Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 3, Canto 5

By Edmund Spenser

Book 3, Canto 5

  • Our narrator observes how differently love affects different people: some it inspires to great deeds, others is makes lustful and base.
  • Arthur is in the first camp and is determined to find the mystery woman.
  • As he's looking, he comes across a dwarf who's running quickly and looking agitated.
  • Arthur finds out that the dwarf is looking for the lady he serves, who turns about to be the same woman Arthur is searching for. What luck, eh?
  • Arthur explains that he saved her from a forester but has not been able to find her.
  • He then asks the dwarf who she is and the dwarf answers that she is a beautiful virgin named Florimell.
  • She's in love with Marinell, but he won't return her love since he's been warned that a woman will be his downfall (remember Britomart's encounter with Marinell?)
  • However, she heard that Marinell was injured and has fled the Faerie Queene's court to find and help him.
  • Arthur and the dwarf then resolve to search for her together.
  • Arthur then realizes he's lost track of his squire, who has been chasing the forester that was chasing Florimell.
  • Timias, Arthur's squire, had done a number on the forester who went home to his brothers ashamed at what had happened and angry.
  • After telling his brothers how Timias had defeated him, the three brothers vowed to go after Timias and avenge their brother.
  • They lay in wait for Timias in the forest and as soon as they see him approach, the forester jumps our, challenges him, and shoots him with an arrow.
  • No luck, though, since Timias isn't injured and a violent battle ensues.
  • Timias attacks one brother, gets stabbed in the thigh, but eventually kills the brother.
  • Then, Timias attacks and kills the forester who chased Florimell and finally kills the last brother, who tried to flee after seeing both his brothers so easily killed.
  • But Timias' wound on his thigh is severe and after defeating the last brother, he falls down in a faint.
  • Luckily for Timias, Belphoebe, who has recently defeated Braggadochio, comes across the wounded Timias while she is chasing a wild beast.
  • Afraid at first that he might be dead, she realizes he's barely alive and rushes into the forest to seek herbs that might help him. She knows a lot about herbs because she was raised by nymphs.
  • She makes an herb-paste, applies it to his wound, wraps it in a scarf and in this way saves his life. Right on.
  • Timias awakes and thinks Belphoebe is an angel sent by God to help him.
  • Belphoebe explains that she's just a mortal worried about his recovery and soon her handmaidens, who were also hunting, come upon her and are amazed to see her tending Timias.
  • They find his horse and take him back with them to their house, which is cozy and simple and tucked in a lovely glade in the forest.
  • There, Belphoebe continues to tend Timias until he recovers, but in the meantime, poor Timias has fallen completely in love with Belphoebe.
  • He tries to talk himself out of it, worrying about his own lower status as well as not wanting to be disrespectful to her. In short, the poor guy's just generally a mess.
  • His love torments him so much that he begins to look ill again, which frightens Belphoebe who thinks his wound might have suddenly gotten worse.
  • She gives him more and more medicine but nothing helps him since his wound is of a different sort… it's in his heart.
  • Belphoebe is extremely protective of her virginity, and our narrator closes the canto by praising how well she cares for it and how wonderful that care makes her.
  • He especially praises her ability to be both chaste and courteous, a combination that, ironically, makes her that much more sexually appealing.