12, Stanza 27 drives Spenser's point home, indicating men who speak carelessly will inevitably harm others.

And the beast is the only villain who survives beyond the action of the poem. Adding a commentary on current events, Spenser says the beast is especially strong at the time of writing. He has a special effect on writers who are liable to speak their minds. And since writers make their thoughts public, readers may interpret their words as false statement. There is no way to subdue the beast as long as there are readers and writers in the world. The final stanza of Canto 12 indirectly accuses anyone who may think Spenser's work slanders their reputations. His final plea asks his reader to treat him more kindly than past readers have.

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