Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 5, Canto 2

By Edmund Spenser

Book 5, Canto 2

  • Nothing is more important to a knight than the chance to help the weak, and Artegall is a knight who is particularly good at this.
  • As he's going along, Artegall comes across a dwarf hurrying and Artegall stops him to ask for news.
  • The dwarf turns out to be named Dony and is the dwarf of Florimell. He has been looking for her for a long time.
  • The dwarf tells Artegall that Florimell has finally been found and going to marry Marinell.
  • Artegall is happy to hear this and asks when the wedding will be since he'd like to attend.
  • The dwarf says it will be in three days, and he's on his way there himself, but is having difficulty getting there since a Saracen is guarding a bridge and kills anyone who tries to pass.
  • The dwarf explains that he is a powerful knight made even more powerful by the magic of his daughter.
  • His name is Pollente, and he accumulates power by intimidation and violence, killing many knights on this bridge, or sending them tumbling to their deaths, and then stealing all their possessions.
  • His daughter's name is Munera, and she is very beautiful and has golden hands and silver feet.
  • After hearing all this, Artegall is determined to face that knight and they all head to the bridge.
  • As they approach the bridge and Pollente, a man comes up to them demanding that they pay a toll. Artegall kills him.
  • Artegall and Pollente then charge at one another, and Pollente opens the trap door into the river, which Artegall sees and so they both fall into the river below together, continuing to fight.
  • They fight for a long time, pulled by the course of the river, until finally Artegall gains the upper hand and cuts off Pollente's head. He displays it on a pole as a warning to others.
  • Then they head to the castle where his daughter Munera lives and since it's heavily guarded, Artegall sends in Talus, who begins to break down its fortifications with his weapon.
  • When Munera sees this, she tries to stop him with stones, spells, and even tempts him with money, but nothing works.
  • Finally, he breaks down the castle door and they storm in and, after looking for a while, finds Munera hiding.
  • Although she begs for mercy, and Artegall feels a little sorry for her, Talus doesn't care and chops off her golden hands and silver feet.
  • He then takes her and drowns her in a muddy river, burns all of her stolen goods, and knocks down her castle. Dang.
  • Having erased any sign that the castle was ever there, and returned the bridge to its normal function, they go on their way.
  • Soon they come to the sea and near it see a great crowd of people gathered in front of a giant.
  • The giant holds a scale in his hand and claims that he's going to redistribute the natural resources of the world so that land, sea, air, and earth all have an equal share.
  • Many "vulgar" people flock to his teachings hoping that his message of equality will help them out.
  • Artegall hears what the giant is saying and is upset at how he is misleading the people.
  • He therefore jumps in and says that while equality might sound like a nice idea, it's actually terrible since everything naturally has a certain position to hold and a certain role to play.
  • But the giant replies that he's crazy and that it's clear that the sea is bothering the land and the mountains are too heavy—he's going to fix everything by making it all level.
  • But Artegall responds that he is judging things with his eyes and he doesn't see how everything is organized.
  • Moreover, God is responsible for the ways things are and must have a plan, even if we can't immediately see it or understand it.
  • The measurements of nature are outside of our knowledge.
  • The giant is displeased to hear all of this and challenges Artegall to weigh right and wrong in his scales.
  • But when the words are placed to be weighed, they fly out, and the giant claims that words are problematically light.
  • The giant wants to try again, but every method he tries to weigh right and wrong fails since they can't actually be weighed against each other since right has nothing at all to do with wrong.
  • Finally, Artegall counsels the giant to try weighing similar things against one another so as to understand which is worse, and sure enough, this experiment is successful.
  • But the giant isn't interested in such subtle judgments, and would rather deal only in extremes.
  • When Talus realized this, he knocks the giant into the ocean where he drowns and his body is shattered on sharp rocks.
  • After the crowd sees this, they lose control and begin to run around causing trouble and rebelling against authority.
  • When Artegall sees this, he doesn't want to get too involved himself, so he sends Talus to see what their problem is.
  • But the people just become violent, so Talus attacks them all, killing them like flies with his massive weapon, and then he and Artegall leave.