Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Book 6, Canto 8

By Edmund Spenser

Book 6, Canto 8

  • Our narrator warns women who have power over men in the realm of love to not abuse that power and become scornful but instead to be as gentle and mild as women ought to be.
  • Mirabella is a good example of what happens to women who scorn men's love. She's now even sadder since Timias has been taken captive trying to help her.
  • As they go along, they run into Arthur and one of the knights he fought earlier, named Enias.
  • When Timias sees Arthur, he's ashamed to be found in such a low, captive state.
  • Enias is disturbed to see what is happening and asks Arthur is he can go fight them in order to stop them tormenting Timias and Mirabella.
  • Arthur agrees and Enias heads straight for them, fighting with Disdain, at first ducking Disdain's fatal blows. But soon, like Timias, he finds himself on the ground about to be tied up.
  • When Arthur sees this, he runs to help Enias, and begins fighting Disdain.
  • Although Disdain's blows are unpredictable, Arthur's skill is clear and he avoids them all, finally avoiding even Disdain's great, final blow by sliding under his legs and hitting his knees.
  • He prepares to cut off Disdain's head, but Mirabella asks him to stop, explaining that their fates are tied.
  • Arthur wants to know more and she tells her story: how she was beautiful but disdained love and only loved herself and so Cupid gave her this fate as punishment.
  • Arthur thinks this punishment is just and then asks why she carries a bottle in front and a pack on her back, when really Disdain should be carrying those.
  • She explains that the bottle is meant to carry the tears of her repentance and the bag carries things she has done in order to repent.
  • So Arthur lets Disdain go and turns to find Timias their captive, and is delighted, though confused, to see his old squire.
  • Meanwhile, the savage man is attacking Scorn for tormenting Enias, until Mirabella's cries cause Arthur to make him stop.
  • Arthur leaves his next move up to Mirabella, offering to either let her go on her way with her punishment or he can help release her.
  • She chooses to fulfill her punishment and departs from everyone.
  • Arthur too, who has an adventure he need to complete, also goes his own way.
  • But now, we need to hear about what happened to poor Serena, who fled from the scene when she thought Disdain had killed Timias.
  • She fled for a long time until danger seemed past and then got off her horse to rest and contemplate her sad situation, blaming Calepine for abandoning her.
  • She finally falls asleep, unknowingly resting near a nation of savages who steal, cause havoc, and—worst of all—are cannibals.
  • When they come across Serena, they can't believe their good luck and, after letting her sleep her fill, decide to sacrifice her to their god.
  • As she sleeps, they each pick their favorite body part and when she wakes they snatch off all her jewels and her clothing.
  • Seeing her naked, they all begin to desire her for themselves, and again note the perfection of her various body parts.
  • But the priest makes sure none of them try to rape her, since that would defile her as a sacrifice, and so they take her to a clearing where they construct an altar.
  • Once it's evening, they prepare to sacrifice her and almost follow through when (ta-da!) Calepine comes galloping in to the rescue. He has been looking for Serena in these very woods.
  • He easily slays many of the savages and releases the woman, although he doesn't find out until daytime that it's Serena.