The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The narrator summarizes how Britomart saved Amoretta from Busirane and brought her back to Scudamore, adding some new details to the story. For example, on the way back from the castle, a knight saw Britomart and Amoretta riding together, and the knight made a challenge to try to claim Amoretta for himself.
There was a long gap between the publication of Books I through III and Books IIII through VI, and so the recap here is particularly useful in establishing where the story will pick up.
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Quotes
While fighting, Britomart easily knocks the other knight off his horse. The knight is disappointed at first, but his disappointment becomes amazement when Britomart takes off her helm and reveals that she is a woman. Amoretta is also surprised and relieved because she wants to stay loyal to Scudamore even though Britomart has rightfully “won” her.
Until this moment, Amoretta likely assumed that she would have to become the lover of the knight that rescued her. Particularly for a modern reader, this suggests a darker underside to the supposedly heroic code of chivalry.
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Happy to be saved by Britomart, that night Amoretta sleeps in the same bed with her. In the morning, they head out and come across two knights, each riding side-by-side with a lady. As it turns out, however, one of the ladies is false Duessa (the sorceress who appeared in previous books) and the other is Ate, who is known as the mother of all debate and disagreement.
The relationship between Britomart and Amoretta could be read as sexual, although this would potentially be out of character for someone as chastity-obsessed as Britomart. At the very least, it seems to be a parody of the typical relationship between a knight and a lady. Despite being defeated in the past, Duessa seems to show little desire to give up her trickster ways.
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Ate has been a powerful force throughout history, leading to the downfall of everyone from the old Babylonian kings to Alexander the Great. Her face is ugly and she has a forked tongue that represents her lies because it goes in two different directions. She both speaks and hears in double. Her ultimate goal is to overthrow Concord, and along the way, she has been helping Duessa to hurt good knights.
Ate looks like a snake, something she shares with the female monster Error. She also has a lot in common with the hag Occasion, who also led knights to start fights. Ate’s goal is even loftier than that of any previous characters—by overthrowing Concord, she wants everyone to be fighting all the time.
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The knight with Ate is Blandamour, who is fickle and unreliable. The other knight, with Duessa, is Paridell (who carried off and then unceremoniously abandoned Hellenore in the previous book). Britomart, however, doesn’t know about Paridell’s falseness, so she greets him when they approach.
Just as virtuous knights like the Redcross Knight and Prince Arthur bonded over virtue, it seems here that unjust knights also stick together. In this case, what unites Blandamour with Paridell is their common fickleness.
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Paridell and Blandamour are both enchanted by Amoretta, but soon Scudamore comes riding onto the scene. Paridell challenges Scudamore but gets knocked to the ground and badly injured. Blandamour promises revenge on Scudamore.
Because Paridell and Blandamour are so fickle, they fall in love with Amoretta as soon as they see her. Arguably, something similar happened for Scudamore, but the difference is he’s been faithful, while they fall in love with each new woman they see.
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Just then Duessa intervenes and tells the knights they have no reason to be angry at each other. She says that love must be freely given and not forced through mastery or domination. Ate, however, laughs at all the knights, saying that while they’re all arguing over Amoretta, she is faithless and already loves someone else.
Although Duessa and Ate might seem to be making different arguments, in fact, they are both working together to say what they think will start an argument between the knights.
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Scudamore accuses Ate of lying. Duessa, however, says that she did in fact see Amoretta kissing another knight. Although Duessa is lying, she succeeds in riling up Scudamore’s anger against Britomart. Glauce (Britomart’s nurse who is acting as her squire) tries to calm Scudamore down, but he responds by attacking her and nearly slaying her. He rages at Britomart for making Amoretta unfaithful. He brings his hand back to strike Britomart and only stops at the last moment.
Scudamore’s love for Amoretta is pure, but Duessa and Ate find a way to use it against him, by weaponizing his love to make him suspicious of Britomart. His love is so strong that it leads him to hurt the innocent Glauce, although he does eventually come to his senses.
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