Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 3, Canto 4

By Edmund Spenser

Book 3, Canto 4

  • Our narrator laments that there are no more heroic women in the world for poets to write about and wonders why they all seem to be in the past.
  • But even those famous historical women can't compare to Britomart.
  • We're back in the present day now, with Britomart chilling with Redcrosse.
  • Now Britomart and Redcrosse had been enjoyably chatting for a while and became fast friends.
  • But soon, Redcrosse has to go on his own way to seek adventure while Britomart goes on her way, so the two parted on good terms.
  • As Britomart went along she kept thinking about Arthegall and the more she thought about him, the worse her pain from love grew.
  • Finally, she decided to take a break and, stopping by a cliff near the sea, began to lament.
  • She sees herself and her own trouble reflected in the violence of the waves and asks the god of the sea to bring calmer winds her way.
  • She felt deeply sad until her nurse comforts her, reminding her of Merlin's prophecy.
  • Soon, she sees a knight riding toward her fast and so she puts on her helmet and prepares to charge him.
  • The knight warns her to get out of his way or else she'll suffer death like others who haven't listened.
  • Britomart doesn't care and tells him he should be warned and then goes ahead and charges him.
  • She wounds the knight (who we learn is named Marinell) badly in the side and then leaves him on the beach, ignoring the sparkling jewels lying all over the shore.
  • However, Marinell's mother Cymoent hears of her son's plight.
  • Cymoent is a nymph who raised Marinell, whose father is named Dumarin, with her by the sea and he challenged anyone who came to that strand of beach to duel with him.
  • No one has yet defeated him and he's feared throughout Faerie Land and was given great wealth by his grandfather, a sea-god. Hence all the precious jewels scattered on the shore, which is called the Rich Strond.
  • Concerned that her son's belligerent attitude will get him killed, she goes to Proteus, who can tell the future.
  • He tells her that she needs to keep him away from women since a strange virgin will grievously harm him or even kill him.
  • Even though it was hard for him (and for some ladies), Marinell steers clear of women.
  • But, naturally, he isn't actually able to escape his fate since neither he nor his mother was on the lookout for a lady-knight.
  • So when Cymoent hears this news she suspects what has happened and faints in horror.
  • Her sisters soon revive her and she speeds over to Marinell with the help of Neptune, god of the sea, who pities her.
  • She comes to the shore and seeing her son lying looking dead she becomes very sad, mourning his wasted potential and Proteus' false prophesies.
  • Finally, as they begin to clean the body, another water nymph named Liagore realizes he still has a pulse, relieving Cymoent immensely.
  • She takes him home and curses whoever injured him.
  • But Britomart seems unaffected by these curses and is riding along as well as can be.
  • Soon, however, our old friend Archimago sees her and chases after her; he's just left off following Guyon and Arthur who are busy pursuing the beautiful woman they saw fleeing in the forest (III.i.15-18).
  • This mysterious woman is too fast for them, however, and they soon split up to cover more ground.
  • Timias, Arthur's squire, is the only one left going after the man that was chasing the woman in the first place.
  • So, with the three men going the separate ways, it ends up falling to Arthur to actually find the path she takes.
  • Even though, as he speeds up to catch her, he keep assuring her he means no harm, the woman continues to flee from him at top speed.
  • Soon, it's nighttime and Arthur becomes discouraged that he still hasn't been able to catch up to her.
  • When he loses all sign of her, he decides to stop and sleep, but gets little rest and has uneasy dreams in which he wishes the Faerie Queene were that lady he was chasing.
  • He then blames Night, who he calls a "nourse of woe" (III.iv.55) and wonders why God even needed Night to exist, since it brings nothing good.
  • He wishes daytime would come soon and when it finally does arrive, Arthur sets off looking tired and feeling sluggish.