The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
Not long after Atin flees, Pyrochles sees Sir Guyon making his way across the plain. Without even greeting Sir Guyon, Pyrochles rides ahead to attack, although it doesn’t hurt Sir Guyon. Guyon responds by striking back, and the blow glances off Pyrochles but decapitates his horse, meaning they are now both on foot.
It's no surprise that the hot-headed Pyrochles picks a fight with Sir Guyon at the first available opportunity. His decision to fight before even greeting Sir Guyon shows his rashness as well as his lack of respect for typical conduct among knights.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Pyrochles calls Sir Guyon a coward for killing his innocent horse. He draws his flaming sword and strikes. Guyon is himself enraged and strikes back, leaving a bloody wound on Pyrochles’s shoulder. This only makes Pyrochles angrier and makes his sword burn more ferociously, but as he strikes wildly, Guyon is able to keep fending him off until Pyrochles is breathless.
Although Pyrochles is the one who attacked Sir Guyon first, he still blames Guyon for killing his horse. He only gets angrier as the battle goes on, showing how, once indulged, passion and rage often just continue to grow stronger.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
When Pyrochles stops to catch his breath, Sir Guyon pursues him and forces him to cry for mercy. Being temperate, Guyon agrees to let the knight go. He tells Pyrochles that he shouldn’t be angry about being defeated. Pyrochles said he heard Guyon had been doing terrible things to an old woman named Occasion, but Guyon just smiles and explains how Occasion and Furor try to stir up strife wherever they go.
Despite enduring the unprovoked attacks and insults of Pyrochles, Sir Guyon doesn’t lose his own cool. As it turns out, Pyrochles has simply been misled by his passion and is perhaps not as fundamentally evil as some of the other villains in the story, which explains why Guyon shows him mercy.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Pyrochles ignores Sir Guyon’s advice and unties Occasion, but he soon finds himself being attacked by Furor. He calls to Sir Guyon to help him, and Guyon is moved with pity, but the Palmer suggests that Guyon should avoid intervening so that Pyrochles learns his lesson. Guyon and the Palmer leave. Meanwhile, Atin is watching from a distance and thinks Guyon has struck Pyrochles down, so Atin runs off to tell Pyrochles’s brother, Cymochles.
Even after being shown mercy, Pyrochles refuses to listen to reason. This time, however, the only victim is himself, since he’s the one who ends up getting attacked by Furor. Although Sir Guyon asks about intervening, the Palmer convinces him not to, suggesting that while mercy is virtuous, sometimes justice also involves punishment.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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Cymochles is a mighty knight who has won glory in many perilous fights. His lady is the evil sorceress Acrasia (the same one Sir Guyon has been searching for to avenge Amavia). When Atin arrives, he finds Cymochles in a pleasant grove, surrounded by a flock of fair damsels who are all trying to win his attention. Atin scolds Cymochles for becoming weak from pleasure.
The name of Cymochles is similar to Pyrochles and suggests that they share some traits in common. In particular, they share their willingness to easily start fights. Although Acrasia ensnares many otherwise good knights, Cymochles seems to be with her by choice, and so he supports her tricky ways (although this section shows he isn’t necessarily faithful to her).
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Atin pricks Cymochles with a dart, which seems to wake him up from a dream. He gets up hastily and vows to seek vengeance against the man who struck down Pyrochles (who Atin mistakenly believes was killed by Sir Guyon, but who has not actually been struck down).
Like the story of Philemon and Claribell earlier, the passionate Cymochles makes a rash decision based on incorrect information that could end up having deadly consequences.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon