The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene: Book II: Canto II Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sir Guyon picks up the baby that was playing in Amavia’s blood. He tries to clean the orphan off but is surprised to find that the blood clings to the baby’s hands. Guyon wonders why God would do this to such an innocent baby. The Palmer explains that perhaps the blood is a symbol of Amavia’s innocence.
Religion is complicated in the poem because while Greek and Roman gods and goddesses literally exist in the poem’s world, the Protestant God seems to also exist above everything else. The idea that God works in mysterious and even confusing ways is important to Protestantism (and many other religions as well).
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Sir Guyon and the Palmer make it to a castle built on a rock by the sea where three sisters live. The three sisters pledged to divide the castle equally but frequently argue with each other about their shares. When Guyon arrives, he finds that the middle sister, Medina, is the loveliest and most striking.
Not all wealthy characters in the story are evil—for some of them, their material wealth is a symbol of their virtuousness—but frequently wealth is a sign of greed, and here it leads three sisters into conflict.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
The older and younger sisters are currently courting with knights. The older sister is with a strong knight named Sir Huddibras, and the younger sister is with Sansloy (the Saracen who kidnapped Una in Book I). Both knights are brash, and so they typically battle each other to please their ladies, but Sir Guyon is a new opponent for them.
The return of the Saracen Sansloy makes it clear that these sisters—and by extension Sir Huddibras—may not be particularly virtuous. Though both Huddibras and Sansloy have the knightly quality of strength, they are brash and don’t use their strength as judiciously as a better knight like Sir Guyon.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
At first, Sir Guyon easily beats back the attacks by Sir Huddibras and Sansloy. Then they start a furious three-way war. Though they are fighting for their ladies, Medina doesn’t actually want Guyon to fight, and she enters the fray to stop them. She gives a speech about the benefits of concord. Her words are so moving that the combatants let their weapons fall. The other two sisters pretend to be happy with this outcome, but they’re not.
Sir Guyon embodies the virtue of temperance (moderation and self-restraint), but he can still be drawn into a fight, particularly since this is still near the beginning of the book and he still has much to learn about how to truly live a temperate life as a knight. Medina, whose name suggests “middle” or “median,” is the voice of temperance here, proving herself to be more reasonable than her two more extreme sisters.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Get the entire The Faerie Queene LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Faerie Queene PDF
Elissa, the eldest sister, scowls and won’t eat. Meanwhile Perissa, the youngest, eats and drinks lavishly. In the middle sits Medina, who is dignified and eats a proper amount. Medina asks Sir Guyon where he came from, and he replies that he’s been traveling in the service of the Faerie Queene, who is noble and great. He also relates the story of Amavia, Sir Mordant, and Acrasia, telling how he has vowed revenge on Acrasia. All the guests are fascinated by his story. Soon, the dinner ends, and they go to bed.
With Elissa refusing to eat, and Perissa eating greedily, the two sisters represent the different extremes, showing how each can be bad. Medina represents a proper balance between the two extremes, and so it makes sense that she gets along with Sir Guyon, the knight who represents the virtue of temperance.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon