Monday, December 5, 2016

Faerie Queene Book IV, Part I

I'm still plugging along, really I am!  I got a little bogged down when I mistakenly thought I should not finish Canto 6 until I had blogged my way through the pile of books on my desk.  That was dumb.  But, excelsior!


Book IV is about Friendship, and it was written several years after the first 3 books, so Spenser has changed some things about the way he's writing.  While this book is officially about Cambel and Telamond and their great friendship, really it's more about the story we've already been following, with Amoret and Scudamore, Britomart and Artegall, and so on (refresh your memory with Book III if you like, it's been a while).  Cambel and Telamond hardly appear!  And there are now so many knightly couples to keep track of that we need a list.

It turns out that Amoret and Scudamore were already married when she was abducted, in the middle of the wedding festivities, by Busirane.  He put on the Masque of Cupid and grabbed her, and kept her imprisoned for seven months.  (Given that this is all partly an allegory about Amoret's psychological state, this should give us pause.)  As far as Amoret knows, she's been rescued by a male knight....therefore she should favor (marry) him...but she's married...but she's not totally married....ack!  Plus, rumors are flying about her and this knight, and Britomart is flirting with Amoret in order to keep up her disguise.  Luckily this is all cleared up soon, and the two girls confide in each other and become close friends, searching the world for their loves.  Soon they meet two knights escorting Duessa and Ate (war), who encourage them to fight over Amoret.  Some quite complicated knightly social maneuvering goes on, and the upshot is that Scudamore hears a lot of lies and is murderously angry, especially at Britomart's nurse Glauce, who is with him.

Glauce is a peacemaker, but the wicked knights scorn her.  Sir Ferraugh arrives with the False Snowy Florimell,, thinking he's got a prize.  Ate encourages fighting over her, and friendships start to break up.  The Squire of Dames arrives, describing the imminent tournament for Florimell's girdle, and they all decide to make up and go.  (This, however, is false friendship, without true virtue!)  On the way, the group overtakes Sirs Cambell and Triamond with their ladies; they are fairy knights of great prowess and true friends.  What's their story? We now pick up Chaucer's Squire's Tale where it left off, and finish the story: Canacee is the most learned lady around and can talk with the birds, but she refuses to love anyone, which sparks wars among her admirers.  Her brother Cambell decides to fight the strongest three and the winner will get her.  (Canacee gives him a magic ring that will heal his wounds.)  Only the triplet sons of Agape will venture (here we get Agape's story, which gives the three brothers a special gift).  They are Priamond, Diamond, and Triamond.

The battle is started with great ceremony.  It's a truly epic fight, with a couple of resurrections.  They don't stop until a lady shows up in a chariot drawn by lions!  She overruns the crowd and kills many with her chariot before announcing herself as Concord (!).  She has nepenthe, a drink that assuages grief, and makes both drink it.  They embrace, stop fighting, and the two ladies marry the two knights, swearing friendship eternal.

Back to the main story: everybody is now on the way to the tournament.  Braggadocio arrives and claims False Florimell, but backs off when challenged; he is too base to care for either friendship or emnity.  At the tourney, all enter in groups according to who is false and who is true.  Satyrane brings out the gorgeous girdle.  He and the Knights of Maidenhead fight everyone else, so there we have chastity vs. friendship (?), as well as false friendship.  Triamond is doing well, but Satyrane wins the day.  The next day, Cambell dons Triamond's armor and fights for him, and is taken prisoner, so Cambell gets up (despite his wounds) and puts on Triamond's armor to fight for him.  They win for that day, but the Knights of Maidenhead win overall...until a strange knight arrives, dressed apparently as a woodwose, with long tattered leafy things everywhere and a French shield.  He wins, and he is Artegall.  Then another new, strange knight arrives and beats everybody -- so Britomart wins the girdle.

The winner crowned
 Now there shall be a beauty contest to see which lady gets the girdle (and the winning knight, which is Britomart).  Now, some of the ladies want this amazing girdle for "glorie vaine" and others for "vertuous use."  It gives chaste love and true wifehood, and it's really Venus' girdle (otherwise known as Aphrodite's zone, which gives rise to some intriguing thoughts from my other reading), passed down to Florimell.  Artegall is really not pleased at having been outdone.  At the contest, each is lovelier than the last, but False Florimell outshines everyone, even the actual, missing, Florimell.  But!  The girdle won't stay on her!  Many try it and none can wear it except Amoret.  False Florimell grabs it back, and Britomart refuses the lady prize out of loyalty to Amoret.  In fact, every knight already has a lady except Satyrane, and everyone gets angry.  They decide to put False Florimell in a circle and see who she will walk to, as if she's a puppy or something!  She picks Braggadocio, and he runs off with her that night.  All the knights give chase, leaving Britomart and Amoret to continue searching for Artegall (since neither party ever removed their helmets, they didn't recognize each other) and Scudamore (who is currently hoping to kill Britomart).  Scudamore finds shelter in Care's (Worry's) cave; she makes little iron wedges for minds.  He can't sleep, and has bad dreams when he does.  So he leaves, exhausted.

Artegall in woodwose outfit

Scudamore is in bad shape after a night at Care's house.  He meets the Savage Knight, dressed in wild clothes and no device on his shield--this is Artegall, remember, and he is currently being a rudimentary, rough form of justice.  Both are angry at Britomart and search for her.  When they meet, both lose the battle to her, which is filled with male imagery, but she's the one who stabs Artegall.  During the fight, her helmet breaks, exposing her face for the first time.  Artegall promptly apologizes, even as Britomart wants to keep fighting and has to be restrained by Scudamore and Glauce.  All faces are now shown, Britomart recognizes Artegall, and Glauce explains all.  Scudamore asks about his wife, and Britomart explains that Amoret disappeared during the trip and she has searched far and wide for her.  As they all rest at a castle, Artegall woos Britomart and wins her consent -- so both continue on their separate quests.


Phew!  A lot has happened.  Where is Amoret?  Can't wait to find out!  Also, isn't it funny that Spenser brings in a tale from Chaucer?  And finishes it--in two cantos flat, although the book is nominally about that story.  Also, if you noticed that Cambel and Telamond's names got changed halfway through, that's what Spenser does--not my fault.


1 comment:

Joy said...

Wow! That's a lot of characters to keep track of. Apparently, so many that even Spenser couldn't do it!