The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The narrator laments the existence of foul Jealousy and praises instead the chaste love of Britomart. Shortly after leaving Malbecco’s castle, she and Sir Satyrane start chasing Ollyphant (the even more greedy and lusty brother of the evil giantess Argante).
Jealousy is a corruption of love, and so it represents the opposite of the chaste love for her future husband that Britomart embodies.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Ollyphant doesn’t fear Sir Satyrane—it’s Britomart’s chastity that makes him run away. Britomart follows him into some woods. There they see a knight on the ground with his equipment scattered everywhere. The knight, whose name is Scudamore, tells her about Amoretta, his love who has been taken captive by an evil man named Busirane.
Amoretta was introduced earlier as the twin sister of the fair huntress Belphoebe. They were separated at birth, and Amoretta was raised by Venus. Amoretta seems to be a virtuous woman, and so her kidnapping by Busirane is the sort of situation that any true knight would help with.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Scudamore is so upset that he looks like he’s choking to death, so Britomart goes to comfort him. She pledges to help him against his foe and deliver Amoretta back to him. She tells Scudamore to get up and put his armor back on.
The theme of love as a physical disease continues. By telling Scudamore to put his armor back on, Britomart is telling him not to lose sight of the fact that he is a knight who is capable of taking action.
Themes
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British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Britomart and Scudamore make their way to a castle where great fire and stinking sulfur prevent them from going in the gate. Scudamore laments that there’s no way in, but Britomart just gets behind her shield and uses it to force her way through the flames. Scudamore tries to do something similar, but he gets scorched and is forced to turn back.
Britomart once again demonstrates that she is the strongest knight, even in the company of other strong knights, due to her steadfast faith (which is represented by the protection her shield gives her).
Themes
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British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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Inside the castle are portraits depicting many of Cupid’s great conquests (mainly lustful stories from Greek and Roman mythology). At the front of the hall is an altar where there’s a statue of blindfolded Cupid himself. Many people commit idolatry (the sin of worshipping something other than the Christian God, usually focused on an object or image) at this statue, asking for Cupid’s help.
Although the pagan goddess Venus is a generally positive figure in this ostensibly Christian story, Cupid’s role is more ambiguous, and he seems capable of causing both pure love and impure lust.
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
Britomart marvels at the castle interior, noting a door that has “Be bold” written over it. Inside are the broken weapons of powerful conquerors hanging on the walls. She notices other doors with “Be bold” written over them. Eventually, she comes to a room where the door reads “Be not too bold.” She waits there until evening, keeping her weapon ready.
The progression from “Be bold” to “Be not too bold” recalls the virtue of temperance that was so important in Book II of the poem. Here, Britomart exercises good judgment by doing as the signs say.
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