Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 2, Canto 7

By Edmund Spenser

Book 2, Canto 7

  • Guyon, now traveling without the trusty Palmer after they were separated at the Idle Lake, finds himself in an empty wilderness with nobody else around.
  • Finally, he finds a dirty, greasy man, sitting in a cave wearing an iron jacket covered by a golden one and surrounded by piles and piles of gold.
  • As soon as he sees Guyon he immediately starts trying to hide his gold, but Guyon stops him and asks who he is and why he has all the gold.
  • The man responds that Guyon is foolish to come there since he is Mammon, the great god of riches and money. He controls the wealth that men fight over.
  • Mammon says, however, that if Guyon agrees to work for him, all this money and more can be his.
  • Guyon refuses, saying he's a knight and is interested in glory, not money.
  • But Mammon persists, reminding Guyon that wealth can be a way to attain glory.
  • But Guyon again refuses, listing the many evil things in the world for which money is responsible.
  • Mammon then asks Guyon why so many people care about money, and Guyon answers that it's because they lack temperance.
  • Guyon describes how back in the day people lived very happily without money and it's only a recent development that people obsess over wealth.
  • But Mammon points out that Guyon lives in this modern world, and money is a necessary evil. He tells Guyon that, in fact, he can just take a small amount of the gold, whatever he thinks he needs, and that's it.
  • But Guyon says he won't take anything unless he knows exactly where it's come from and that it's been fairly acquired.
  • Mammon tells him not to worry: his dealings and profits are hidden and have been completely under his control.
  • Guyon can't imagine how Mammon could hide so much wealth and so Mammon offers to show him.
  • So the two go deep, deep down into the cave until they arrive practically at the gates of the underworld, where terrible beings like Revenge and Pain stand guard.
  • Just before the gates of hell stands the House of Riches, guarded day and night by Care, who lets them both pass.
  • Inside the house is a fiend who watches Guyon, waiting for him to take something from the house, since it's against the laws of the underworld to take anything.
  • The house is cavernous and dark, and on the ceiling Arachne weaves a web.
  • Brain bite! Arachne is actually a famous figure from Classical mythology that gets turned into a spider by the goddess Athena. An association with the underworld, however, is Spenser's invention.
  • On the bright side the walls and floors are made entirely of gold, although it's a bit dusty.
  • Everywhere are huge, locked cases of treasure and on the floor skulls and bones of men are scattered.
  • Soon, they get to a massive iron door that opens up to reveals the most spectacular collection of riches Guyon has ever seen.
  • Mammon tells Guyon that here in this room is what everyone in the world dreams about, but Guyon says he has a different dream, of being a brave knight and going on worthy adventures.
  • Mammon is furious that Guyon hasn't given in to his temptations, so he decides to try another strategy by showing him the actual room, a kind of massive forge, where all the world's riches are created.
  • But nope, Guyon is not impressed.
  • Next, Mammon shows him the giant monster Disdain, who wields a massive club, and the two almost fight until Mammon pacifies them both.
  • They then enter the room of the giant, which is a huge temple filled with all kinds of people. There is a beautiful woman (though she's basically just wearing a ton of makeup) seated high above them in a throne looking incredibly regal.
  • This woman is Ambition, the daughter of Mammon, and she holds a great gold chain that everyone is trying to get ahold of so that they can rise up—it's a competitive business since everyone is also trying to make other people fall down.
  • Guyon asks Mammon who this person is and what she's doing. He tells Guyon, explaining that she is the source of all honor and dignity in the world. Um, really? Really, Mammon?
  • He explains that she used to be called Philotime, but she was thrown down into hell by the gods for being envious.
  • Anyway, Mammon thinks she would make a great wife for Guyon!
  • But, surprise surprise: Guyon is again not interested, protesting that he couldn't possibly marry an immortal goddess and that he is also in love with another woman.
  • Mammon is not a happy camper, but refrains from getting angry and instead leads Guyon to a garden filled with a rather depressing group of trees, which turns out to be the Garden of Persephone.
  • In the middle is growing an incredible huge tree with golden fruit hanging from it. These are not good apples: this is a famously bad tree in Classical mythology that appears in the myth of Hercules and the myth of Atalanta.
  • Guyon climbs the tree to get a better look at the underworld and sees all kinds of souls being tormented, including Tantalus and Pontius Pilate, notorious Roman judge who sentenced Jesus to death in the New Testament.
  • Guyon spends a long time looking at these unfortunate souls until Mammon slyly suggests that he might want to try one of those delicious looking apples hanging on the tree, and maybe even take a seat and relax—watching people being tortured is exhausting, amiright?
  • But, good ol' Guyon knows that is a terrible idea and instead says that it's time for him to head home.
  • Disappointed, Mammon leads him back to the upper world, and Guyon faints from exhaustion and hunger.