The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
With his wrath having been kindled by Atin’s story, Cymochles rides forth to find Sir Guyon. He is distracted, however, when he sees a ship carrying a lovely lady going by. The lady on the ship allows Cymochles to visit her, but not Atin. Her name is Phaedria, and she entertains Cymochles with humorous flirtation.
Cymochles seems to be unusually susceptible to being distracted by pleasure—which makes sense if his lady is Acrasia, who thrives on using pleasure to tempt and trap men.
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Phaedria takes Cymochles in her ship to an island full of beautiful flowers and other vegetation. Phaedria asks Cymochles why such a noble knight must always be seeking dangerous adventure when instead he could be enjoying pleasure. She lures him into a deep sleep.
The beautiful island that Phaedria takes Cymochles to foreshadows Acrasia’s Bower of Bliss, since both are places that dull knights’ senses with pleasure.
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Phaedria leaves Cymochles on the island and goes off on her boat again. This time, she finds Sir Guyon. She persuades Guyon to leave behind the Palmer, which he does reluctantly. When Guyon sees where Phaedria is taking him in her boat, however, he protests that she has misled him. Phaedria says that at sea you can’t always go where you want because of the tides and winds, and so she has chosen a new way that will be safer.
Even the temperate Sir Guyon is capable of being tempted in the right circumstances. Notably, Sir Guyon doesn’t go to the island until he’s been persuaded to leave the Palmer behind. The Palmer has acted as a guide for Guyon thus far—something like a conscience—and so without him, Guyon is more vulnerable to being tempted.
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Sir Guyon puts aside his discontent for the moment. When they reach the island, Phaedria shows him all the island’s sweet, natural pleasures, and though the knight goes along with it, he remains wary and tries to keep his desires in check.
In this section, Guyon is tempted, although he doesn’t totally lose his temperate personality—here, it causes him to be cautious when he first gets off the boat.
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Cymochles wakes up, and as he walks around the island, he sees Sir Guyon with Phaedria. He immediately flies into a rage and lunges at him to start a fight. The two both fight fiercely with their swords; Cymochles has never met an opponent as fierce as Guyon before. Phaedria sees that there is a real chance of someone getting seriously injured, so she steps between them and asks them to stop.
Like Pyrochles, Cymochles is filled with a passionate desire to start fights, even in cases where it doesn’t make sense. Despite his own temperance, Sir Guyon rarely turns down a challenge, just as he got drawn into fighting at the castle of the three sisters earlier.
Themes
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Phaedria goes on to say that if Cymochles and Sir Guyon really want to fight for her, they should leave aside bloody battles and fight for Venus instead of for Mars. The knights are moved by her pleasing words and stop. Guyon asks to leave the island, and Phaedria reluctantly accepts.
Phaedria wants the knights to succumb to the island’s pleasure, but her words have the accidental effect of returning Sir Guyon to his senses. The fact that he can simply leave whenever he asks suggests that the other knights on the island are trapped by their own desires.
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After taking Phaedria’s boat back, Sir Guyon is spotted by Atin, who still believes Guyon killed Pyrochles and who shouts insults at him, but Guyon just keeps going. Soon after, Atin is shocked to see a reckless knight charging in his direction and realizes it is in fact Pyrochles, who is alive after all.
Sir Guyon’s brief trip to Phaedria’s island has fortified his own temperance, and he is about to witness the consequences that Pyrochles will face for not doing the same.
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Pyrochles seems to be trying to drown himself by leaping into a lake and he shouts that he is burning. He says only death can quench the flame. Atin goes into the water to try to stop his master from drowning. As Atin is struggling, he looks ashore and happens to see Archimago, whom he asks for help.
Pyrochles let his fiery passion consume him, and now his punishment is to feel as if he is literally being consumed by flame.
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Pyrochles tells Archimago that Furor is the one who made him burn with unquenchable flames. Archimago knows this pain well, and he agrees to use his power to cure Pyrochles of his burning condition.
Though Pyrochles previously viewed his passion as a good thing, Furor has stoked Pyrochles’s passion to a level where it’s uncomfortable even for him.
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