The Faerie Queene

The Importance of Gender Sexuality in Book III of The Faerie Queene College

Varying representations of both genders are abundant in romantic literature of the Renaissance period in general, a fine example of which can be found in Edmund Spenser’s allegorical epic poem, The Faerie Queene. The poem depicts the tale of seven knights, who each represent the desirable noble virtues of holiness, temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy. Book three of The Faerie Queene is concerned with the virtue of chastity, “that fairest vertue, farre above the rest” (Smith 342), which is embodied by the knight Britomart, a woman who has disguised herself as a male knight in armour. Britomart’s chastity is almost portrayed as the infinite source of her physical and emotional strength in the poem, enabling her to resist and ultimately defeat all which may threaten to corrupt it. The chaste, pure love Britomart has for Arthegall can not be tainted by lust, despite the advances of Malecasta, the impassioned and sensual lady of Castle Joyeous, where she lives guarded by six servant knights who defend the lady and her honour.

The theme of chastity serves as a tool through which Spenser provides a critique on sexual ideology in his own time and how this ideology differs between the two genders. Lauren Silberman...

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