Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 3, Canto 11

By Edmund Spenser

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Book 3, Canto 11

  • Our narrator laments that jealousy exists in the world and wishes that everyone would just focus on love, just like Britomart does.
  • Speaking of Britomart, she and Satyrane come upon a young man fleeing from the giant Ollyphant, brother of Argante.
  • Just as Argante was filled with extreme feminine lust, her brother is filled with extreme manly brutishness.
  • Britomart and Satyrane decide to help the young man and begin chasing the giant, who runs very quickly away from them because his legs are super-long.
  • He's particularly afraid of Britomart, since she represents chastity, a virtue he can't be near.
  • Britomart follows Ollyphant into a forest and soon comes upon a man lying near a fountain with his armor strewn around him.
  • Britomart doesn't want to bother him, but hears him suddenly groan and then express anger with heaven for allowing his love, Amoret, to be captured by a wicked man named Busirane, who tortures Amoret by piercing her chest with a piece of steel since she won't love him.
  • After he says this, the man, whose name is Scudamore, becomes so distressed he seems to be near death, so Britomart rushes to him to comfort him.
  • He first mistakes her for a goddess, but she begins to speak to him, reminding him that virtue is still an effective fight against evil.
  • She then offers to help him. He responds despairingly that it's impossible, Busirane has his ladylove locked in a magic dungeon, tormenting her.
  • Britomart is even more moved to hear this and vows to save Amoret or die trying.
  • He's amazed at Britomart's goodness, but says that it would be better for both of them if he just died.
  • But Britomart won't take no for an answer and finally persuades him to get up, get dressed, and head out to look for Amoret.
  • Finally, they come to an unpleasant-looking castle with a sulphuric fire burning in front of it.
  • Britomart is discouraged, since she can't figure out a way to get past this fire.
  • Scudamore agrees and suggests again that they should just head back to the forest and complain some more.
  • Britomart, unsurprisingly, disagrees and thinks it would be shameful to just give up without trying a little bit harder.
  • So, she charges through the flame with her shield and passes safely.
  • Scudamore, amazed, wants to do the same and charges forward with less caution and care.
  • He, however, is unable to pass and begins complaining again that he isn't able to make it through.
  • But Britomart, who did pass through, heads into the castle and finds herself in a room covered in tapestries depicting scenes of rape in such vivid detail that they almost seem to be alive. Ugh.
  • Britomart spends a very long time looking at them, and we hear great detail about the stories they depict.
  • At the end of the room is an altar with a statue of Cupid blindfolded and under his feet is written "Unto the Victor of the Gods this be" (III.xi.49). We're told that people come to the alter and idolatrously worship this statue.
  • Above the door to the next room is written the words "Be Bold," and even though she has a lot of difficulty understanding what that means, she walks "boldly" though the door (III.ix.50).
  • The next room is even nicer than that room, since it's covered all in gold and carved with the shapes of monsters.
  • In it are displayed spoils from war: spears, shields, and swords.
  • Britomart is again amazed at what she sees and spends a long time contemplating it, as well as why she hasn't run into a single person yet.
  • She also notices that in this room too the works "Be Bold" are again written and she doesn't understand what it means.
  • Finally, coming to the door at the end of the room, she sees that above it is written the words "Be not too bold."
  • So Britomart waits there by that door not meeting anyone but also not comfortable enough to remove her armor lest danger strike.

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