The Faerie Queene | Study Guide

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene | Book 6, Cantos 7–9 | Summary

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Summary

Book 6, Canto 7

Just as nobility and gentleness reveal themselves, malice reveals itself too, the poet says.

Turpine meets two young knights eager to prove themselves. He tells them Arthur showed him and his lady great discourtesy. The young knights confront Arthur. He kills one of them but spares the other knight when he begs for his life. Enias, the surviving knight, confesses another man recruited him to kill Arthur. Arthur asks Enias to bring the man to him.

Enias returns to Turpine and tells him Arthur is dead. Turpine asks to see Arthur's body to prove the deed has been done. He pretends to be distressed over the other young knight who was killed. Enias takes Turpine to a sleeping Arthur. Turpine, however, soon discovers Arthur is alive and asks Enias to kill Arthur then and there. Enias refuses.

Meanwhile, the savage man returns from wandering in the woods. He attacks Turpine with an oak branch. Turpine begs Arthur again for his life. This time Arthur decides to teach him a lesson. He hangs Turpine from a tree by his heels as a warning to travelers.

The poet returns to the woman Serena and Timias met on their travels. The woman, Mirabella, is followed by a fool named Scorn and led by a foolish giant named Disdain. She rides a donkey. Mirabella was once a dignified lady famous in Faery land. Though many men sought her, she was proud and didn't find any suitor good enough.

Cupid the god of love noticed how many men were killing themselves out of love for Mirabella. He called Mirabella to love's judgment hall. Her punishment was to wander with Disdain and Scorn until she saved 22 lives, since 22 men killed themselves over her. In two years of wandering, Mirabella has only saved two lives. Scorn follows her and whips her donkey. Disdain leads and never lets her rest.

When Timias sees how poorly Scorn and Disdain are treating Mirabella he attacks them. Disdain overcomes Timias and takes him captive. Serena runs away in fear.

Book 6, Canto 8

The poet warns women not to succumb to pride lest they suffer Mirabella's fate. Mirabella feels terrible that Timias was taken captive because of her. But the more she pleads with Scorn and Disdain to treat him kindly, the more they abuse him.

Mirabella, Scorn, Disdain, and Timias meet Arthur who is now traveling with Enias. Arthur points out to Enias the sad sight and says he plans to deliver justice. While Arthur commands Scorn and Disdain to release their captives, Enias attacks Disdain. The battle goes on until Arthur steps in to save Enias. Just as Arthur and Enias are about to kill Disdain, Mirabella stops them; she'll die too if Disdain dies.

Weeping, Mirabella describes her past vanity and current punishment. She carries a leaky bottle for her tears and a torn bag for her repentance. Arthur reunites with Timias. The savage man, still traveling with Arthur, attacks Scorn until Mirabella urges Arthur to stop him. Arthur then offers Mirabella her freedom, but she says she must fulfill her penance. Arthur, Timias, the savage man, and Enias continue traveling together until another adventure calls Arthur away.

Meanwhile Serena, who ran away when Timias was captured, is alone in the woods. She blames Calepine for leaving her. While Serena sleeps she is abducted by a savage nation that eats human flesh. The savages decide to sacrifice her to their god since she was sent by god. When she wakes in terror it's too late to escape.

The savages strip Serena and put her on the altar. They begin their ceremony with bagpipes and horns sounding through the whole forest. The noise alarms Calepine who has been searching for Serena. He kills the savages and saves Serena, though he doesn't yet know it's her. Ashamed, she doesn't reveal her identity until the following morning.

Book 6, Canto 9

Despite the many other stories he wants to tell, the poet knows he must return to Calidore. The knight is still pursuing the Blatant Beast through city, town, and country with little success. He finally arrives in an open field where shepherds sing to their flocks. They haven't seen the Blatant Beast, but they offer Calidore food and drink. He notices Pastorella, a woman wearing a flower crown and a handmade green dress. All the shepherds love her, especially the shepherd Coridon. She has higher things than love on her mind.

Enchanted by Pastorella and the welcoming environment, Calidore stays in the fields all day. He meets Melibee, an aging shepherd who found Pastorella as an abandoned infant and adopted her. Melibee invites Calidore to spend the night in his cottage. Calidore envies the simple, joyful life of the shepherds.

Melibee says he doesn't need much to be happy since nature brings everything he desires. As a young man he left the shepherds for a royal court. But soon he grew tired of courtly vanity and returned home. Calidore and Melibee agree contentment lies in the mind and heart, not in money and fortune.

Calidore asks to stay for a while and rest from his travels. He offers to pay for his keep but Melibee refuses money. As Calidore lives in the fields he notices his knightly charm has no effect on Pastorella. So he dresses as a shepherd and exchanges his spear for a shepherd's hook. Pastorella takes to Calidore, and Coridon gets envious.

One day the shepherds dance to the piper Colin Clout. They agree Calidore should lead the dance, but Calidore nominates Coridon as the leader instead. Another day Calidore wins a wrestling match against Coridon but gives Coridon the crown. Calidore's rival starts to warm up to him.

Calidore stays with the shepherds and woos Pastorella for a long time. He has other strange adventures before fulfilling his quest.

Analysis

Cantos 7 and 8 examine what courtesy requires of women through the fates of Serena and Mirabella. The admired but haughty Mirabella ignores her lovers' pain, demonstrating how a woman can recognize and abuse her power over men. Her insolence in refusing to accept suitors is a violation of the chivalric code. The punishment fits the crime; Mirabella's scorn and disdain for her lovers mean Scorn and Disdain will follow her everywhere. She does, however, demonstrate a willingness to reform—unlike Turpine.

Serena's brush with the Blatant Beast of slander reflects women's fears that any hint of sexual behavior will lead to gossip. Chastity or sexual abstinence was a prized virtue. A woman could lose her reputation permanently based on rumors of promiscuity, whether the rumors were true or not. Her capture by the lustful savage nation represents an extreme version of this fear; she becomes degraded through no fault of her own.

Meanwhile, Calidore surrenders knightly life for what seems to be a more peaceful world. Most of the knights eventually find their way to a place exemplifying the virtue they represent, like the houses of holiness and temperance and the palace of mercy. The shepherds' fields provide a different version of this place for Calidore. The setting adds situational irony. Though courtesy is a virtue best demonstrated in a royal court, Calidore couldn't be further from the court. He's distant from the civilization he's always known.

While the savage nation showed a primal, terrifying version of life without civilization, the fields seem idyllic. The shepherds demonstrate a virtue Calidore's never seen in court. Pastorella has higher things on her mind than courtly love. Interestingly Calidore can tell from her bearing that she has noble ancestry, a fact Spenser won't reveal until the end of the book.

And Calidore can instantly see why Melibee gave up the superficial life of royalty. Wealth was only a distraction from true contentment. Melibee's advice to Calidore comes from the Christian idea that people must be happy with what God has given them. His ideas are similar to the philosophy of the bishop and theologian Saint Augustine (354–430), who counseled his followers to use and enjoy their earthly goods wisely.

Though Calidore understands the spirit of Melibee's remarks, he still has to adapt to the social conventions of the pastoral world. When he offers money to Melibee for his stay, he's unaware money has little value to the shepherds. Melibee believes money only causes misery. Similarly Calidore abandons the techniques of courtly love, which are useless to woo Pastorella. His courteous spirit is still alive, though, and evident in his encouragement of Coridon. His refusal to treat Coridon as a rival reflects the virtuous friendships demonstrated in Book 4.

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