Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 6, Canto 2

By Edmund Spenser

Book 6, Canto 2

  • Nothing is more important for a knight in love than courtesy.
  • In fact, courtesy is important to every social interaction since it makes people like and respect you more.
  • Calidore is truly a pro at courtesy, so much so that some people even think he's magical.
  • But now he's off again and soon comes across a tall man fighting a knight on horseback, with a lady standing near them in dirtied clothing.
  • Calidore guesses that she's at the root of this quarrel and wants to continue on his way, but suddenly sees the tall man kill the armed knight.
  • Calidore is rather shocked at this, but sees that even though this man is young, he has the marks of a warrior.
  • The man is dressed all in woodland clothing with a hood over his head, golden boots on his feet, and spears in his hands.
  • Calidore comes up to him and asks why the young man, who is not a knight, has killed a knight. That's seriously against the code.
  • The man explains that he wouldn't usually violate the code, but this knight came up to him and started attacking him even though he was barely armed.
  • Calidore admits that attacking someone unarmed is a very un-knightly thing to do and asks for more details about how their quarrel began.
  • The young man describes how as he was hunting in the forest he came across this knight riding on horseback but forcing the lady to keep up with him on foot, and that every time she slowed down, he threatened her with his spear.
  • The man was very upset to see him treating a lady this way so he went up and told him so.
  • The knight responded by telling him to go away and when the young man persisted, the knight started attacking him, until the young man was able to sneak his spear under the knight's armor straight for his heart.
  • Calidore is quite impressed by both the young man's speech and by his aim and once the lady corroborates the young man's story, Calidore expresses his admiration of young man and the man's blamelessness.
  • Calidore then asks the lady why she was in this situation with the knight and she explains that she and him had been riding together earlier when they came upon a lady sitting with a knight in the middle of the forest.
  • This lady was very beautiful and soon her knight begins to desire her and envy her companion.
  • He decides that the lady accompanying him (the woman who is narrating the story now) is blocking his moves, so he sends her off.
  • When she refuses, he pulls her off her horse and then attacks the knight sitting with the lady.
  • This knight is not prepared for a fight, and asks for some time to prepare, but the knight refuses and begins to viciously attack him.
  • Meanwhile, the desired lady rushes off and hides. When the attacking knight notices this, he freaks and starts to look for her.
  • When he can't find her anywhere, he becomes enraged and takes his anger out on his lady, who he makes walk at the edge of his spear for no good reason.
  • After hearing this, Calidore is assured that the knight is better off dead and then turns to once again admire the young man, whom he begins to suspect is of noble blood.
  • Calidore then praises the young man's noble appearance and asks him to reveal his identity.
  • The young man replies that even though it might put him at some risk, Calidore has been so courteous that he'll tell him who he is.
  • He explains that he is a Briton, a son of a king, but through misfortune has lost his country and his crown.
  • His name, he says, is Tristram, and only heir of King Meliogras, who reigned over Cornwall until he died young and the throne went to his brother since Tristram was so young.
  • Brain bite! Tristram, sometimes called Tristan, is a famous hero from English Arthurian legend.
  • Tristram's mother, Queen Emiline, fears for Tristram's safety with this new king and sends him away to the land of Faerie.
  • Tristram says he has spent his youth educating himself and training in the forest, learning all about the natural world, but the one thing he hasn't been able to pursue is his knighthood.
  • So, considering that Calidore has come along, Tristram asks him if he'll make him a squire so he can pursue knightly things.
  • Calidore happily obliges and names Tristram a knight.
  • Tristram asks if he can accompany Calidore on his quest, and Calidore really wishes that he could, but unfortunately he promised the Faerie Queene that he would tackle this quest alone.
  • But, he suggests that Tristram help out this lady who is now all alone.
  • Tristram agrees, takes the armor from the dead knight, and rides off with the lady.
  • Calidore then heads to the place where the lady described her knight's altercation with the knight and the other lady and soon finds the poor knight sorely wounded tended by his grieving lady.
  • He asks the lady to explain what happened, and she tells the same story that Tristram told.
  • Calidore informs her that the knight who did this has been killed and that she should stop grieving and focus on how to help her knight.
  • The lady is comforted by this, but doesn't know how to help her knight, and is too embarrassed to ask Calidore.
  • But Calidore understands what's going on and offers to help himself, giving the knight a healing ointment, and helping to carry him to a nearby castle.