Faerie Queene Readalong, Book III, Part II

I've finished the second half of Book III!  I know, it's taking me forever; I'm amazed that o has managed to power through the whole thing and finish!  Our original idea of doing this in a few weeks was clearly insane.  I've been running into the problem that I get really sleepy while reading; it's gotten to the point that ten verses will put me right to sleep no matter how energetic I felt when I started!  Even the weirdest Spenserian action makes me sleepy, but I am enjoying learning the stories and figuring things out, so no quitting allowed.  To continue the stories of Britomart, Amoret, and more...

Florimell (who, you might recall, loves Marinell, who doesn't love her and is currently recuperating with his mother) is fleeing.  It took me a while to figure out that she wasn't running, but riding a horse, and symbolically speaking, she's emotionally out of control.  The exhausted horse stops and Florimell finds a cottage, but the residents are a witch and her oafish son.  The witch is afraid at first, and then angry, but is moved by Florimell's plight and lets her rest.  The son lusts after the maiden and brings her treats, but once she is well she sneaks away.  The son is mad with despair and frustrated desire, so the witch plots to bring her back.  She calls up a monster hyena (symbol of debasement and lust), which chases Florimell to the seashore.  Florimell plans to jump into the sea and drown rather than be caught, but finds a little fishing boat and gets away.  The monster has caught her girdle, and eats the horse.

Florimell, fleeing as usual
 Sir Satyrane (who loves Florimell) arrives and seeing the gory monster, fears the worst.  He battles the hyena; it's too powerful to kill, but when he bridles it with the girdle, it submits.  Then along comes a Giantess pursued by a knight; she holds a tied-up squire on her lap (she's also lust, so the squire is controlled by his desires).  The squire is thrown aside as the giantess prepares to fight Satyrane--with her mace!  She bonks Satryane and is about to leave with him, but the knight's pursuit gets her to drop him and flee.  Satyrane unties the squire, who tells a complicated story about the giantess and her brother, his own situation and love, and the knight.  It would take a long time so I'll skip it, but it's got a lot of very odd jokes about lust.and infidelity.  I did love the knight though--she is the chaste Palladine, a maiden of great skill at arms, and only she can defeat the giantess.  We will never see her again, more's the pity.

 Meanwhile, the witch is happy that Florimell is dead (as she thinks), but her son is worse than ever, so she makes him a false Florimell out of snow, run by sprites.  He's happy, but as they walk in the forest, old Braggadocio shows up, beats the oafish son, and grabs False Florimell.  Another knight comes along and challenges him, so he runs off and the new knight takes the girl, not knowing she isn't Florimell.  The real maiden is in a boat, and there's an old fisherman asleep in it.  When he awakes, he is filled with lust and tries to rape her.  Her screams attract Proteus, the sea god, and he rescues her and takes her to his home...where he won't let her go.  He woos her, but she rejects him, so he tries to scare her into submission and throws her into a dungeon.  Poor Florimell is an eternal victim, never able to defend herself properly and so always suffering.  --  Meanwhile, Satyrane and the squire meet Sir Paridell, who is seeking Florimell along with many knights of Faerie.  Satyrane breaks the news of her death, but they resolve to look for more proof before really declaring her dead.  So they go to a nearby castle for the night...and are refused shelter!

The castle is Malbecco's (bad goat/cuckold), a rude, greedy churl who keeps his wife Hellenore locked up.  She is young and sweet, and they are 'unfitly yoked.'  Still, that doesn't excuse her behavior.  Malbecco is so jealous that he doesn't let knights come in.  A storm breaks upon the knights, so they take shelter in a shed.  Another knight arrives, seeking shelter--and they are churlish and unwelcoming themselves, so they all have a fight out in the storm.  Satyrane makes peace and they plan to attack the castle, and Malbecco lets them in.  As they disarm, the knight turns out to be Britomart, who is very beautiful but also intimidatingly powerful.  She scares them.  All sit down to a feast, and since Malbecco only has one eye to keep on his wife, Paridell finds it easy to flirt with her.  (You may now notice that Paridell and Hellenore are a lot like Paris and Helen.)  They flirt outrageously and lewdly.  After dinner, Paridell claims descent from Paris and claims that he is one of the Nine Worthies (which he isn't).  Britomart gets all excited at this Trojan history; she is descended from Aeneas and asks for more stories.  Paridell talks about Rome, but Britomart reminds him about England and its founding by Trojans.

Paridell and Hellenore flirt
Britomart and Satyrane leave the next morning, but Paridell "needs more rest."  Malbecco is grumpy about this and keeps a close eye on his wife, but Paridell is an experienced seducer and he's got a willing partner.  Paridell abducts Hellenore and sets fire to the castle so they can get away safely.  Malbecco searches for his wife but has no luck, so he hires Braggadocio, who only wants the money.  They do find Paridell, but he has already deserted Hellenore, as is his habit.  She wandered until she met the forest satyrs, who made her a communal wife.  She's having a great time and has forgotten both men.  Braggadocio steals Malbecco's treasure, and Malbecco goes mad and throws himself off a cliff...but he's so emaciated by his jealousy that he floats down.  Living on frogs and toads in a cave, he is now the monster Jealousy.

(A favorite line:
And awfull terror deepe into him strooke, 
That every member of his body quooke.)

Hellenore parties with satrys
Britomart and Satyrane run into the giant Ollyphant, an uncontrolled lustful male, and have to run, which separates them.  Britomart meets a knight with a Cupid shield; he is Sir Scudamore, and laments Amoret's imprisonment by the sorcerer Busirane.  He hasn't been able to rescue his true love and is in despair.  Britomart offers to help him, so they go to the castle.  There is no gate, only a sulfurous fire in the porch (flames of desire).  In some really odd imagery, Brtomart puts on all her armor of faith and parts the fire with her sword.  It yields to her, but Scudamore can't do it; he's got too much rage and desire, and his attempts at force fail.  The castle is gorgeous; tapestries cover the metallic walls, showing scenes of Jove's various amorous adventures with nymphs and other kings conquered by lust.  Cupid, the cruel god, even wounds himself every so often.  At the end of the hall there is a gold statue of the god--blindfolded, holding a variety of arrows, and triumphing over a wounded dragon (which guards chastity).  The hall is full of fancy people, all bowing to the idol, and it dazes Britomart.  Over the door it says "Be Bold" and she enters an empty room, with several doors saying "Be Bold"-- and one iron door saying "Be Not Too Bold."  She waits until dark.
Amoret, tormented by Busirane as Britomart sneaks up

Bam!  With lots of special effects, the Masque of Cupid starts.  There's lots of stage language here, an audience, and everything.  A long parade of figurative characters marches by as hypnotic music plays--there are Fansy and Desire, Doubt and Daunger, Feare and Hope, and it goes on and on. Despight and Cruelty lead a beautiful lady with a stab wound in her breast and her heart in a dish, just before Cupid himself, riding a lion and gloating over poor Amoret, who is the lady.  Soon there is a confused rout of figures as the whole production breaks down, and they exit through the iron door, which locks.  Britomart tries to follow, but she must wait another day.  She disguises herself and joins the procession, but on the other side of the door everyone has disappeared except Busirane and Amoret, chained.  He writes his spells in her dripping blood, but she will not yield to him (although he is also a version of Scudamore; things must be done righteously or not at all).  Seeing Britomart, he tries to kill Amoret.  Britomart stops him, so he stabs her--but not deeply.  She is ready to kill him, but only he can heal Amoret, so she forces him to do that.  The whole house shakes and finally Amoret is freed from her chains and healed of her horrible wound.  Busirane is then chained up and the two maidens leave together through a decayed castle.  The porch flames are quenched.  Amoret and Scudamore are reunited in an ecstatic embrace--they are "grown together quite" like a tree or one being, in an image of true loving marriage.
Britomart rescues Amoret from Busirane

Grateful Amoret and detached Britomart
The second edition, though, changes the ending to make it more open, leading into Book IV.

Wow, what a storm of weird events and symbolism about chaste love vs. lust!  I did not even get in to all of it.  There is a lot of fun stuff in here.  I really wonder what Book IV will bring.


  1. Rx antidote for sleepiness while reading poetry: read aloud. People around you will stare, and it will take longer to read, but it might help you. Hey, it has worked for me with long, long poems. I survived Milton that way in school. Shakespeare also works well aloud. Best wishes for success.

  2. Way to go, Jean! Keep reading, stop sleeping ..... I tend to get inspired for spurts then I lose steam; perhaps that's my own method of "sleeping". I'm going to see if I can get through some more of it this weekend. It's Thanksgiving weekend for us, so I have an extra day off.

  3. Oh my. This is quite the lusty story. I laughed aloud at the false Florimell made of snow.

  4. Guess what, Cleopatra, I've read three cantos of IV in three days! I'm so proud. :D

    Yeah, Joy, this was a bonkers book! I liked the snow Florimell too.


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