The wizard Busyrane kidnapped Amoretta on her wedding day, so her marriage to Scudamour remains unconsummated. Amoretta expresses fear at man’s love and a growing discomfort at traveling with this stranger (as Britomart is still disguising her femininity). Britomart and Amoretta arrive at a castle and find lodging there, only to find that the custom of that place is for any knight without a paramour to claim any single woman who is present, or himself be locked out for the night. A knight lays claim to Amoretta, but Britomart defeats him in combat. Seeking to solve the problem of the knight’s impending lockout, the knights and ladies call the Seneschall, who rightly awards Amoretta to Britomart as her champion. To prevent the young knight’s exile, Britomart lays claim to him, revealing herself a woman by taking off her helmet and letting her hair flow down. The observers are struck by her beauty, comparing her to the war goddess Bellona, and the young knight is given haven as payment for the debt to Britomart. Seeing Britomart’s femininity and strength, Amoretta is freed from her fears. The two women spend the night together talking about their respective loves.
The next day, Britomart and Amoretta depart the castle and encounter two knights, Blandamour and Paridell, and their two ladies, Duessa and Ate. Blandamour encourages Paridell to challenge Britomart, but Paridell remembers his last encounter with the disguised knight and does not want to risk a second defeat. Blandamour challenges Britomart and is defeated.
After Britomart leaves, Scudamour and Britomart’s nurse, Glauce, arrive. Blandamour bears ill will toward Scudamour, but asks Paridell to challenge the knight in his stead. Paridell and Scudamour battle and Scudamour gains the upper hand. In a fit of battle-fury, Scudamour nearly kills Paridell, but Duessa prevents him with conciliatory words. Ate, however, seeks to cause strife, and so claims to have seen Amoretta dallying with a knight whose shield bore the heads of many broken spears (Britomart). Scudamour, angered at the possibility of Amoretta’s unfaithfulness (and still unaware that Britomart is a woman), takes his anger out on the nurse Glauce. He nearly kills her, but comes to his senses and merely declares her a vile accomplice to the traitorous Britomart. Glauce makes a personal vow to clear Britomart’s name.
Glauce attempts to reason with Scudamour, but Blandamour and Paridell speak harshly to her and her words go unheeded. Blandamour, Paridell, and their ladies ride on and encounter the young knight Ferraugh, who has recently taken the false Florimell from Braggadocchio. Blandamour lusts after the imitation Florimell, but tries to get Paridell to fight for him again. Paridell does not rise to the challenge, citing his recent battle as taking his turn, so Blandamour must fight Ferraugh. Blandamour wins the battle by taking Ferraugh unawares and claims Florimell for his own, but Paridell is filled with envy toward him. Ate seizes this opportunity to drive a wedge between Paridell and Blandamour by reminding Paridell of all the little offences Blandamour has committed against him. Blandamour and Paridell eventually battle, while Duessa and Ate encourage their anger. Their fight seems capable of going on forever, but that the Squire of Dames arrives and breaks up their conflict. The Squire of Dames encourages the two knights to unite in Florimell’s cause, but Blandamour is suspicious at first. Blandamour describes Satyrane’s contest for Florimell’s girdle, being held nearby, and the two knights agree to participate in it.
Blandamour, Paridell, and their respective ladies come upon Cambell and Triamond, with their respective wives Canacee and Cambina. Canacee had once been so highly desired for a bride that her brother Cambell had to hold a tournament: the knight who could defeat him would gain Canacee for his own. Canacee gave her brother a magic ring which would heal his wounds and renew his strength, making him a formidable foe. Triamond is revealed to be one of three brothers, triplets born to the fay Agape; their mother approached the Fates and made a bargain: when the thread measured out for one brother is cut, the remainder would be added to the other brothers’ life-threads.
The tale of the three brothers’ challenge to Cambell is told. The first brother, Priamond, fought Cambell, but was slain. Priamond’s soul, instead of rising to heaven, entered into the bodies of his brothers Diamond and Triamond. Diamond then battles Cambell, but is also slain. His soul (and the portion of Priamond’s soul that was his) enters Triamond. Triamond, now with the life-force of three men, battles Cambell. Cambell kills Triamond, but he loses only one soul to the killing stroke, and so rises again to battle. Cambell, afraid he is now facing some dark power, fights more cautiously, extending the battle. Triamond is struck a killing blow again, but again he rises, having lost only one of the two souls within his body. The two men fight even more, both becoming exhausted. Cambell’s magic ring restores his vitality, but the battle is interrupted by the arrival of Triamond’s sister Cambina, riding a chariot pulled by mighty lions. Cambell falls in love with Cambina at first sight, and the contest is resolved with Triamond winning Canacee while Cambell takes Cambina for his bride.
Everyone arrives at Satyrane’s tournament. Braggadocchio sees the false Florimell and wants her back, but declines to fight Blandamour for her. On the first day of the tournament, Triamond fights well but is eventually defeated when Satyrane wounds him with a spear. Since Triamond is wounded, Cambell puts on Triamond’s armor the second day to fight on his behalf. Cambell, too, is successful, until he is surrounded by one hundred men. Triamond notices his friend’s plight but cannot find his armor, so he wears Cambell’s armor into the battle. Cambell and Triamond claim victory on the second day. On the third day, Artegall arrives and is challenged by Britomart, who does not recognize him as the man she saw in the magic mirror. She defeats him.
As the tournament ends, each knight presents his lady to be judged in a beauty contest. The false Florimell wins, but cannot wear the prize: the girdle of the true Florimell. The other women try on the girdle, but it only fits Amoretta. The false Florimell steals the girdle back. Britomart, the winner of the tournament, is offered the false Florimell as her prize, but she declines. Cambell and Triamond are similarly offered the lady, but they too decline. The remaining knights begin to fight over her, so it is decided that the false Florimell herself should choose the knight to have her. She chooses Braggadocchio.
In the meantime, Scudamour has stopped to rest on his hunt for Amoretta, but he cannot sleep for thinking of his wife’s alleged unfaithfulness.
Scudamour meets Artegall, and the two agree to lay in wait for Britomart (whom they both still think to be a man). Britomart arrives and does battle with Artegall. Artegall holds his own this time, and manages to strike Britomart’s helmet, cracking it open. When he sees Britomart’s face, Artegall immediately falls in love with her; Scudamour sees her face as well, and is reassured that Amoretta was not unfaithful to him after all. Scudamour asks Britomart where Amoretta is, but Britomart only knows that one morning she awoke to find Amoretta missing. Britomart agrees to help Scudamour find his wife. Artegall plies his suit with Britomart, but she feigns indifference and does not admit that she was on a quest to find him all this time. Artegall parts company with Britomart, but the two indicate they will meet again.
While Britomart was sleeping, Amoretta was captured by a half-man, half-beast who takes her back to his cave. There Amoretta meets Aemylia, another captive of the man-monster, who reveals to Amoretta that the creature rapes then eats his captives. When the beast returns, Amoretta flees the cave. Before the monster can reach her, Belphoebe and Timias intervene. Timias battles the creature, but in the conflict accidentally wounds Amoretta. When he sees Belphoebe, the beast flees in terror. Belphoebe manages to hit the creature in the throat with an arrow as he escapes. Timias attempts to revive the wounded Amoretta, but when Belphoebe returns to the scene, she accuses Timias of behaving lustfully toward the woman. Belphoebe then runs away, leaving Timias in anguish, which eventually leads to his becoming a hermit in the woods.
Belphoebe eventually returns to Timias and realizes that his love for her is true. Meanwhile Arthur encounters Amoretta and Aemylia in the woods. Arthur heals Amoretta’s injury and the three attempt to gain shelter from the hag Sclaunder. Instead of sheltering them, Sclaunder chases them away while accusing Arthur of being a thief and Amoretta and Aemylia of being whores. The three then find a young squire being dragged by a dwarf while a giant follows. Arthur beheads the giant and frees the squire. The grateful young man tells how his friend and fellow squire Amyas was captured by the giant and forced to become his daughter’s lover. The squire, Placidas, resembles Amyas enough to pass for him, so he offered to take Amyas’ place. Placidas attempted to knock out the dwarf, but failed; that is when Arthur found him. Aemylia hears the story and recognizes Amyas as her beloved. The group then plans to rescue the captive squire.
Brandishing the giant’s head, Arthur gains entry to his castle. Amyas is freed while Arthur speaks to the giant’s daughter, Poeana. Poeana agrees to stop forcing herself on captive men, but simultaneously learns that Placidas is attracted to her. Amyas is reunited with his beloved Aemylia and Arthur departs with Amoretta.
Arthur and Amoretta discover several knights (Blandamour, Paridell, Druon, and Claribell) fighting over the false Florimell. The entire group then attacks Britomart because they think she has stolen the lady. Arthur intervenes on Britomart’s behalf, explaining that she did not take the false Florimell. Blandamour and Paridell take turns defending and attacking each other. Arthur eventually calms all of the knights and asks Scudamour to tell how he won Amoretta.
Scudamour tells how he won Amoretta. He defeated twenty enemies and overcame various trials to enter the Temple of Venus, where he won the Shield of Love. He then found Amoretta surrounded by Womanhood, Shamefastness, Cheerfulness, Modesty, Courtesy, and Obedience. They agreed to let Amoretta depart with him when they saw he had the Shield of Love. Then Scudamour and Amoretta were married.
Florimell, still captive to the sea god Proteus, awaits his return from the wedding of the rivers Thames and Medway. Proteus invites his friends and family to the wedding at his castle; among the guests is Marinell’s mother, a sea nymph, who brings her son to the wedding.
During the wedding, Marinell strays from the crowd and hears Florimell wailing over her fate. From her cries, he learns that she had fled after hearing of Marinell’s downfall, thus making the knight partially responsible for her present distress. Marinell returns home with his mother, full of sorrow over his inability to free Florimell. Marinell’s mother takes his situation to Jove, who uses his influence to free Florimell from Proteus. Marinell and Florimell are at last wed.
Much has been made of Amoretta’s fear of man’s love, with most critics agreeing that she is still learning to reconcile her upcoming roles as wife and mother with her terror at the unknown. It is later revealed that Scudamour took Amoretta through violence; Busyrane has kidnapped her, so Amoretta’s experience with male expressions of passion has made her prone to these fears. Britomart’s example of chaste love is necessary to teach Amoretta the strength of feminine virtue and its ability to complement male power. Britomart is seen as embodying a balance between masculine and feminine strengths, in that she is both a powerful warrior and a beautiful woman.
The later incident with Ate reveals that lady’s allegorical standing as an agent of Strife. She seeks to drive friends (Blandamour and Paridell) and lovers (Scudamour and Amoretta) apart. The effects of Ate’s unfounded accusations against Britomart and Amoretta will be long lasting; it is not until much later that Scudamour discovers Britomart’s identity and ends his worries over Amoretta’s unfaithfulness with the knight.
Two groups of four (tetrads) are set up in contrast to one another: Blandamour, Paridell, Duessa, and Ate form the negative tetrad, demonstrating flawed or inadequate friendship, love, and courtesy; Cambell, Triamond, Canacee, and Cambina. Blandamour and Paridell are not truly friends, but merely traveling-companions who choose to tolerate one another. Thus, Ate is able to cause strife between them and Duessa lies to enrage them further toward one another. Their long, unresolved battle symbolizes the discord between men who have not truly offered themselves as friends to one another. The intervention of the Squire of Dames, a somewhat puckish character, prevents further bloodshed through levity and by redirecting their focus elsewhere: the tournament held by Satyrane to award Florimell’s girdle to the fairest lady in the land. That the two men can put aside their differences to head toward the tournament shows how a passion for fame and a beautiful woman can—at least temporarily—overcome antipathy. Of course, Spenser makes sure the reader knows that a woman’s influence (Ate’s words) brought the discord to the surface in the first place.
The positive tetrad is only partially introduced in this Canto. Canacee is held up as yet another model of virtuous femininity, while Cambell is able to defend her honor with no hint of lust or self-interest since he is not just a knight, but her brother. An element of fairy tale is introduced in the form of Cambell’s magic ring, while the back-story for Triamond establishes him as part-Fay and potentially superhuman through the intervention of his mother Agape’s deal with the Fates.
Cambell’s might (and the power of his magic ring) is displayed in his battle with Priamond and Diamond, while his piety is hinted at when the seemingly dead Triamond rises to continue in combat. Two powers come into conflict: the magic of Canacee’s ring and the deal of the Fates with Triamond’s mother. In both cases the heroic knight is protected by the influence of a woman, be she loving sister or protective mother. The interdependence of male and female in virtuous living, first introduced most clearly in the person of Britomart, here undergoes further development in this tetrad.
Like the battle between the jealous Blandamour and Paridell, Cambell and Triamond’s duel seems likely to go on for days but for the timely arrival of Cambina—who is coincidentally Triamond’s sister. Cambina represents Concord (harmony) as she ends the battle between the two noble knights through the touch of her magic staff. That Cambell is enamored of her at first sight serves to reinforce the harmonic balance symbolized by these four characters: Cambell will now marry Triamond’s sister, and Triamond will marry Cambell’s sister. Thus, the two men will be doubly connected in bonds of friendship that no force can break.
Braggadocchio maintains his place as a figure that talks big but acts little. Cambell and Triamond, however, show their character through their actions. They literally bear each other’s burdens in the form of armor. The message here is that true friendship brings the friends so close that they are practically interchangeable—what affects Triamond affects Cambell, and vice versa.
Florimell’s girdle becomes a symbol of true chastity. Spenser makes an interesting comment on courtly life by having only one woman—Amoretta, worthy to wear the girdle. Of special note is that the contest publicly demonstrates Amoretta’s chastity despite Ate’s strife-causing words to Guyon. The false Florimell steals the girdle back, showing how false beauty can win public acclaim despite not being truly qualified for the real prize.
Artegall and Britomart finally meet, but they fight. Artegall proves himself a match for Britomart, the only knight to do so. They literally break away one another’s armor, symbolically getting through each other’s emotional defenses, until Britomart’s broken helmet reveals her beauty to Artegall, who is love struck. This revelation also serves to put Scudamour’s doubts about Amoretta to rest, since he cannot imagine Amoretta having been unfaithful to him with a woman (particularly the chaste and honorable Britomart). Unfortunately, just as Scudamour was not present to see Amoretta vindicated at Satyrane’s contest, Amoretta is not present to be reconciled with Scudamour when he learns to the truth.
The man-beast is another symbol of lust, and is easily defeated by the chaste Belphoebe, who is not subject to such weaknesses. Belphoebe’s misreading of Timias’ intentions toward Amoretta reveal her own growing affection for Timias; again chastity is portrayed not as perpetual virginity, but as true rather than false love.
The reconciliation of Belphoebe and Timias echoes the meeting of Artegall and Britomart, as well as foreshadowing the latter couple’s eventual union. Spenser wants to make it clear to the reader that no woman need remain unwed to remain chaste; it is likely he had his own unwed, virginal Queen Elizabeth in mind as she clearly has an analog in Belphoebe as much as she does in Gloriana, the Faerie Queene.
Amyas and Placidas offer another example of true friendship, this time among the squires rather than the knights. The virtue of friendship is not for nobility alone, but for every man who would have it.
Amyas and Placidas end up forming a balanced tetrad similar to that of Cambell, Triamond, and their wives. Amyas is reunited with his beloved, while Placidas gains the favor of Poeana (who does not seem to mind the change of lovers since the two men are similar looking). Here the contest came from the female side, with Poeana striving for a love she could not have, while Placidas plays the role of Cambia in bringing concord to the situation.
Here we have the problematic account of Scudamour’s first encounter with Amoretta. Though held up as a paragon of virtue, Scudamour actually fought his way into the Temple of Venus to take her—essentially by force—from the goddess. Once he obtains the Shield of Love, he no longer has to use violence to reach Amoretta; in fact, Venus seems to give Amoretta freely to Scudamour regardless of any feelings on Amoretta’s part. The shield symbolizes the truth of his love, as well as the protection he offers Amoretta, but it is only after the trial of Busyrane and her exposure to the example set by Britomart that Amoretta was able to reconcile herself to being Scudamour’s willing bride. Their tangled relationship is finally set right, but not through the virtue of the knight, as in most of the other accounts in the epic.
Cantos 11 and 12
The wedding between the rivers serves as backdrop to the reunion of Marinell and Florimell. Having seen what the false Florimell is capable of, the reader is more sympathetic to the problems brought upon the true Florimell simply because she is beautiful. Spenser again locks the reader firmly into a pagan setting, which he uses, rather than destroys, to reunite Florimell and Marinell. Still, Marinell remains a man holding on to his mother’s apron strings; it is through his mother’s intervention, not through any direct action of his own, that Marinell regains Florimell. The Book dedicated to Friendship ends with the only wedding ceremony in the epic, suggesting that Friendship can be the basis for marriage as well as a bond between members of the same sex.