The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
Britomart continues to travel with Sir Guyon. She tells him about how she was trained in warlike ways from a young age and how she disdained fancy needles and thread, favoring the spear instead. She has traveled all the way from Britain seeking adventure, but most especially seeking out a man named Arthegall, who treated her dishonorably.
Just as her outward appearance is masculine, Britomart’s interests when she was young were also masculine. Nevertheless, one way in which she does resemble other women in the story is her devotion to finding a husband.
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
Hearing this, the Redcross Knight joins the conversation, saying he is surprised: he has heard of Arthegall, but he knows him as one of the noblest knights ever born. In fact, however, Britomart is happy to hear this, because she believes Arthegall is destined to be her love. She still pretends that she has heard bad things about him, and Redcross reassures her that Arthegall is a knight with a good heart.
Britomart does not actually believe Arthegall is dishonorable—she only says this in order to see Arthur’s reaction. Alternatively, it’s possible to read her statement as a sort of joke because Arthegall has treated her poorly (by making her lovesick), even if he doesn’t realize it.
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
Without revealing her true feelings, Britomart says she wants to see Arthegall. Redcross describes his appearance, which matches up with what Britomart herself saw back in Britain, in a magic mirror created by the great wizard Merlin himself. According to the mirror, Arthegall will be her husband.
Britomart’s connection to Merlin means that, like King Arthur, Britomart is a symbol of British identity. Her name even resembles “Britain.” Her good qualities therefore reflect back on all of Britain and particularly the leadership of its Queen Elizabeth.
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
Back then, in Britain, Britomart begins to feel pangs of love so strong that she can’t sleep. Her nurse, Glauce, realizes that something is amiss and asks what’s paining her. Britomart explains that her vision of Arthegall is rankling her like an ulcer. The nurse reassures her that there is nothing strange or monstrous about the affection she feels. She advises that perhaps the best way to cure her affliction is to figure out the identity of her knight. Glauce puts together a potion to try to cure Britomart’s affliction, but it doesn’t work. Britomart’s love continues to haunt her.
Britomart’s origin story reveals that she was not always the powerful knight that she currently is. While lust is often portrayed in the poem as a type of disease (as it was for the men who became infected with desire for pleasure in Acrasia’s Bower of Bliss), this section shows that even pure love can affect a person as if it were a disease.
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
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