The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The narrator laments how Cupid’s arrows can bring down even the greatest: it happened to Florimell, it happened to Britomart, and now it’s about to happen to Amoretta. After leaving the tournament, Britomart and Amoretta are traveling through the woods when, all of a sudden, Amoretta finds herself snatched up off the ground.
Arrows can literally bring a person down, and so Cupid’s arrows follow the pattern of treating love as something physical, personifying love (or perhaps sometimes lust) as a force strong enough to cut people down.
Themes
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Amoretta’s captor is a wild-looking “savage” man with hair everywhere and huge teeth who is known only as the carle (similar to churl, a rude person). He wears nothing except a green loincloth as he carries her through the forest. Suddenly he drops her off in a very dark part of the forest. Amoretta isn’t sure whether she’s even still alive, but then she hears someone else crying.
The description of the carle here is based on the era’s racist stereotypes of people who lived outside of Europe. The character, who doesn’t even have a name, lacks any sort of connection to noble blood, and so this means he is one of the least moral characters in the story.
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The other captive cries that she has been imprisoned by an evil carle who deflowers chaste women, then eats them—the captive has already seen it happen seven times. She is the daughter of a high lord who fell in love with a squire who was of a lower status. One day, she went to meet the squire but instead found the carle, who tied her up and took her away. She reveals that her name is Aemylia.
The sexual hunger of the carle once again reflects stereotypes common in Spenser’s Britain about “savages” who lived outside it. Perhaps the carle’s cannibalism is also a parody of Catholics, who were sometimes criticized as “cannibals” by Protestants (due to different beliefs about the Eucharist, where Catholics believe that the bread literally becomes the body of Christ, while Protestants believe the bread is symbolic). 
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Amoretta pities Aemylia but asks how she’s been able to hold on to her own honor for so long. Aemylia says there is an older woman who volunteers herself to be ravaged by the carle whenever he’s feeling lustful in order to protect Aemylia.
This section establishes what a dangerous situation Amoretta has found herself in and builds up tension for the next parts.
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Soon, the carle comes back, and Amoretta decides she’s going to run. She flees through the forest with the carle chasing her. As it turns out, she’s in the same forest where Belphoebe was being chased by Timias (Arthur’s squire) earlier. Just as Amoretta is overtaken by the carle, Timias sees them and intervenes.
Amoretta’s choice to flee is one of the more active decisions made by a damsel character in the story, perhaps motivated by the extreme danger she’s in. Although as this section shows, she will also need some help being rescued.
Themes
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Timias and the carle fight, with the “savage” man using his club and even using Amoretta as a human shield. But Timias manages to injure the man, and he throws Amoretta down. While the battle is going on, Belphoebe hears it and heads toward it, readying her bow.
The carle uses dirty tactics, even less honorable than what bad knights use, firmly establishing him as one of the evilest characters in the story.
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The carle believes Belphoebe will be the cause of his death, so he flees back to his den. Belphoebe chases after him, then shoots an arrow through his neck that kills him. She frees his prisoners from the den and heads back to Amoretta and Timias. When she gets back, she finds Timias kissing Amoretta and tending to her wounds. She scolds Timias for being unfaithful to her, then leaves.
Belphoebe’s own chastity makes her a fitting figure to slay the lustful carle. It isn’t clear if she knows that Amoretta is her twin sister (since they were separated at birth when Diana and Venus each took one of them to adopt).
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Timias tries to follow after Belphoebe, but she threatens him with arrows. He retreats to a solitary place and decides to break all of the weapons he’s carrying with him. He grows out his hair and only eats forest berries and drinks running water.
Timias is generally a virtuous figure, but he lacks the experience of a true knight like Arthur, and this is what allows him to be tempted from loyalty to Belphoebe.
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One day, Prince Arthur happens to come by seeking adventure, having heard of a hermit that lives in a cabin in the woods. He goes to the cabin and finds a wretched-looking man who doesn’t speak, so Arthur doesn’t recognize him as Timias. Arthur thinks he can see signs of a great man underneath the rude exterior. He looks around and sees that every tree in the area has Belphoebe engraved into it. Arthur leaves, hoping that one day the hermit man will be restored to his former grace.
Unlike evil characters in the story, however, Timias recognizes when he does something wrong and spends a lot of time doing penance. The extent of Timias’s penance—living as a hermit in the woods for such a long period of time—may seem excessive, but it fits with the pattern of knights always trying to outdo each other, whether in tournaments of combat or in loyalty to their ladies.
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