The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
The time for Arthegall’s meeting with Grantorto draws near. As he’s traveling near the coast, he happens to find a boat in good working order. Arthegall, Talus, and Sir Sergis set sail, but as they go to land on the island where Eirena is being held, swarms of men on the shore try to prevent them from docking. Talus gets out of the boat and drives them away. The human knights get out of the boat, but again, they’re soon attacked by an army from Grantorto, who is expecting them. Talus kills so many of the attackers that Arthegall tells him to stop.
The swarms of men that Arthegall and Talus beat back once again reflect populism and its evil effects of turning peasants against just rulers. Even Arthegall, however, has some sympathy for these peasants, who are being misled by their leader, and that’s why this is a rare moment where he asks Talus to show some restraint with the killing.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Arthegall, Sir Sergis, and Talus draw near Grantorto and send out a message to say that Arthegall will challenge him in battle the next day. Eirena wakes up believing she will die that day, but she is relieved to see her champion Arthegall has arrived and is wearing full armor.
Once again, the knights adhere to a code of conduct, and Arthegall believes the best way to end Grantorto’s tyranny is to defeat him in the context of a formal duel that will pit their knightly skills against each other once and for all.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Grantorto makes his own appearance on the field, looking fearsome and deadly in his armor. Trumpets sound, and the battle begins. Grantorto strikes very quickly and powerfully, but Arthegall is prepared. Nevertheless, Grantorto’s iron ax wounds Arthegall, and Grantorto seems to go for a killing blow. Arthegall manages to block this mortal strike with his shield, and Grantorto’s ax gets stuck in Arthegall’s shield.
Grantorto is a strong opponent whose tyrannical rule represents a potent threat to justice. He nearly overcomes Arthegall, who is saved at the last moment by his shield—the same object that has saved many a heroic knight over the course of the story.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Grantorto tries to get his ax out of Arthegall’s shield but can’t. Using his blade Chrysaor, Arthegall hits Grantorto on the helmet, staggering him and knocking him to his knees, then he lops his head off. The people in the crowd shout for joy at being freed from Grantorto’s tyranny. Eirena is freed and restored to her rightful place on the throne. Arthegall stays for a while and tries to help establish justice in the kingdom.
Like Radigund, Grantorto is brought to his knees before behind beheaded. This is a humbling gesture that forces him to kneel to rightful authority, and it also recalls the execution of criminals. Eirena’s return to her rightful throne indicates that at last justice has triumphed over unjust rule.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
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Eventually, Arthegall leaves because he must return to Faerie Court. As he’s traveling back, he runs into two evil, ugly hags: Envy and Detraction. The two join forces against Arthegall, since they are angry at him for freeing Eirena (who was in their thrall while she was with Grantorto). They flank Arthegall on both sides and hurl some of the foulest insults at him that he’s ever heard. They even unleash a monster called the Blatant Beast, which has a hundred tongues. Arthegall, however, doesn’t send Talus to chastise the hags. He keeps heading back toward Faerie Court and doesn’t let anything distract him.
As with previous books in the poem such as Book I, Book V has an easy challenge after the climax that the hero overcomes with no problem. The weak challenges of Envy and Detraction show how futile it is to try to topple Eirena’s rightful rule, although the Blatant Beast will return as a more formidable foe in the next book.
Themes
Virtue, Allegory, and Symbolism Theme Icon
British Identity and Nationalism Theme Icon
Protestantism Theme Icon
Deception and Lies Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Quotes