The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The hag spots the hyena-like beast running back toward her. She sees Florimell’s gold belt and thinks the beast has destroyed her, which upsets her lovesick son to the point where he could almost kill his mother. She flees.
Because the hag had bad intentions when she created the monster to chase Florimell, her actions end up having negative effects she didn’t anticipate.
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Quotes
The hag gets the idea of pacifying her son by changing someone else to look like Florimell. She gathers some pure snow and molds it, putting two burning lamps in the eyes and using golden wire for the hair, then she has one of her sprites control the body.
The objects used to create a fake Florimell suggest that her beauty has something elemental to it, combining the purity of snow with the vibrancy of fire.
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The sprite is already well trained in the ways of women, and so the son is pleased. One day, they go walking in the woods until eventually they come across Braggadochio. Proud Braggadochio tells “Florimell” (the sprite in disguise) that he’d like to ride off with her, then proceeds to do so.
The whole poem reflects the anxiety that seemingly good women might actually be false. Florimell is the second woman in the poem to be impersonated by a sprite (after Una in Book I).
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But as Braggadochio is riding off with the sprite disguised as Florimell, he comes across a powerful-looking knight. The knight wants the fake Florimell. Braggadochio suggests they should fight, but that first they should turn around and ride away from each other, to give themselves space to charge and attack. As the knight does this, Braggadochio runs away, leaving his “lady” behind.
Braggadochio is a superficial knight who doesn’t put much thought or planning into his decisions, so of course he is fooled by the fake Florimell. But he doesn’t want her enough to fight for her, and so he once again demonstrates his cowardice by fleeing at the first available opportunity.
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Meanwhile, the real Florimell is stuck at sea, still in the boat. Though she is safe in the boat, the fisherman who owns the boat falls asleep, and the boat begins to drift. When he wakes up, Florimell asks him to pilot the boat to shore, but the old fisherman just grins to see such a lovely woman aboard his boat and begins to feel lustful. He greedily leaps at her, but she rebukes him.
This section emphasizes the danger that Florimell is in without a faithful knight to protect her. Even the boatman, who seemed to be helping Florimell, was really just scheming to greedily claim her as his own.
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The old fisherman doesn’t heed Florimell’s refusal and throws her down. Florimell shouts and prays for anyone to help her. Proteus, the shepherd of the seas, comes to her aid and beats the fisherman harshly with his staff. Florimell gets up, unsure whether she can trust Proteus, but his soothing voice comforts her. He takes Florimell away to his bower while tossing the lecherous old fisherman onto the shore.
Proteus is another complicated figure in the poem who is neither fully good nor fully bad. Here, he seems to be heroic, rushing to Florimell’s aid just as a brave knight would, but the next section immediately undercuts that image.
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Proteus tries to entertain and woo Florimell, even transforming himself into a faerie knight because he believes that’s what she likes. When this doesn’t work, Proteus begins transforming into more dreadful things, like a giant or a centaur, in order to threaten her, then locks her in his dungeon.
Though Proteus seemed heroic at first, he eventually reveals his true nature as someone who lusts for Florimell just as much as the old fisherman.
Themes
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The narrator regrets that it’s time to turn away from Florimell back to the adventures of Sir Satyrane. Having recently finished talking with the Squire of Dames, he sees a knight riding towards him that he recognizes as Paridell, based on the colors of his crest. Paridell tells of the ruin of Marinell and of the sudden departure of Florimell, whom all the knights in court are searching for.
The structure of the poem often builds suspense by leaving an unresolved plot thread in order to check in on a different part of the story. This brief section helps to catch Satyrane up on events happening elsewhere.
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Sir Satyrane tells Paridell that he fears Florimell is dead (since he found her gold belt and since the monster ate her horse). Paridell is upset to hear this, although he remains determined to keep looking, despite the bad odds. The Squire of Dames, who is still nearby, notes that the sun is going down, so he suggests that they all find somewhere to stay. They make their way to a castle, but for some mysterious reason, the door won’t open to lodgers.
The golden belt suggests that even after her “death,” Florimell will leave something valuable behind. The belt symbolizes her chastity and particularly how chastity can be as valuable as gold.
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