Study Guide

Calidore in The Faerie Queene

By Edmund Spenser

Calidore

Be sure to mind your pleases and thank yous around this knight, because Calidore is the knight of courtesy. And while there's a lot more to courtesy than just good manners, being able to speak well and pleasantly to others is a particularly important skill in Book 6 since it both saves lives and forges friendships.

Calidore is the king of speaking courteously, even able to talk himself out of walking in on Calepine and Serena making love—talk about awkward. But Calidore isn't all talk, however, he packs a punch too when he defeats Maleffort and when he saves Pastorella from the brigands. His main quest is fittingly to defeat the Blatant Beast, who embodies slander, deceit, and a terrible way with words—pretty much everything Calidore isn't.

But we have to admit that Calidore most stands out amongst the protagonists in The Faerie Queene less for his action-packed heroism than for his questioning of the value of that heroism. He spends cantos 9, 10, and 11 with shepherds and shepherdesses seriously rethinking his chosen line of work and envying the relaxed and contemplative lifestyle that shepherds (supposedly) lead:

"That euen I which daily doe behold/ The glorie of the great, mongst whom I won… what happineesse ye hold/ In this small plot of your dominion… wish the heauens so much had graced mee." (VI.ix.28)

And while Calidore ultimately chooses to fulfill his duty and remain a knight, he offers one of the more seriously interrogations of knighthood and its downsides in the whole poem. Other than the non-stop, on-the-go, lifestyle filled with violence, Calidore also feels ambivalent about the role of court (same root as courtesy!) in the life of the knight and the requirement of a knight to say the right things and make friends with the right people—courtly politics, you might say.

In questioning the value of this aspect of knighthood, Calidore is questioning the dark side of the very virtue he embodies, courtesy. While courtesy is good, it can easily morph into flattery, false complements, and generally being "fake." Amongst the shepherds, Calidore appreciates their more simple and plain way of living. Even when Calidore does return to the world of knighthood, the fact that he marries Pastorella, a partial embodiment of this pastoral way of living, suggests that he never truly loses touch with values he learned there and with the critiques he expressed.