Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 5, Canto 1

By Edmund Spenser

Book 5, Canto 1

  • So, back when everything was sooo much better, justice prevailed through the hard work of heroes.
  • Artegall is one of these heroes, and he's been called on by the Faerie Queene to help a lady named Eirena free her land from the cruel power of a tyrant called Grantorto.
  • Artegall is the perfect champion for this quest since he's been educated from a young age in the ways of justice.
  • When he was just a child, Astrea, the daughter of Jupiter and Themis, saw how fair Artegall played and took him with her and taught him all about distinguishing between right and wrong.
  • She even had him practice making just pronouncements on animals.
  • Once Artegall grew up and became renowned for his just ways, Astrea gave him a mighty sword called Chrysaor.
  • When the world begins to go down hill, Astrea decides to leaves and head to heaven since she has no interest in remaining amongst such corruption.
  • But before she goes, she leaves Artegall with a robot sidekick named Talus, who is in charge of executing just pronouncements and carries a menacing scythe-type weapon called a flale.
  • So Artegall and Talus head out with Eirena to deal with the tyrant Grantorto.
  • Along they way, they come across a sad sight: a squire weeping over the headless body of a lady.
  • Artegall demands to know what has happened, and the tearful squire replies that he and another lady were riding together when they came across a knight with this lady here.
  • The knight for some reason wanted to trade ladies, and when the squire refused, the knight seized the squire's lady and left his.
  • But the knight's lady didn't want to be left and ran after the knight begging him to take her.
  • Instead, he cut off her head and rode off.
  • Artegall asks to know which direction the knight went and how he would recognize him and the squire responds by showing him the way and saying he carries a shield with a broken sword and bloody field on the front.
  • Artegall immediately sends Talus after him, who finds the knight quickly, knocks him out, and brings him, and the lady, to Artegall.
  • The knight, named Sanglier, claims that the squire was the one who killed the lady, but Artegall doesn't believe him.
  • So, Artegall sets himself as arbiter of the situation and says that since both men claim the living lady, he'll just cut her in half and they each take part.
  • Sanglier is fine with this plan, but the squire is horrified and says he'd rather have Sanglier take her than have any harm come to her.
  • Shades of King Solomon, everybody.
  • This proves that the squire is the one with the real right to the lady, and so Sanglier is punished by having to carry the head of the lady he killed with him everywhere.
  • The squire is thankful to Artegall, and asks to be his squire, but Artegall declines and they part ways.