The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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The Faerie Queene: Book V: Canto V Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Arthegall and Radigund each prepare for their upcoming fight. They walk out, trumpets sound, and a furious battle begins. Arthegall strikes her with his weapon as if he’s a blacksmith pounding an anvil, but she manages to wound his thigh. But just as she brags about causing this injury, Arthegall shatters her shield, then hits her on the head, knocking her helmet off.
Arthegall starts the fight strong, proving why he’s earned such a fearsome reputation as a knight (he was, after all, first introduced as the Savage Knight in Book IIII). The shattering of Radigund’s shield seems to indicate that victory for him may soon be in sight.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
When Arthegall sees Radigund’s face, he is temporarily enchanted by her beauty. But when she attacks, Arthegall soon snaps out of his daydream. He is defeated by Radigund and agrees to be her vassal. Her first act as victor is to hang Sir Turpine. She then leads Arthegall over to a chamber with many other defeated knights and sets him at the lowest position. They are all forced to dress like women and do household tasks.
The reveal of Radigund’s beauty offers a moment of reversal that strongly recalls the moment when Arthegall was paralyzed by the sight of Britomart without her helmet on. But unlike Britomart, who used her power over Arthegall judiciously, Radigund takes advantage of how her beauty stuns Arthegall and ultimately uses her beauty as a tool to defeat him.
Themes
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Arthegall spends a long time as the servant of Radigund. All the while, however, Radigund is secretly bothered by love for Arthegall. She calls her maiden Clarinda to ask her how she can free Arthegall from his servitude but still keep him loyal to her.
Radigund’s revenge on knights involves more than just killing them. Just as Arthegall sometimes gives symbolic punishments to suit his idea of justice (such as impaling Pollente’s head on a stake as a warning to others), here Radigund punishes Arthegall in symbolic ways that fit her own idea of justice.
Themes
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Clarinda goes to explain Radigund’s feelings to Arthegall. Arthegall explains that even if he wanted to, he doesn’t have the means to show favor to Radigund while he’s in captivity. As she’s talking, Clarinda makes the mistake of falling in love with Arthegall herself.
Clarinda’s disloyalty to her master Radigund reflects the corrupt lifestyle of these Amazon women, in contrast to more trustworthy relationships like the virtuous one between Arthur and his squire Timias.
Themes
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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Clarinda reports back to Radigund that Arthegall is obstinate and would rather die than love her. Radigund rages, then composes herself. She decides the best option is to increase Arthegall’s hardships, such as by slowly decreasing his rations of food.
Clarinda may claim to be in love with Arthegall, but her love only makes life crueler for him, showing how her particular version of love is corrupt at its core.
Themes
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Clarinda lies to Arthegall when she visits him, saying that she is asking Radigund to treat him better but she won’t listen. While Arthegall believes Clarinda’s lies and thinks she is advocating for him, he still remains faithful to Britomart, to Clarinda’s disappointment.
Arthegall has fallen far and been humbled, but even at his lowest point, he remains faithful to Britomart, showing the depth of his heroic character.
Themes
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon