|Ahahaha, will I finish in a year? I'm betting not...|
Britomart arrives at the Temple of Isis (who is Equity); she enters, but Talus is not allowed in. Isis wears silver and linen, and is shown standing over a crocodile. Britomart prays to her, and sleeps in the temple. She is protected and refreshed, but she also has a bizarre vision, in which she merges with Isis. The crocodile threatens her, but must submit, and then he fathers a great lion upon her. Waking, Britomart is very disturbed and asks the priest for an interpretation of this dream. He tells her that Artegall is the crocodile, and also Osiris, and together they will produce the British kings. Calmed, Britomart sets off for the Amazons' land, where she meets Radigund in battle. Radigund is a tigress, but Britomart is a lioness and prevails, though she is wounded. She is horrified by the captives' dress and frees them all, then finds Artegall and dresses him properly. After a rest, Artegall leaves once more upon his great quest.
Artegall and Talus meet a damsel on a horse, fleeing two knights, with another knight in pursuit of them. The strange knight gets one, Artegall takes the other, and then, oddly, they start to fight too, until the damsel stops them. Once they pay attention, they recognize each other -- it's Arthur! The girl is a maid to Queen Mercilla (Mercy, and also Elizabeth I), who lives nearby. She is constantly oppressed by a villain, provoked by his wife Adicia (injustice and pride). The girl is Samient, who brings them all together. After the two knights sneak into the baddies' castle, they have a big battle, kill the evil Sultan, and subdue the vengeful Queen Adicia. (This may be a version of the Spanish Armada, and certainly from here on everything gets very obviously political.)
Adicia is exiled, and the knights go after Malengin (Guile). He lives in rocks, but has hooks and nets like a fisherman (or like the Irish, Spenser says). He nets Samient, but the knights block his cave, and he flees over the rocks, just like a goat! Talus pursues, but Malengin shifts into a fox, a bush, a bird, and finally a hedgehog too prickly to hold, and Talus beats him into a pulp. On they go to Mercilla's castle. Awe and Order are the keepers who bring the knights in (they pass a scurrilous poet, Malfont, with his tongue nailed to a post). Mercilla, aka Elizabeth, is described surrounded by governmental virtues, a rusty sword, and a lion. She is in the process of dealing justice to Duessa, who in this case is Mary, Queen of Scots. Everybody sympathizes with the pitiful-looking Duessa, and she receives mercy, though she is undeserving.
Now the widow Belgae asks for help from the tyrant Geryones, Geryon's son (and also Philip II of Spain). Arthur asks for the job of defeating Geryones, and he sets out without Artegall, who continues on his own quest. Arthur takes Belgae to Antwerp and fights the invading Seneschal and three cowardly knights to get into the castle.
Geryones attacks Arthur right away, without greeting. He has three bodies! Geryones is furious but Arthur keeps cool and strikes all three bodies at once, killing his foe. Belgae then offers Arthur sovereignty over her land but he graciously turns it down (unlike the real-life Leicester). Arthur hears that in the church, Geryones' great Idol stands with a Monster underneath, so off he goes. He strikes the Idol three times and the Monster appears -- a foul fiend! It is Echidna's child, and much like the Sphinx. Their battle reminded me a lot of Redcrosse fighting Errour. Arthur kills the monster, sets all aright, hooray, and now we should check on Artegall. He meets with the old faithful Sir Sergis, who informs him that Irene is imprisoned by Grantorto, who plans to kill her. This is Artegall's real quest: to save Ireland from the influence of Catholic Spain. On his way, Artegall meets Burbon (Lord of France), who is dishonored, having abandoned his shield (become a Catholic). His lady, Fleurdelis, has left him. Artegall scolds Burbon, but also helps, and persuades Fleurdelis to submit to him. (This is all getting pretty weird. Too much politics spoils the allegory!)
And now for the final battle! Artegall crosses the sea and meets a host of soldiers, whom Talus beats.
He then challenges Grantorto to single combat and refuses all courtly entertainment beforehand (it might corrupt him). The next day is the day chosen for Irene's execution, but Artegall gives her hope. Grantorto arrives late, dressed as an Irish foot soldier. He hits Artegall's shield and gets stuck in it, so Artegall abandons it (as Burbon did?) and strikes with a special sword, killing his enemy. Everybody's happy, and Irena is again Queen of her land. Artgeall puts the country into order, but is recalled to the Faerie Queene's court (as in real life). On the way he meets two hags, Envy and Detraction. They have a monster -- the Blatant Beast! It is scandal and cruel rumor. Envy throws a shewed snake at Artegall and it bits him in the back. He goes on to the court, but bears the scar of the bite.
Phew, only one more book and some cantos to go! I can do this! Hey, guess what, Spenser invented the word "blatant." Go Spenser. I am not a fan of all this obvious political allegory stuff. It's not nearly as fun as the earlier books.