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The Faerie Queene Quotes

by Edmund Spenser

Quotes and Analysis

  1. His Lady sad to see his sore constraint,
    Cride out, Now now Sir knight, shwe what ye bee,
    Add faith vnto your force, and be not faint:

    Book 1, Canto 1, stanza 19

    Una ("truth") reminds Redcrosse that strength alone will not avail him against the monster Errour. His holiness cannot come from within, but instead must be given him by the God in whom he has faith. Allegorically, theological error takes the knight's holiness by surprise, but he is reminded by the truth to keep his faith strong and he will overcome.

  2. Therewith she [Errour] spewed out of her filthy maw
    A floud of poyson horrible and blacke,
    Full of great lumpes of flesh and gobbets raw...
    Her voit full of bookes and papers was,
    With loathly frogs and toades...

    Book 1, Canto 1, stanza 20

    Spenser demonstrates his political and theological bias by having the monster Errour spew forth books and papers (like papal bulls and Catholic tracts). He sets Protestant truth against Catholic falsehood, creating pro-Protestant propaganda in his allegorical treatment of holiness. The frogs echo the image of the deceiving spirits in the Biblical book of Revelation, further identifying the evil of heresy with the Catholic Church, a favorite scapegoat for the Protestant interpreters of Revelation during Spenser's time.

  3. And that which is for Ladies most befitting,
    To stint all strife, and foster friendly peace,
    Was from those Dames so farre and so vnfitting,
    As taht instead of praying them surcease,
    They did much more their cruelty encrease;

    Book 4, Canto 2, stanza 19

    Duessa and Ate demonstrate their roles as anti-ladies; rather than encouraging their respective knights to do good deeds and seek noble quests, they push Blandamour and Paridell into further violence against each other with their words. As this takes place in the Book of Friendship, we see how the role of women relating to men should be one of admiration and exhortation to good deeds, not inciting to violence for the sake of violence.

  4. Yet all was forg'd and spred with golden foyle,
    That vnder it hidde hate and hollow guyle.
    Ne certes can that friendship long edure,
    How euer gay and goodly be teh style,
    That doth ill cause or euill end endure:
    For vertue is the band, that bindeth harts most sure.

    Book 4, Canto 2, stanza 29

    Blandamour and Paridell demonstrate the precarious nature of false friendship; they have reconciled outwardly after their heated battle but hide envy and anger in their hearts. Their kind words to one another cannot long cover the animosity they feel: only true virtue (as seen in Cambell and Triamond) can unite two hearts in real friendship.

  5. Him so I sought, and so at last I found,
    Where him that witch had thralled to her will,
    In chaines of lust and lewd desires ybound,
    And so transformed from his former skill,
    That me he knew not, neither his own ill;

    Book 2, Canto 1, stanza 54

    Amavia relates to Guyon how she tracked down her beloved Mordant, a victim of Acrasia's tempting Bower of Bliss. Acrasia's seduction turns men into mindless beasts, as depicted here with Mordant. Amavia is able to bring her beloved back to his senses, but the vile Acrasia manages to poison him, killing the man if she cannot make him her slave. This is related to Guyon as Amavia bleeds to death from a self-inflicted wound born of her grief.

  6. Great shame and sorrow of that fall he tooke;
    For neuer yet, sith warlike armes he bore,
    And shiuvering speare in bloudie field first shooke,
    He found himselfe dishonored so sore.

    Book 3, Canto 1, stanza 7

    Guyon has been unhorsed by a mysterious knight whose shield bears the broken spearheads of enemies vanquished. Guyon is embarrassed by his defeat, in no small part because he had issued the challenge to this unknown knight. The reader soon learns that this knight is Britomart, the woman in disguise, and cannot help but imagine how much more deeply the sometimes-temperate Guyon would have been shamed to know he had been bested so easily by a woman.

  7. She there deuiz'd a wondrous worke to frame,
    Whose like on earth was neuer framed yit,
    That euen Nature selfe enuide the same,
    And grudg'd to see the counterfet should shame
    The thing it selfe. In hadn she boldly tooke
    To make another like the former Dame,
    Another Florimell, in shape and looke
    So liuely and so like, that many it mistooke.

    Book 3, Canto 8, stanza 6

    The witch with whom Florimell unwittingly took refuge now seeks to cure her son's lovesickness for the girl. Florimell has escaped, but the witch seeks out the counsel of "sprights"--nature spirits--to solve the problem. They tell her to make a false Florimell, which they will inhabit to give the semblance of life.

    The witch's construction of the false Florimell is replete with images of building a machine or puppet. The false Florimell is a kind of sixteenth-century imagining of a robot. All her features are made from real, but artificial, items and given movement by the sprights, which enter the frame and move the parts.

    This false Florimell goes on to cause many problems, the most common of which is her false beauty's ability to incite men to violence over her.

  8. His name was Talus, made of yron mould,
    Immoueable, resistlesse, without end,
    Who in his hand an yron flale did hould,
    With which he thresht out falshood, and did truth vnfould.

    Book 5, Canto 1, stanza 12

    Talus, a man made of iron, is given to Artegall (the knight of Justice) as his squire. Talus is justice devoid of mercy, an unrelenting force whose means of obtaining truth is violence. He acts as a foil to Artegall, who is moved too much by pity in at least once case but in the end learns how to properly blend justice with mercy. Talus cannot be the champion of justice, for he (it?) is incapable of learning mercy as Artegall is.

  9. Thereto the Blatant beast by them set on
    At him began aloud to barke and bay,
    WIth bitter rage and fell contention,
    That all the woods and rockes nigh to that way,
    Began to quake and tremble withdismay;
    And all the aire rebellowed again.
    So dreadfully his hundred tongues did bray,
    And euermore those hags thems selues did paine,
    To sharpen him, and their owne cursed tongs did straine.

    Book 5, Canto 12, stanza 41

    The Blatant Beast, embodiment of slander, is described in all its terrible might. Spenser saw slander and scandal as one of the most insidious vices, and describes its far-reaching effects here and elsewhere. The beast has a hundred tongues with which to speak its lies, and the very rocks shake at the power of its false words.

  10. Yet armes or weapon had he none to fight,
    Ne knew the vuse of warlike instruments,
    Saue such as sudden rage him lent to smite,
    But naked without needfull vestiments,
    To clad his corpse with meete habiliments,
    He cared not for dint of sword nor speere,
    No more then for the strokes of stawes or bents:
    For from his motehrs wombe, which him did beare
    He was invulnerable made by Magicke leare.

    Book 6, Canto 4, stanza 4

    Spenser describes the Savage Man in terms that become problematic given his allegorical treatment of nobility and courtesy in this Book. The Savage Man has no highborn lineage, but is nonetheless the agent of aid to Calidore, the knight of Courtesy. He is immune to normal weapons, and so has no need of the conventional clothing worn by "civilized" people. His savagery is depicted as something positive, suggesting that there are those in the world who are by nature virtuous, and that upbringing and moral instruction are not an absolute or exclusive means to achieving virtue.

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