Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 5, Canto 7

By Edmund Spenser

Book 5, Canto 7

  • Justice really is the most revered and important virtue around; it's no surprise that back in the day in ancient Egypt they worshipped justice in the form of the god Osiris.
  • His wife, Isis, was also worshipped as the manifestation of Equity (or equality) and we're about to hear all about her since Britomart has just arrived at Isis' temple. Talus is not allowed in.
  • She is greeted by many priests of Isis and marvels at the beautiful architecture.
  • When she sees the statue of Isis, made of shimmering silver depicting the goddess with one foot on a crocodile, Britomart immediately bows down to her and takes off her armor so that she might sleep in the sanctuary.
  • The priests of Isis only sleep on the hard ground in order to show their devotion and are complete vegetarians because they believe animal blood makes you crazy.
  • Britomart, exhausted, quickly falls asleep and has an amazing vision.
  • At first, she seems to be one of the priests of Isis, but quickly, her outfit turns into something more regal, more queen-like.
  • Then, a big storm comes into the temple and almost sets everything on fire.
  • Isis' crocodile, however, intervenes and consumes the storm, but all of a sudden threatens to consume Britomart herself until Isis steps in to prevent that.
  • The crocodile then becomes very meek toward her, and actually seduces her, and she gives birth to a baby lion that then rules over everything. Don't ask.
  • All of a sudden, Britomart wakes up and wonders what in the world her dream meant.
  • As soon as the sun comes up, she heads out of the sanctuary where the priests are busy at work.
  • The priests clearly see that Britomart has something on her mind, so one of them asks her what's up.
  • She begins to tell him her dream. The priest is amazed to hear what she describes.
  • He immediately realizes that she is actually a woman disguised as a knight and explains that the crocodile is Artegall who will eventually marry Britomart and together they will have a child, the lion, who will rule over all.
  • Britomart is very relieved to hear this, rewards the priests of Isis handsomely, and then heads out again for the land of the Amazons.
  • When she finally reaches the Amazons, Radigund is pleased to see a knight that needs to be fought and gets ready to do battle with her.
  • The next morning Radigund sounds the trumpet announcing their fight, which Britomart was already prepared for, and, as always, explains the conditions of her victory (the knight must become her life-long servant).
  • The fight begins and the two attack each other viciously, leaving aside any womanly propriety.
  • The both spill a great deal of blood and Radigund almost kills Britomart by severely wounding her shoulder, but Britomart rallies and cuts off Radigund's head.
  • The rest of Radigund's people try and flee, but Talus stops them all and begins to slaughter them.
  • But Britomart becomes horrified by Talus' extreme violence, and orders him to stop before he literally exterminates them.
  • She finally finds Artegall, trapped with other prisoners and forced to wear women's clothes and she is embarrassed to see him this way and almost doesn't recognize him.
  • She immediately takes him away and has him change into some manly armor, and now is happy to see him and to see how he looks.
  • Since Britomart needs time to recover, she stays in that city for a while as princess and reverses the laws that had made women rule. This, we are told, is true justice.
  • She frees all the men and appoints them as magistrates.
  • Once Artegall is recovered, he vows to continue on his initial quest, which makes Britomart sad because they have to part, but she conceals her sadness and eventually leaves the city herself hoping that a change of scenery will ease the pain of Artegall's departure.