Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 6, Canto 1

By Edmund Spenser

Book 6, Canto 1

  • It's typical, and sensible, for people to associate courtesy with the court, and this is true especially of the Faerie court.
  • Brain bite! As you can see, the word "courtesy" comes from the word for "court"—so the two concepts definitely have a close connection.
  • In the Faerie court, no knight was more courteous than Sir Calidore, who everyone loved for his good looks and good manners.
  • Now, Sir Calidore was off on an important adventure when he bumped into Artegall, our hero from Book 5.
  • The two know each other, so they say hello and Artegall updates Calidore on his latest adventure.
  • Calidore responds that he's happy things went so well but that he's off to pick up where Artegall left off and chase the Blatant Beast.
  • Artegall doesn't know that's the name of the monster he had just faced, so he asks who this monster is.
  • Calidore explains that he destroys men with his vile tongue and torments them cruelly.
  • This sounds familiar to Artegall, who now realizes it's the monster he just saw.
  • Artegall is happy to hear of any news of the beast and the two take off on their separate ways.
  • As Calidore is riding along, he sees a squire tied to a tree yelling for help.
  • Calidore unties him and asks him what has happened and the squire explains that there is a castle nearby which has a terrible custom of shaving the hair of every lady and the beard of every knight who needs passage.
  • Calidore thinks this is a terrible custom and asks the squire why it exists.
  • He tells Calidore that the castle is controlled by a lady named Briana, who loves a knight named Crudor who will only return her love if she makes a blanket out of human hair. Ick.
  • She also employs a nasty guard named Maleffort, who enforces her cruel law and who that very day caught this squire and his lady.
  • While Maleffort went out looking for the lady, he tied the squire to this tree.
  • Suddenly, the two of them hear a terrible scream and realize it's the squire's lady—she's being carried by Maleffort, who is tearing and pulling her hair and her clothing.
  • Calidore immediately runs after Maleffort, calling him a coward, and Maleffort, angered, runs to attack him.
  • But Calidore gains the upper hand and soon Maleffort is fleeing from him back to the castle.
  • But Maleffort only makes it a few steps in before Calidore cuts off his head and also kills the porter.
  • Others in the castle attempt to stop Calidore, but he easily puts them off and finds himself in front of Briana.
  • She criticizes him for killing her porter and her guard, but he responds that it was justified since the castle is behaving in such an immoral way.
  • He instructs her to begin conducting herself and the castle in a much more courteous manner, which will bring her much greater glory than the love of Crudor.
  • But Briana is totally uninterested and mocks Calidore, who replies that he doesn't care at all about being mocked by a lady but wouldn't mind challenging her love, Crudor.
  • She laughs and says that Crudor is a very powerful knight, a comment Calidore ignores and decides to stick around.
  • Briana secretly sends a dwarf to deliver a ring to Crudor, which is a sign between them that she needs assistance.
  • While Briana vents her frustration and anger against Calidore constantly, Calidore relies on his good judgment and stays civil.
  • The next morning the dwarf returns with word that Crudor will challenge Calidore immediately, which improves Briana's mode greatly.
  • Calidore prepares to meet Crudor outside of the castle and as soon as he sees him coming he doesn't even stop to ascertain his identity, but heads straight for him and they both unseat the other.
  • Calidore recovers quickly, but waits to attack Crudor since it would be dishonorable to attack him while he's passed out.
  • Finally, Crudor rises up again and the two begin to fight, a long and bloody fight.
  • Eventually, Calidore sees an advantage, blocks a blow from Crudor and then knocks Crudor hard on the helmet, knocks him down again, and almost kills him until Crudor starts begging for his life.
  • Calidore pauses and then launches into a long lecture about the virtues of courtesy and the wrongness of Crudor's wicked ways.
  • He agrees to spare Crudor's life if he turns his habits toward good, marries Briana immediately, and no longer cuts the hair of knights and ladies trying to pass.
  • Crudor agrees, and calls Briana to him, who is at first not pleased with what she is seeing, but when she hears they are going to be married, suddenly is delighted and feels truly sorry for what she's done.
  • She entertains them lavishly back at the castle and offers the castle to Calidore in thanks for his mercy.
  • But Calidore refuses, and instead gives it to the squire and his lady whom he had freed, and then goes along his way.