Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 3, Canto 6

By Edmund Spenser

Book 3, Canto 6

  • You might wonder how Belphoebe could be both courteous and chaste considering she grew up in the forest nowhere near the refined education available at court.
  • But, our narrator tells us that she had these qualities innately within her because she was infused with grace and loveliness from Nature herself.
  • Do not take this as a free pass to go camping forever, Shmoopers. It only works if your mom is a fairy.
  • Belphoebe's mother was a fairy named Chrysogonee, who had Belphoebe and her twin sister, Amoretta.
  • Chrysogonee conceived Belphoebe and Amoretta in an unusual way.
  • After taking a bath, she lay down for a nap and became pregnant through the sun's beams shinning down on her.
  • The narrator reminds us not to be too skeptical, since the ability of the Nile river to overflow and produce life shows just how powerful natural forces, especially the Sun, can be.
  • Chrysogonee, concerned about what had just happened to her, fled into the forest to have children.
  • Meanwhile, the goddess Venus was roaming about looking for her son, Cupid, who had run away.
  • She looks in the courts, in the cities, and then in the country but having no luck, she decides to look even more thoroughly in the forest, particularly where the goddess Diana and her posse hang out.
  • When she finds Diana she asks if they've seen her son, Cupid, and Diana is at first scornful of Venus and makes fun of her request, insisting that she doesn't know where Cupid is since she doesn't even like him.
  • This upsets Venus, and Diana begins to feel bad, and finally has her handmaidens go off to look for him.
  • As they're looking, they come across Chrysogonee, who has just given birth to the twins in her sleep.
  • The handmaidens decide to take the twins and one is given to Diana to raise (Belphoebe) and other is given to Venus to raise (Amoret).
  • Venus raises Amoret in a lovely, paradise called the Garden of Adonis, which is filled with the most beautiful flowers and plants and where human beings both begin and end their life.
  • Some stay there one thousand years before being returned to Earth in new bodies, in what is kind of like a process of reincarnation.
  • This garden requires no gardener for things to flourish and every kind of animal is present there, and is transferred down to Earth if it needs to be replenished.
  • All matter begins in the garden and, from there, transforms into many different shapes.
  • The only bad thing in this garden is Time, who comes around once in a while while and ends the life of various living creatures.
  • With the exception of Time, however, this garden is pretty much the best place ever since it's always spring.
  • Right in the middle of the garden is a secret bower—but made by nature, not by art a la the Bower of Bliss—and there lies Venus' lover, Adonis, who she keeps hidden from the world and all to herself.
  • Even though Adonis is technically a mortal, his presence in the garden has made him capable of constantly adapting. He's therefore pretty much immortal.
  • So he's able to enjoy relaxing in this garden with Venus without having to worry about death. It's a pretty sweet gig.
  • And after Cupid finishes bothering people down on Earth, he comes home to the Garden to hang out with Adonis and with his wife, Psyche.
  • Cupid and Psyche also have a child named Pleasure.
  • Anyway, it's to this pretty amazing garden that Venus has brought Amoret, whom she raises alongside Pleasure.
  • Amoret grows up to be the perfect embodiment of womanhood (beautiful, charming, etc.) and ends up at the court of the Faerie Queene where she falls in love with Sir Scudamore and, for his sake, endures some pretty bad stuff. Stay tuned for that whole drama.
  • But, our narrator imagines that we're pretty ready to go back to Florimell and find out what happened to her.