The Faerie Queene
The Chaste Chase
The Chaste Chase: Britomart's Naivety in The Faerie Queen
June 1, 2005
For a text of Elizabethan literature, Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene is unique in its portrayal of chastity-a virtue generally associated with the domestic sphere-in the figure of Britomart the female warrior. Similarly unique is Britomart's representation as an almost hermaphroditic figure: she dresses in a full suit of armor, fights like a male knight, and presents herself as a man in social settings. The notion that chastity can be embodied in an androgynous figure is puzzling and counterintuitive to commonly accepted notions of feminine virtue, but Spenser has a purpose in using Britomart as his heroine. Britomart must simultaneously embody both feminine and masculine traits, because if she were solely feminine, like Florimell or Amoret, her chastity would have long been compromised by the time she finds Artegall. In short, Britomart must be ignorant of her latent femininity in order to be wholly chaste. "In order to uphold the version of chastity lauded in The Faerie Queene, Britomart cannot acquire insight or understanding. Titular chastity demands tough, yet beautiful naivety...Although male knights are similarly blind...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 753 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4770 literature essays, 1493 sample college application essays, 189 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in