Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 2, Canto 8

By Edmund Spenser

Book 2, Canto 8

  • Our narrator wonders whether heaven really does care at all about human life... but don't worry, he quickly realizes that heaven definitely does.
  • Specifically: angels. Angels spend all their time coming down to earth and Faerie Land to make sure things are A-okay.
  • Now, while Guyon was down with Mammon, the Palmer had been looking all over for him. Now, all of a sudden, he hears a voice calling for him to come over quickly.
  • The Palmer follows the voice and is amazed to find Guyon, in a faint, with a strange (but lovely and sweet) young man beside him.
  • The man speaks to the Palmer and tells him that he has been sent by God to tell the Palmer that he must watch over and protect Guyon, no matter what, and make sure he heals quickly.
  • After he says this, a pair of wings appear and he's gone before the Palmer can reply.
  • The Palmer is stunned for a few moments but then immediately checks to see if Guyon has a pulse.
  • Luckily, he does. Unluckily, the Palmer sees Pyrocles, Cymochles, Atin, and Archimago coming in the distance.
  • As soon as Pyrocles spots them, he assumes Guyon is dead, and mocks the Palmer for protecting his dead body.
  • The Palmer replies that it's against the rules of knighthood to defile a corpse, especially the corpse of such an impressive knight.
  • Cymochles points out that he clearly wasn't that impressive if he's dead. Foolproof logic?
  • Pyrocles then gets upset, since he was looking forward to killing Guyon. To make himself feel better, he decides to just take all of Guyon's armor.
  • The Palmer pleads with them again, saying that taking people's armor is against the rules of knighthood. No shocker: they don't care and continue with their armor-removal.
  • All of a sudden, however, another illustrious knight appears with his squire and the Palmer informs Pyrocles and Cymochles that they better get ready to fight, because the knight is Arthur. Dum dum dum.
  • They start to get ready for battle, when Pyrocles realizes he is without a sword.
  • Archimago, as it turns out, has a sword, but he explains to Pyrocles that he can't lend it to him because the sword is actually Arthur's, crafted by the wizard Merlin, and has such powerful magic that it cannot be used against its rightful owner.
  • Pyrocles doesn't care and he's sure that he can still do some damage with it, so he takes it from Archimago.
  • Arthur approaches and greets the two knights, who simply growl back, and then, seeing Guyon on the ground, Arthur asks the Palmer what has happened.
  • The Palmer replies that Guyon has died and that these two knights were going to defile his corpse.
  • Arthur agrees that that would be an outrageous thing to do and asks the two knights to pardon Guyon and leave him alone.
  • Cymochles refuses and Arthur again asks them to reconsider, saying that doing such a thing would bring dishonor to both of them.
  • Pyrocles now responds, again refuses, and charges at Arthur with Arthur's sword.
  • The sword does indeed save Arthur from being killed, but still deals him a startling blow.
  • This very much angers Arthur, and he severely wounds Pyrocles.
  • Cymochles then in response hits Arthur so hard he falls off his horse.
  • Even though Arthur is now at a serious disadvantage, he holds off both Pyrocles and Cymochles until, seeing an advantage, stabs Cymochles in the thigh.
  • Pyrocles is now even angrier and rushes with great force toward Arthur and breaks his sword in two and stabs him in the side.
  • Though wounded, Arthur stands his ground and the Palmer rushes to him giving him Guyon's sword.
  • His confidence returned, Arthur begins to fight more fiercely than before, even though he is caught off guard by the fact that Pyrocles is using Guyon's shield, which has the Faerie Queene's face painted on it, and which makes Arthur not want to strike it.
  • Nonetheless, when Cymochles rushes at Arthur, Arthur stabs him in the head and kills him.
  • Pyrocles is appalled and rushes at Arthur too, only to find himself forced to the ground.
  • Arthur, however, offers him mercy but Pyrocles refuses it and so Arthur cuts off his head.
  • At this, Guyon finally wakes up and is at first alarmed to see he has neither sword nor shield.
  • But as soon as he sees the Palmer, and hears about what happened, he's very relieved and runs to Arthur to thank him and to pledge his loyalty to him.
  • Arthur says that isn't necessary, since all knights should be bound by an oath of loyalty.
  • While all this has been going on, Archimago and Atin have fled.