The Sonnet and the Individual
Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion Summary
Amoretti is a sonnet-cycle tracing the suitor's long courtship and eventual wooing of his
beloved. The work begins with two sonnets in which the speaker addresses his own poetry,
attempting to invest his words with the power to achieve his goal (the wooing of Elizabeth
Boyle). From the third sonnet through the sixty-second sonnet, the speaker is in an slmost
constant state of emotional turmoil and frustrated hopes. His beloved refuses to look
favorably upon his suit, so his reaction ranges from desparing self-deprecation to angry
tirade against her stubbornness. Most often the speaker dwells upon his beloved's beauty,
both inner and outer, and the overpowering effects this beauty has upon him. He uses a
variety of motifs to explicate his feelings and thoughts toward the subject of his ardor:
predator and prey, wartime victor and captive, fire and ice, and hard substances that
eventually soften over long periods of time. Each of these is intended to convey some
aspect of his beloved's character or his own fears and apprehensions.
In Sonnet 63, the Amoretti undergoes a drastic change in tone. The long-sought beloved
has acceded to the speaker's request, making her his fiancee. Several sonnets of rejoicing
occur, followed by several expressing the speaker's impatience at the lengthy engagement
prior to the wedding day. Here, too, the speaker turns his attention from his earlier aspects
of the beloved's physical beauty--her eyes and her hair in particular--and begins to be more
familiar with her, to the point of describing in detail the scent of her breasts. From Sonnet
63 through Sonnet 85, the speaker revisits many of his earlier motifs, changing them to suit
the new relationship between himself and his beloved. Now he is the hunter and she is the
game; he is the victor, and she the vanquished. His earlier criticisms of her pride and
stubbornness also change to become admiration for her constancy and strength of mind.
From Sonnet 86 to the end of the sonnet-cycle proper (Sonnet 89), division enters into the
relationship. Sonnet 86 marks a moment of wrath on the part of the fiancee, a result of
some lie told to her by an individual whom the speaker curses in no uncertain terms.
Sonnets 87 through 89 dwell upon the speaker's misery at being separated from his
beloved, but there is an implied expectation that they will, eventually, be reunited.
The sonnet-cycle ends with a set of stanzas returning to the poem's title character, Cupid.
The first set of stanzas describe how Cupid led the speaker into harm when he was young
by drawing his attention to a hive full of honey; when the speaker reached for the honey, he
was stung by the resident bees and Cupid flew away. Later, Cupid wounds the speaker with
an arrow plaed there by Diane, goddess of the hunt. Instead of instilling passionate love
into the speaker, it instead causes pain.
The next set of stanzas turn Cupid's attention from the speaker and toward the beloved.
They describe an incident in which Cupid comes across the speaker's beloved, but mistakes
her for his own mother, Venus, goddess of love and beauty. The speaker tells Cupid that the
mistake is understandable, as he has not been the first to confuse the two.
The final set of stanzas focus almost entirely on an incident involving Cupid and Venus. As a
child, Cupid is annoyed by a bee buzzing around him as he tries to rest. His mother warns
him to leave the bee alone, but Cupid instead impetuously grabs the bee in his hand. He is,
of course, stung and releases the bee; his mother attempts to soothe him while teaching
him a lesson: he has had no pity on many mortals whom his arrows have "stung," so perhaps he should show the same kindness to them that she is now showing to him. Cupid,
however, misses the lesson entirely and goes on arbitrarily firing his arrows at mortals
without thought for the consequences of unrequited love. The speaker returns to himself as
the target of Cupid's indifferent attentions, resigning himself to languish in unconsummated
love until Cupid sees fit to end his suffering.
Epithalamion is an ode written to commemorate the nuptials of the speaker and his bride.
The song begins before dawn and progresses through the wedding ceremony and into the
consummation night of the newlywed couple. Throughout Epithalamion, the speaker marks
time by referencing the physical movements of the wedding party, the positions of the sun
and other celestial bodies, and the light and darkness that fill the day.
Although firmly within the classical tradition, Epithalamion takes its setting and several of its
images from Ireland, where Edmund Spenser's wedding to Elizabeth Boyle actually took
place. Some critics have seen in this Irish connection a commentary within the poem of the
proper relationship between ruling England (the groom) and subject Ireland (the bride).
Spenser's love for the Irish countryside is clear through his vivid descriptions of the natural
world surrounding the couple, while his political views regarding English supremacy is hinted
at in the relationship between the bride and groom themselves.
Other critics have seen Spenser's gift to his bride not simply as a celebration of their
wedding day, but a poetic argument for the kind of husband-wife relationship he expects
the two of them to have.
The Prince and the Double Plot:
Shakespeare, 1 Henry 4;
In A Nutshell
Henry IV Part 1 Summary
How It All Goes Down
The play opens at the palace in London, where a "shaken" and exhausted King Henry IV speaks to
his council about recent civil strife in England (which, by the way, he helped start by deposing and
ordering the murder of King Richard in the preceding play, Richard II). Civil warfare is a drag and
Henry can't wait until English soldiers stop killing each other – he's got big plans to unite his people
so he can lead an English army on a Crusade to the Holy Land in hopes that God will forgive him for
his past sins.
Unfortunately, Henry can't rumble with the "pagans" in Jerusalem because he's got to deal with
some skirmishes at England's borders – there's been a dustup with Welsh rebels to the west and a big fracas with Scottish invaders to the north. To make matters worse, young Harry Percy (Hotspur),
a courageous English nobleman and soldier, has challenged the king's authority by refusing to hand
over his Scottish war prisoners. (Customarily, the king's got dibs on captives that promise to fetch a
hefty ransom, so King Henry's not happy about this.) Even though Henry's ticked off about Hotspur's
defiance, he gives the kid serious props for his valor and leadership on the battlefield. He also
wishes his own son, wild Prince Hal (who is a major headache for King Henry) would behave more
like Hotspur the war hero and less like a common degenerate.
Wild child Prince Hal, meanwhile, parties it up at his bachelor pad in London and plans a robbery
with his buddies, Falstaff and Ned Poins. But then, alone on stage, Prince Hal surprises us with a
shocking soliloquy. (A soliloquy's just a speech delivered by a character who's alone on stage and
has a lot on his/her mind. It's a way to reveal the character's thoughts to the audience.) Hal tells us
he's not really the degenerate he appears to be – he's merely acting like one so he can amaze
everyone (his father and the English subjects) when he stages a dramatic "reformation," revealing
himself to be an honourable, stand-up guy who's more than capable of running the country when he
inherits the throne. This could get interesting, don't you think?
Later, at his castle, King Henry confronts Hotspur for being such a punk – he tells the young hothead
to hand over his valuable captives, ASAP. And by the way, King Henry's not going to pay the ransom
for Hotspur's brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer (whose been captured by the Welsh), because
Mortimer's a traitor who recently married the daughter of the Welsh leader, Owen Glendower. So
Hotspur and the rest of the Percy gang (Northumberland and Worcester) are seriously bent out of
shape over this. The Percys are tired of being treated like chopped liver by the guy they helped to
the throne. Plus, they say, Henry's an illegitimate king. Before he stole the crown, Richard II had
named Mortimer as his heir, which is probably why King Henry refuses to ransom Mortimer from the
Welsh rebels. This is getting super juicy, like a Jerry Springer show.
We interrupt this program for some background information. In the preceding play, Richard II, the
Percy family played a major role in helping Henry to the throne. Here's the quick and dirty version of
what went down: In 1399 King Richard II exiled Henry Bolingbroke (a.k.a. King Henry IV) and later,
when Henry's father (John of Gaunt) died, Richard took all of Gaunt's land. "No fair!" said Henry,
who wasn't about to let Richard steal what was rightfully his. So, Henry returned from exile with an
army to reclaim his inheritance. The Percy family backed him on this because Henry said all he
really wanted was to get his family's land back, which seemed reasonable. Nobody wants a king who
steals land and lunch money from the nobility, right?
But, in 1400, Henry saw a window of opportunity and just couldn't resist helping himself to the bright
and sparkly crown by cornering Richard when the king returned from a trip to Ireland without
protection. Come on. The crown was really shiny and cool so there's no way Henry could resist,
especially since Richard was such a lousy ruler. It's likely Henry also ordered Richard's murder after
he had him locked up in prison. Henry claims he didn't and that there was a "misunderstanding"
between him and the guy who did the dirty work. When we catch up with King Henry in Henry IV Part
1, the guy's got some serious guilt and a ton of blood on his hands. Still, he's the king and that
means he's the boss, applesauce, so the Percys better get in line, or else. We now return to our regular scheduled program: While the Percys plot to overthrow Henry, Prince
Hal takes part in a double highway robbery at Gad's Hill, where Falstaff, Peto, and Bardolph first rob
the king's exchequer (treasury) and then Hal and Poins jump out of the bushes and yell "stick em'
up" before robbing Falstaff of his stolen loot. Hal's a basically a juvenile delinquent. But don't go
imagining him in an orange jump-suit just yet, because the story's not over.
The next night at a tavern in Eastcheap, Prince Hal hangs out with his boys, talking smack,
terrorizing the wait-staff, and clowning Falstaff for acting like a scaredy cat when Hal and Poins
robbed him at Gads Hill. (Falstaff is genius in this scene, so don't forget to read it.) After Hal learns
from a messenger about the rebel army plotting against his dad, he and Falstaff decide to put on a
skit. Falstaff plays King Henry and Hal plays himself. This goes well until Hal says, "No wait.
Falstaff's totally doing it wrong. I'll play the king." This is loads of fun too – Falstaff and Hal are terrific
actors and are having fun mocking authority. Though, Hal's kind of mean and cryptically promises to
banish Falstaff when he becomes king. Next thing we know, the cops show up and ruin all the fun.
Turns out the sheriff's looking for Falstaff, but Hal covers for him while the Falstaff the fat knight
snoozes peacefully behind a screen.
In Wales, the rebel leaders (Mortimer, Glendower, Hotspur, and Worcester) meet up at Glendower's
pad to solidify their plot to overthrow King Henry and split up the kingdom into three parts. (Note:
check out this nifty map, which shows how they plan to divide the kingdom.) Glendower and Hotspur
bicker and Hotspur ends up comparing Glendower's birth to a major case of indigestion – a huge
fart. (We're not kidding.) The rebels' wives are trotted out and Mortimer's wife sings a song in Welsh,
which bugs Hotspur to no end.
At his palace in London, King Henry lays into Prince Hal for being such a rotten prince and lousy
son. Hal's behavior is embarrassing. And another thing, his friends are rotten losers too, unlike
young Hotspur, who's a beloved war hero. King Henry wonders why can't Hal be more like Hotspur?
Hal promises to redeem himself by killing Hotspur on the battlefield. OK, says the king, you can be in
charge of my army. Now let's get ready to rumble.
Over at the rebel camp, Hotspur prepares to get his battle on when he receives news that his dad,
Northumberland, has called in sick with a case of the sniffles and won't be joining the fight. To make
things worse, Hotspur also learns that Glendower, the Welsh leader, won't be able to get his soldiers
together in time to join the fight. Hotspur decides to forge ahead anyway, which is a really terrible
idea. Sir Walter Blunt (the king's side-kick) appears at the rebel camp to relay the king's offer of a
truce – if the rebels back down and say they're sorry, he's willing to forgive them and listen to their
grievances. Hotspur says, "Hmm. I'll think about it," and relays his family's beef with the king to
Blunt, who says he'll pass along the information.
Over at the king's camp, Worcester (Hotspur's uncle) whines about King Henry treating the Percy
family so badly. Again, Henry offers to call a truce if the rebels back down. Hal offers another option
too – he's willing to go toe-to-toe with Hotspur instead of the armies fighting each other. Winner
takes all. Meanwhile, Falstaff (who's in charge of a rag-tag troop of soldiers) is alone on stage and
delivers his famous soliloquy about "honor." He says honor is nothing but "air," a mere "word" that
doesn't mean anything, especially if your guts are splayed out all over the place and you're too dead to enjoy it (honor, that is).
Worcester and Vernon return to the rebel camp but decide not to tell Hotspur that the king repeated
his offer of peace. They're afraid Hotspur will be forgiven but the king will eventually punish them.
(They're probably right.) They tell Hotspur about the prince's challenge and Hotspur
gets really excited. Cut to the battle. On the fields of Shrewsbury, we see Sir Walter Blunt (who is
disguised as King Henry) get stabbed in the guts by the Scottish Douglas, who thinks he's killed the
king. (Clever Henry's got a bunch of his men dressed like him for protection.) Also, Hal asks to
borrow Falstaff's weapon but finds a bottle of wine in its place – he chews out Falstaff for messing
around at an inappropriate time.
Later, we see that Prince Hal is bleeding from battle wounds, but he's a champ and decides to stick
it out on the field. Then, Douglas enters and battles with King Henry. Henry's about to get his throat
slit when Prince Hal rescues his dad and redeems himself in the eyes of the king. But wait. There's
more. Prince Hal then encounters Hotspur. They talk a little trash and go at it. Hal wins. Game over
for Hotspur. Hal says some sweet things about "honour" over Hotspur's dead body and leaves.
Falstaff, who has been playing dead nearby, hauls himself up off the ground and spots Hotspur in a
pool of blood. Just in case Hotspur's been playing dead too, Falstaff stabs the corpse and then
slings Hotspur's dead body over his back – he can't wait to show off his trophy to Prince Hal. When
Hal later sees what Falstaff's done, he lets it go because it's so pathetic.
Fast forward to the final scene, where the king's troops dust off their hands after a job well done. The
rebel army's been defeated, Hotspur's toast, and Worcester, Vernon, and Douglas have been
captured. The king sentences Worcester and Vernon to death, but Prince Hal decides that brave
Douglas should be set free without ransom. (Since he was so courageous when he tried to stab King
Henry in the guts. We wonder what Freud would have to say about this.) The king's men have won
the battle but the war's so not over – they've still got to mop the floor with Northumberland,
Glendower, and Mortimer the traitor.
Why Should I Care?
Why should you care about Henry IV Part 1? The real question is "Why shouldn't you care?"
First,Henry IV Part 1 is the very first history play to blend rowdy comedy and historical drama. High
matters of state mingled with low-brow mayhem and carousing? Nothin' wrong with that. Plus, Henry
IV Part 1 introduces one of the greatest and most talked about comedic figures of all time: Falstaff,
who has inspired everything from Verdi's opera to the name of a U.S. brewing company. (You know
you're in for a really good time when you attend a play that's got a character with beer named after
him.) The play's also the inspiration for some seriously important cult classic films, like Gus Van
Sant's My Own Private Idaho and Orson Welles's Chimes at Midnight.
Still not impressed? Fine. We'll fall back on the old standard and talk about how the play's concerned
with themes that are still relevant today: rebellion, power, honor, warfare, family drama, redemption,
and our personal favorite, growing up. Let's focus on that last one. When it comes down to it, Henry IV Part 1 is a coming-of-age story about Prince Hal, who's got to
figure out a way to grow up in the public spotlight with a seriously judgmental father breathing down
his neck. (Come on, the kid's dad has been running around saying he wishes Hal had been switched
at birth by fairies and that God sent the Hal to earth just to punish the king for his past sins.
That's so brutal.) While most of us have no idea what it's like to be a prince who's expected to
change his wild ways and prepare to lead a country that's troubled by civil war, we all know what it's
like to negotiate the pitfalls of adolescence and the pressures of outside scrutiny (whether it's under
the watchful eye of hopeful parents, strict teachers, coaches, or peers).
Like Prince Hal, we've all made mistakes, and most of us also know what it's like to feel as though
we've disappointed or let down those whose opinions matter the most. So, imagine all that pressure
you've felt over the years and multiply it by an entire, war-torn kingdom that's pinned all its hopes
and dreams for the future on you. That's a whole lot of pressure. Even if we think Prince Hal
sometimes acts like a brat, we can't help but root for him. So, what do you think? Is it fair to say that
Shakespeare gets this whole growing up thing? We kind of thought you'd see it our way.
ABSOLUTISM? EPIC? ROMANCE?
THE FAERIE QUEENE
Book I, Cantos i & ii
Book I tells the story of the knight of Holiness, the Redcrosse Knight. This hero gets his name from
the blood-red cross emblazoned on his shield. He has been given a task by Gloriana, "that greatest
Glorious Queen of Faerie lond," to fight a terrible dragon (I.i.3). He is traveling with a beautiful,
innocent young lady and a dwarf as servant. Just as we join the three travelers, a storm breaks upon
them and they rush to find cover in a nearby forest. When the skies clear, they find that they are lost,
and they end up near a cave, which the lady recognizes as the den of Error. Ignoring her warnings,
Redcrosse enters and is attacked by the terrible beast, Error, and her young. She wraps him up in
her tail, but he eventually manages to strangle her and chops off her head. Error's young then drink
her blood until they burst and die. Victorious, the knight and his companions set out again, looking
for the right path. As night falls, they meet an old hermit who offers them lodging in his inn. As the
travelers sleep, the hermit assumes his real identity--he is Archimago, the black sorcerer, and he
conjures up two spirits to trouble Redcrosse.
One of the sprites obtains a false dream from Morpheus, the god of sleep; the other takes the shape
of Una, the lady accompanying Redcrosse. These sprites go to the knight; one gives him the dream
of love and lust. When Redcrosse wakes up in a passion, the other sprite (appearing to be Una) is lying beside him, offering a kiss. The knight, however, resists her temptations and returns to sleep.
Archimago then tries a new deception; he puts the sprite disguised as Una in a bed and turns the
other sprite into a young man, who lies with the false Una. Archimago then wakes Redcrosse and
shows him the two lovers in bed. Redcrosse is furious that "Una" would spoil her virtue with another
man, and so in the morning he leaves without her. When the real Una wakes, she sees her knight is
gone, and in sorrow rides off to look for him. Archimago, enjoying the fruits of his scheme, now
disguises himself as Redcrosse and follows after Una.
As Redcrosse wanders on, he approaches another knight--Sansfoy, who is traveling with his lady.
He charges Redcrosse, and they fight fiercely, but the shield with the blood-red cross protects our
hero; eventually, he kills Sansfoy. He takes the woman into his care--she calls herself Fidessa,
saying that she is the daughter of the Emperor of the West. Redcrosse swears to protect her,
attracted to her beauty. They continue together, but soon the sun becomes so hot that they must
rest under the shade of some trees. Redcrosse breaks a branch off of one tree and is shocked when
blood drips forth from it, and a voice cries out in pain. The tree speaks and tells its story. It was once
a man, named Fradubio, who had a beautiful lady named Fraelissa--now the tree next to him. One
day, Fradubio happened to defeat a knight and win his lady (just as Redcrosse did)--and that lady
turned out to be Duessa, an evil witch. Duessa turned Fraelissa into a tree, so that she could have
Fradubio for herself. But Fradubio saw the witch in her true, ugly form while she was bathing, and
when he tried to run away, she turned him into a tree, as well. When Fradubio finishes his story,
Fidessa faints--because she is, in fact, Duessa, and she fears that she will be found out. She
recovers though, and Redcrosse does not make the connection, so they continue on their way.
Redcrosse is the hero of Book I, and in the beginning of Canto i, he is called the knight of Holinesse.
He will go through great trials and fight fierce monsters throughout the Book, and this in itself is
entertaining, as a story of a heroic "knight errant." However, the more important purpose of
the Faerie Queene is its allegory, the meaning behind its characters and events. The story's setting,
a fanciful "faerie land," only emphasizes how its allegory is meant for a land very close to home:
Spenser's England. The title character, the Faerie Queene herself, is meant to represent Queen
Elizabeth. Redcrosse represents the individual Christian, on the search for Holiness, who is armed
with faith in Christ, the shield with the bloody cross. He is traveling with Una, whose name means
"truth." For a Christian to be holy, he must have true faith, and so the plot of Book I mostly concerns
the attempts of evildoers to separate Redcrosse from Una. Most of these villains are meant by
Spenser to represent one thing in common: the Roman Catholic Church. The poet felt that, in the English Reformation, the people had defeated "false religion" (Catholicism) and embraced "true
religion" (Protestantism/Anglicanism). Thus, Redcrosse must defeat villains who mimic the falsehood
of the Roman Church.
The first of these is Error. When Redcrosse chokes the beast, Spenser writes, "Her vomit full of
bookes and papers was (I.i.20)." These papers represent Roman Catholic propaganda that was put
out in Spenser's time, against Queen Elizabeth and Anglicanism. The Christian (Redcrosse) may be
able to defeat these obvious and disgusting errors, but before he is united to the truth he is still lost
and can be easily deceived. This deceit is arranged by Archimago, whose name means "arch-
image"--the Protestants accused the Catholics of idolatry because of their extensive use of images.
The sorcerer is able, through deception and lust, to separate Redcrosse from Una--that is, to
separate Holiness from Truth. Once separated, Holiness is susceptible to the opposite of truth, or
falsehood. Redcrosse may able to defeat the strength of Sansfoy (literally "without faith" or
"faithlessness") through his own native virtue, but he falls prey to the wiles of Falsehood herself--
Duessa. Duessa also represents the Roman Church, both because she is "false faith," and because
of her rich, purple and gold clothing, which, for Spenser, displays the greedy wealth and arrogant
pomp of Rome. Much of the poet's imagery comes from a passage in the Book of Revelation, which
describes the "whore of Babylon"--many Protestant readers took this Biblical passage to indicate the
The Faerie Queene, however, also has many sources outside of the Bible. Spenser considers
himself an epic poet in the classical tradition and so he borrows heavily from the great epics of
antiquity: Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. This is most evident at the opening of Book
I, in which Spenser calls on one of the Muses to guide his poetry--Homer and Virgil established this
form as the "proper" opening to an epic poem. The scene with the "human tree," in which a broken
branch drips blood, likewise recalls a similar episode in theAeneid. However, while these ancient
poets mainly wrote to tell a story, we have already seen that Spenser has another purpose in mind.
In the letter that introduces the Faerie Queene, he says that he followed Homer and Virgil and the
Italian poets Ariosto and Tasso because they all have "ensampled a good governour and a vertuous
man." Spenser intends to expand on this example by defining the characteristics of a good,
virtuous, Christian man.
BOOK 3 CANTOS 11-12
As morning breaks over Malbecco's castle, Britomart and Satyrane prepare to leave, but Paridell
claims that he must rest there longer to recover from his wounds. Once the other two knights have
left, he pursues the real reason he stayed behind: Hellenore. She welcomes his secret love and devises a plan to get rid of her husband and make him look foolish in the process. She sneaks into
his store of money and sets it on fire and then goes to Paridell's arms right in front of him; Malbecco
is caught between his money and his wife, and he chooses to go put out the fire; in the meantime,
the two lovers leave. Miserable, Malbecco goes off in search of his wandering wife. On the way, he
meets Braggadocchio and Trompart and offers them money to help him; they slyly refuse the
payment and instead advise him to bury his treasure nearby to "keep it safe." Then, the three search
through the woods; they soon meet Paridell, who had his way with Hellenore and then abandoned
her. They are all too afraid to challenge him for this behavior, and so they continue on in search of
the lady. They find her, amazingly, living with a pack of wild satyrs; Braggadocchio and Trompart run
in fear of the beats, but Malbecco stays. He tries to convince his wife to come back with him, but she
refuses, and he is violently chased off by the satyrs. Outside the woods, he discovers that the two
braggarts dug up his money and took off. Miserable, jealous, and grieving, he continues fleeing until
he comes to the sea. There he lives the rest of his days consumed by jealous thoughts, until he
becomes Jealousy itself.
Meanwhile, Britomart and Satyrane ride away from Malbecco's castle. Suddenly, a young man runs
by, who is fleeing a great giant named Ollyphant--the brother of Argante and similarly perverse. Both
of the knights chase the giant into the forest and are split up. Britomart is surprised to come upon a
man sprawled out on the ground, weeping and wailing. Eventually he explains that he is Scudamore,
whose lady Amoret is held captive by an evil sorcerer named Busirane. Britomart vows to save her,
if she can; he leads her to Busirane's castle. A wall of flame surrounds it, in place of a moat, and
nothing can quench the fire. Britomart, ever fearless, puts her shield before her and walks into the
flame; it splits and allows her to pass through. But when Scudamore tries to do the same, he is
burned and must wait outside while Britomart enters the castle alone.
Inside, the warrior maiden enters a beautiful room, with walls covered by tapestries of great color
and value. These hangings depict "Many faire pourtraits, and many a fair feate, / And all of love, and
all of lusty-led (III.xi.29)." They display the love of the gods: the many shapes that Jove took on in
order to live with mortal women and many other examples. At the front of the room there is a golden
idol on an altar, which looks like Cupid, the god of love. Moving into the next room, Britomart now
sees depictions of war and conquest, and the violence that has accompanied love. However, she
still sees no persons in the castle; as night falls, she is troubled but stays alert. Suddenly, a trumpet
sounds, and a storm rages through the castle. The winds open a door, and as Britomart watches, a
long "maske," or procession, comes out of it. The figures in the maske are the many servants of Cupid, the god of love, who follow wherever his
darts fly. There is Desire, Doubt, Fear, Hope, Suspicion, Pleasure, and others--and they all wear an
outfit appropriate to their nature. After them there follows a horrible sight: a young woman, with a
bleeding wound in her chest, is led out by Despite and Cruelty, who remove her heart and put it in a
silver basin. Cupid himself comes out to witness this, riding on a lion; then, the whole procession
goes back through the door, which slams shut. Britomart tries to open the door but cannot, so she
waits until the next night for the procession to begin again. Indeed, the door swings open again, but
when she rushes in she sees none of the figures from the maske. Instead, Amoret is there, tied to a
pillar, while the enchanter Busirane cruelly tortures her, opening a wound in her chest. Britomart flies
upon him and strikes him down, but she cannot kill him, for Amoret is held to the pillar through his
magic. So, with her sword she forces him to remove the spell, freeing the maiden. She leads both of
them out of the castle, victorious; the scenes depicted on the walls are now gone, with the dispersal
of Busirane's magic. Outside the castle, Amoret and Scudamore are reunited, and the Book ends as
Malbecco receives a fate that is appropriate for his jealousy and failure to love his wife: He loses
both her and his money and so spends the rest of his life consumed by thoughts of jealousy. That is
not all, however; Malbecco is an interesting circumstance of a man being transformed into an
allegorical figure. After a time, he "is woxen so deformed, that he has quight / forgot he was a man,
and Gealosie is hight [called] (III.xi.60)." He becomes jealousy itself, and, thus, he never really dies.
We see the same circumstances in other characters but only after the fact: The huge perversions of
Argante and Ollyphante have made them into giant beasts. Seeing the actual transformation within
Malbecco shows Spenser's view that vices can consume a man. Malbecco "forgot he was a man"--
he let a certain quality possess him and rob him of his identity. All at once, this lends a great deal
more credibility to Spenser's allegorical characters; they are not merely symbols or pictures of an
abstract ideal, but they are also a very real example of what can happen to a man who has no
moderation. Certain physical qualities may be exaggerated, but in characters like Jealousy, we can
see the destroyed spirit of a human being beneath the allegory.
These last three cantos bring the Book to a surprising conclusion, at least from the perspective of
the plot. After the main character, Britomart, was absent from the story for several cantos, she finally
returns to be central to the story in cantos xi & xii. And yet, the action of those two cantos concerns
another subplot, the separation of Scudamore and Amoret. The main plot line, Britomart's quest to
find Arthegall, is never resolved nor is it even advanced after the first half of the Book. This does not seem to concern Spenser much; what is more important is that theallegory is advanced. Previously,
we have seen characters meant to contrast with Britomart--generally a weaker version of chastity
(Florimell) or unchecked lust that seeks to remove chastity (Argante, the fisherman, etc).
However, none of these is the true enemy of Chastity as embodied in Britomart, because she is not
merely concerned with preserving her maidenhood. Her Chastity is ordered toward Christian love,
and so her true enemies are those that seek to destroy love, not just chastity. Her archenemy (in the
Book) is Busirane, who (as we can predict from seeing the maske) intends to remove the heart of
Amoret; she is wounded in the chest when Britomart finds her, just like the woman in the procession
whose heart was then plucked out. The enchanter is no great physical challenge to Britomart, but his
sinister intent, strengthened by his magic, is to remove Amoret's capacity to love by removing her
heart. In this way, he is a great danger to a champion of Christian love.
Britomart's battle is not won by extraordinary might because her great virtue lies in moderation. She
is capable of superlative physical acts but only because her chaste heart is neither too rash nor too
timid. This is what allows her to pass through the fire; while Scudamore ran toward it "with greedy
will, and envious desire," she passes through in calm confidence (III.xi.25). This is also the meaning
of the strange signs she sees in the castle; over every door are written the words, "be bold" -- but
over just one door, she sees, "be not too bold." Had she leapt to battle at the first sign of the maske
or kept trying to force open the immovable door, she surely would have used up her strength.
Instead, she is patient and spends two nights in the castle waiting alertly for the right moment. This
patience, combined with powerful action at the appropriate time, gains her an easy victory and
brings the allegory of love to a conclusion. True, it is disappointing that we do not see the end of
Britomart's own quest; but Book III is more a collection of episodes than a continuous plot. While
Britomart is its declared hero it is not necessary for her to reach her ultimate goal within the Book;