Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Love

By Edmund Spenser

Love

Love of your selfe [Redcrosse], [the False Una] said, and deare constraint/ Lets me not sleepe, but waste with wearie night/ In secret anguish… (I.i.53)

The False Una knows exactly what to say in order to sound like she's tortured by love for Redcrosse. Characters articulate very similar sentiments throughout the poem.

That ydle name of love, and lovers life,/ As losse of time, and vertues enemy/ I ever scorned… (I.ix.10)

How naïve young Arthur sounds! He actually seems to believe that he can live a life without love in the world of The Faerie Queene. Think again, Arthur, think again.

These two gay knights [Huddibras and Sansloy], vowd to so diuerse loues,/ Each other does enuie with deadly hate,/ And dayly warre against his foeman moues. (II.ii.19)

Love and harmony rarely actually go together in Faerie Land, as these two knights make very clear. Can love produce hate?

[Verdant's] warlike armes, the idle instruments/ Of sleeping praise, were hong ypon a tree,… Ne for them, ne for honour cared hee… But in lewd loues, and wastfull luxuree,/ His dayes, his goods, his bodie he did spend. (II.xii.80)

Verdant, under the curse of Acrasia in the Bower of Bliss, shows us that while the right kind of love is fundamental to a knight's identity, the wrong kind of love totally completely incompatible.

Euen the famous Britomart it was,/ Whom straunge aduenture did from Britaine fet,/ To seeke her louer (loue farre sought alas,)/ Whose image she had seene in Venus looking glas. (III.i.8)

Although romantic love is important to all the knights we meet—except for Guyon—Britomart is the first to be introduced to us primarily through her quest to find her love.

And [Amoret] before the vile Enchaunter [Busirane] sate,/ Figuring straunge characters of his art… And all perforce to make her him to loue./ Ah who can loue the worker of her smart?/ A thousand charmes he formerly did proue;/ Yet thousand charmes could not her stedfast heart remoue. (III.xii.31)

Even though Busirane has literally removed Amoret's heart from her body, his inability to make her actually love him through magic, as opposed to genuine affection, means her metaphorical "heart" remains untouched.

Lightly [Scudamore] clipt her twixt his armes twaine,/ And streightly did embrace her body bright,/ Her body, late the prison of sad paine,/ Now the sweet lodge of loue and deare delight:/ But she faire Lady ouercommen quight/ Of huge affection, did in pleasure melt,/ And in sweete rauishment pourd out her spright… (III.xii.45 1590)

This astonishing passage from the 1590 edition of the Faerie Queene completely distinguishes the physical love between Amoret and Scudamore from the physical attempts by Busirane to force Amoret to love him.

Such ones ill iudge of loue, that cannot loue,/ Ne in their frosen hearts feele kindly flame:/ For thy, they ought not thing vnknowne reproue,/ Ne naturall affection faultlesse blame. (IV.proem.2)

Introducing Book IV, Spenser comes right out with it and suggests that his poem isn't just about love but is a defense of love.

What vertue is so fitting for a knight,/ Or for a Ladie, whom a knight should loue,/ As Curtesie, to beare themselues aright/ To all of each degree, as doth behoue? (IV.ii.1)

If you want to be a lover in Faerie Land, courtesy is clearly a necessary skill. Any guesses on why?

Who now does follow the foule Blatant Beast,/ Whilest Calidore does follow that faire Mayd… now entrapt of loue, which him betrayd,/ He mindeth more, how he may be relieue/ With grace from her, whose loue his heart hath sore engrieued. (VI.x.1)

While love may be a primary part of being a knight, sometimes it gets in the way of other knightly duties… like saving the world.