The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene

by

Edmund Spenser

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

Summary
Analysis
Having rescued Pastorella, Sir Calidore decides to return to his original quest of pursuing the Blatant Beast. First, though, he stops with Pastorella at a castle called Belgrade, which belongs to Sir Bellamoure. Bellamoure is devoted to his lady Claribell, who disobeyed her rich father’s wishes by choosing Bellamoure.
Pastorella is a pure and virtuous character, yet she also belongs to a different world than Sir Calidore (a knight who is known for traveling alone). The beginning of this canto finds an unusual way to wrap up these contradictions.
Themes
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Deception and Lies Theme Icon
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The Role of Women Theme Icon
Sir Bellamoure and Claribell had a daughter together, but Claribell’s father took the baby and abandoned her (although the child was later found by a handmaiden). The father threw Claribell and Bellamoure in the dungeon, but after he died, they regained their freedom and lived in harmony. Sir Calidore and Pastorella get along well with Bellamoure and Claribell, so Calidore leaves Pastorella with them when he goes to find the Blatant Beast.
Sir Bellamoure and Claribell are minor characters, but they also have surprising significance that gets explained in the next section. For now, they are simply a means for Sir Calidore to continue on his journey without Pastorella, while also making sure that she will be adequately cared for.
Themes
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Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Pastorella misses Calidore after he leaves. While he’s off on adventures, she remains at the castle, where she gets to know the handmaiden who rescued Claribell’s abandoned daughter. One day, the handmaiden realizes that Pastorella has a birth mark just like the one that Claribell’s daughter used to have. This means Pastorella is Claribell’s daughter, and the two of them have finally been reunited without even realizing it at first.
This lost child story gives Pastorella’s story a joyful ending while at the same time giving her a reason to leave Calidore so he can finally complete his quest. One important function of knights was protecting or restoring the status quo, and here Pastorella is restored to her rightful family.
Themes
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Deception and Lies Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
The Role of Women Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Calidore crosses the land in search of the Blatant Beast. The beast also roams, robbing churches and other holy sites, and also fleeing when it sees Calidore. Eventually, Calidore manages to corner the monster and starts attacking.
The Blatant Beast, which ruins the reputations of good knights and ladies, also shows no respect for religious institutions.
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The Blatant Beast has a frightening mouth full of all kinds of tongues, some of dogs, cats, bears, or tigers, but mostly tongues of men. It also has poisonous serpent tongues. Sir Calidore isn’t afraid, however, and he uses his shield to pin the monster down. The beast rages and tries to get free, becoming stronger as it struggles. But Calidore manages to restrain it with an iron muzzle.
The poison on the Blatant Beast’s tongues shows how dangerous words can be. The beast combines human features with animal features, perhaps to suggest how human slander and lies are so harmful that they take on animal-like power. With so many tongues, the Blatant Beast’s source of power is its mouth, and so Sir Calidore is able to humble the fearsome creature by putting a muzzle on it.
Themes
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Deception and Lies Theme Icon
With its muzzle on, the Blatant Beast loses its power and follows Sir Calidore around like a cowardly dog. Calidore takes the beast across the land to display it, and people everywhere marvel at how obedient the fearsome creature has become.
The humbling of the Blatant Beast symbolizes how many people with big mouths become less powerful when you take the power of speech away from them. With his overpowering courtesy, Calidore has forced the rude beast to give up its lies and false statements.
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Eventually, through bad fortune, the Blatant Beast breaks out of its chains and begins running around spreading slander about good knights. He gets so powerful that no one can ever chain him up again. The narrator says that even his own poem isn’t free from venomous words, but he hopes that the reader will value his rhymes regardless.
Somewhat surprisingly, the evil Blatant Beast eventually manages to break out of the muzzle. Given the narrator’s statements at the end, this might be a veiled way for Spenser to complain about people who say bad things about his own poetry, who attack him just as the Blatant Beast attacks people with its poison tongue. It might seem unusual for a poem about good triumphing over evil to end with an evil beast roaming free, but part of the issue could have been that Spenser planned to write six more books of the poem, only to die before finishing them. The survival of the Blatant Beast could have also been a way for Spenser to criticize his own critics.
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