The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
Sir Guyon and the Palmer continue on their search for the horse that Guyon rightfully owns. As they travel, they come across a man with many wounds who seems to be insane and who is cruelly dragging another young man by the hair. Behind him is an old hag in dirty robes who provokes the wounded man with her words. Guyon tries to save the dragged man by shoving the woman away, but the wounded man gets angry and starts attacking in every direction. The wounded man is Furor, and the old hag (his mother) is Occasion.
The gruesome appearance of Furor and Occasion reflects the awfulness of the vices they represent. Occasion may seem like an innocuous word, but here it mostly means “occasion to start a fight,” which is why Occasion is here paired with Furor. Both characters represent the opposite of the virtue of temperance.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Sir Guyon restrains Occasion and stops her from talking, but Furor tries to run away, so Guyon goes after him. He binds Furor with 100 iron chains and 100 knots, but still Furor gnashes his teeth and seethes. With Furor captive, Guyon goes to the young man who is injured from being dragged by Furor.
It's significant that Furor and Occasion’s prisoner is a young man, since youth is often associated with rashness (which is a form of lack of temperance).
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
The injured man tells Sir Guyon that his troubles began with a false squire who pretended to be his friend named Philemon. The young man was in love with a fair lady named Claribell and was preparing to marry her. While Philemon acted like he was happy, one day he approached the young man and told him his lady had been unfaithful, making the young man jealous.
The story the injured young man tells Sir Guyon centers on the topic of youthly passion. All of the characters in the story act in bold, dramatic ways that reflect the rashness of youth.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Philemon arranges a trick where he pretends to be with Claribell, when in fact it’s just another woman wearing Claribell’s clothes. The young man slays the real Claribell before learning the truth. When he does, he poisons Philemon and almost kills the false Claribell, but while chasing after her, he gets caught by Furor and Occasion. Now the young man feels so bad that he wants to die.
In this story, the rashness and passion of everyone involved ends up having deadly consequences. The young man kills quickly, without thinking. He represents a sort of cautionary tale for what can happen to men who don’t have the same level of temperance as Sir Guyon.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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Sir Guyon suggests that the young man could have avoided his problems through temperance. The Palmer agrees that he should learn to control his emotions.
Characters in the poem sometimes state the themes directly, as Sir Guyon and the Palmer do here when they speak in praise of temperance.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Just then, a varlet (a type of servant) with a shield that reads “Burnt I do burne” begins riding toward them. The varlet, whose name is Atin, warns Sir Guyon to leave the area at once since a deadly knight named Pyrochles will soon be arriving. Pyrochles has come to seek Occasion.
Both Pyrochles’s name and his shield suggest that he is associated with the element of fire. Fire contrasts with the purifying water that appears throughout the poem, and it also represents passion—the opposite of Sir Guyon’s temperance.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Quotes
The Palmer suggests that Pyrochles is mad to seek out Occasion, who causes strife and even comes to those who aren’t looking for her. Sir Guyon suggests that Atin pass this message on to Pyrochles, but Atin gets defiant and says that Pyrochles will come and make them bleed. Atin throws a dart that bounces off Sir Guyon’s shield, then he flees.
As a fiery, passionate knight, Pyrochles actively seeks out Occasion. This means that he’s the sort of person who’s always looking for a fight—appropriate for someone whose whole personality is associated with fire.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon