The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The narrator says that even the heroes of old from Homer’s time can’t compare with Britomart. After learning of Arthegall’s whereabouts from the Redcross Knight, Britomart parts from him and continues on her journey. Despite making progress, she is still pained by the wound inside her caused by love. Glauce comforts Britomart in her pain by reminding her of Merlin’s prophecy.
The fact that Britomart is more spectacular than even the ancient heroes of Homer suggests that all the things she represents (specifically Britain and Queen Elizabeth) are equally spectacular.
Themes
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All of a sudden, while she is near a beach, Britomart’s grief is turned to wrath when she sees a knight charging at her. The knight warns her to change her course, but she doesn’t, and she ends up wounding the knight with her enchanted spear. The knight, whose name is Marinell, lies bleeding on the shore, which is strewn with precious objects.
Marinell is a complicated figure in the poem. Although at first he might seem to be just another rash knight like Pyrochles or Cymochles, later parts of the poem show that he has greater depth.
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Marinell is the son of a nymph named Cymoent and had previously subdued a hundred other knights in battle. This is how he built up such a large pile of riches. Long before Marinell’s fight with Britomart, his mother the nymph was concerned that her son would die in battle to someone trying to take his wealth, so she went to Proteus, who has the gift of prophecy.
This passage once again illustrates the glory of Britomart, since if Marinell defeated a hundred knights, and Britomart defeated him, this suggests that she was more powerful than those hundred knights, too.
Themes
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Proteus warned Marinell’s mother, Cymoent, that her son should stay away from women because one will grievously injure or perhaps even kill him. From then on, Cymoent warned Marinell to scorn the company of women. As it turns out, however, Britomart comes along to fulfill Proteus’s prophecy by wounding Marinell.
Like many prophecies in fiction, Proteus’s prediction that Marinell will be undone by a woman comes to pass in a way that is both unexpected and ironic (since Britomart is a woman, just not one trying to tempt or trick him).
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Quotes
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Back in the present, sea creatures and nymphs, including Cymoent, come to witness Marinell looking nearly dead. Neptune, the god of the sea, is himself amazed at the display of mourning. Cymoent faints three times. The other nymphs realize Marinell is still alive and take him back to treat his wounds.
This scene of the sea people grieving Marinell’s injury helps to give his character greater depth and to show that he may have noble qualities that weren’t immediately apparent in his conflict with Britomart.
Themes
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While tending to Marinell, the nymphs curse whoever injured him. Meanwhile Archimago the evil wizard has been stalking Britomart ever since she left Arthur and Sir Guyon (who were trying to help a damsel who was being chased).
Although Archimago doesn’t do anything here, it seems clear that his presence foreshadows bad times ahead for Britomart.
Themes
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Eventually, Arthur catches up with the damsel he’s been following, but she keeps fleeing, scared off by his unfamiliar shield and armor. Arthur keeps pursuing her, but eventually he gets exhausted and has to sleep. His sleep brings him little rest, however, as he dreams about how he wishes the lady he’s currently chasing were actually the Faerie Queene. He spends the rest of the night haunted by restlessness and waiting for morning before finally getting up the next day to continue his quest.
Arthur’s seemingly endless quest to find the Faerie Queene provides a running subplot that intersects with the main plots of all the books. This passage is perhaps humorous since Arthur is so intent on helping a damsel who doesn’t even seem to want his help, showing the lengths that a noble knight will go for the sake of chivalry.
Themes
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British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
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