The Faerie Queene

Major characters

  • Acrasia, seductress of knights. Guyon destroys her Bower of Bliss at the end of Book 2. Similar characters in other epics: Circe (Homer's Odyssey), Alcina (Ariosto), Armida (Tasso), or the fairy woman from Keats' poem "La Belle Dame sans Merci".
  • Amoret(ta), the betrothed of Scudamour, kidnapped by Busirane on her wedding night, saved by Britomart. She represents the virtue of married love, and her marriage to Scudamour serves as the example that Britomart and Artegall seek to copy. Amoret and Scudamor are separated for a time by circumstances, but remain loyal to each other until they (presumably) are reunited.
  • Archimago, an evil sorcerer who is sent to stop the knights in the service of the Faerie Queene. Of the knights, Archimago hates Redcrosse most of all, hence he is symbolically the nemesis of England.
  • Artegall (or Artegal or Arthegal or Arthegall), a knight who is the embodiment and champion of Justice. He meets Britomart after defeating her in a sword fight (she had been dressed as a knight) and removing her helmet, revealing her beauty. Artegall quickly falls in love with Britomart. Artegall has a companion in Talus, a metal man who wields a flail and never sleeps or tires but will mercilessly pursue and kill any number of villains. Talus obeys Artegall's command, and serves to represent justice without mercy (hence, Artegall is the more human face of justice). Later, Talus does not rescue Artegall from enslavement by the wicked slave-mistress Radigund, because Artegall is bound by a legal contract to serve her. Only her death, at Britomart's hands, liberates him. Chrysaor was the golden sword of Sir Artegall. This sword was also the favorite weapon of Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest. Because it was "Tempred with Adamant", it could cleave through anything.
  • Arthur of the Round Table, but playing a different role here. He is madly in love with the Faerie Queene and spends his time in pursuit of her when not helping the other knights out of their sundry predicaments. Prince Arthur is the Knight of Magnificence, the perfection of all virtues.
  • Ate, a fiend from Hell disguised as a beautiful maiden. Ate opposes Book IV's virtue of friendship through spreading discord. She is aided in her task by Duessa, the female deceiver of Book I, whom Ate summoned from Hell. Ate and Duessa have fooled the false knights Blandamour and Paridell into taking them as lovers. Her name is possibly inspired by the Greek goddess of misfortune Atë, said to have been thrown from Heaven by Zeus, similar to the fallen angels.
  • Belphoebe, the beautiful sister of Amoret who spends her time in the woods hunting and avoiding the numerous amorous men who chase her. Timias, the squire of Arthur, eventually wins her love after she tends to the injuries he sustained in battle; however, Timias must endure much suffering to prove his love when Belphoebe sees him tending to a wounded woman and, misinterpreting his actions, flies off hastily. She is only drawn back to him after seeing how he has wasted away without her.
  • Britomart, a female knight, the embodiment and champion of Chastity. She is young and beautiful, and falls in love with Artegall upon first seeing his face in her father's magic mirror. Though there is no interaction between them, she travels to find him again, dressed as a knight and accompanied by her nurse, Glauce. Britomart carries an enchanted spear that allows her to defeat every knight she encounters, until she loses to a knight who turns out to be her beloved Artegall. (Parallel figure in Ariosto: Bradamante.) Britomart is one of the most important knights in the story. She searches the world, including a pilgrimage to the shrine of Isis, and a visit with Merlin the magician. She rescues Artegall and several other knights, from the evil slave-mistress Radigund. Furthermore, Britomart accepts Amoret at a tournament, refusing the false Florimell.
  • Busirane, the evil sorcerer who captures Amoret on her wedding night. When Britomart enters his castle to defeat him, she finds him holding Amoret captive. She is bound to a pillar and Busirane is torturing her. The clever Britomart handily defeats him and returns Amoret to her husband.
  • Caelia, the ruler of the House of Holiness.
  • Calidore, the Knight of Courtesy, hero of Book VI. He is on a quest from the Faerie Queene to slay the Blatant Beast.
  • Cambell, one of the Knights of Friendship, hero of Book IV. Brother of Canacee and friend of Triamond.
  • Cambina, daughter of Agape and sister to Priamond, Diamond, and Triamond. Cambina is depicted holding a caduceus and a cup of nepenthe, signifying her role as a figure of concord. She marries Cambell after bringing an end to his fight with Triamond.
  • Colin Clout, a shepherd noted for his songs and bagpipe playing, briefly appearing in Book VI. He is the same Colin Clout as in Spenser's pastoral poetry, which is fitting because Calidore is taking a sojourn into a world of pastoral delight, ignoring his duty to hunt the Blatant Beast, which is why he set out to Ireland to begin with. Colin Clout may also be said to be Spenser himself.
  • Cymochles, a knight in Book II who is defined by indecision and fluctuations of the will. He and his fiery brother Pyrochles represent emotional maladies that threaten temperance. The two brothers are both slain by Prince Arthur in Canto VIII.
  • Chrysogonee, mother of Belphoebe and her twin Amoretta. She hides in the forest and, becoming tired, falls asleep on a bank, where she is impregnated by sunbeams and gives birth to twins. The goddesses Venus and Diana find the newborn twins and take them: Venus takes Amoretta and raises her in the Garden of Adonis, and Diana takes Belphoebe.
  • Despair, a distraught man in a cave, his name coming from his mood. He persuades Redcrosse Knight to nearly commit suicide through rhetoric alone, before Una steps in.
  • Duessa, a lady who personifies Falsehood in Book I, known to Redcrosse as "Fidessa". As the opposite of Una, she represents the "false" religion of the Roman Catholic Church. She is also initially an assistant, or at least a servant, to Archimago.
  • Florimell, a lady in love with the knight Marinell, who initially rejects her. Hearing that he has been wounded, she sets out to find him and faces various perils, culminating in her capture by the sea god Proteus. She is reunited with Marinell at the end of Book IV, and is married to him in Book V.
  • Guyon, the Knight of Temperance, the hero of Book II. He is the leader of the Knights of Maidenhead and carries the image of Gloriana on his shield. According to the Golden Legend, St. George's name shares etymology with Guyon, which specifically means "the holy wrestler".
  • Marinell, "the knight of the sea"; son of a water nymph, he avoided all love because his mother had learnt that a maiden was destined to do him harm; this prophecy was fulfilled when he was stricken down in battle by Britomart, though he was not mortally wounded.
  • Orgoglio, an evil giant. His name means "pride" in Italian.
  • The Redcrosse Knight, hero of Book I. Introduced in the first canto of the poem, he bears the emblem of Saint George, patron saint of England; a red cross on a white background is still the flag of England. The Redcrosse Knight is declared the real Saint George in Canto X. He also learns that he is of English ancestry, having been stolen by a Fay and raised in Faerieland. In the climactic battle of Book I, Redcrosse slays the dragon that has laid waste to Eden. He marries Una at the end of Book I, but brief appearances in Books II and III show him still questing through the world.
  • Satyrane, a wild half-satyr man raised in the wild and the epitome of natural human potential. Tamed by Una, he protects her, but ends up locked in a battle against the chaotic Sansloy, which remains unconcluded. Satyrane finds Florimell's girdle, which she drops while flying from a beast. He holds a three-day tournament for the right to possess the girdle. His Knights of Maidenhead win the day with Britomart's help.
  • Scudamour, the lover of Amoret. His name means "shield of love". This character is based on Sir James Scudamore, a jousting champion and courtier to Queen Elizabeth I. Scudamour loses his love Amoret to the sorcerer Busirane. Though the 1590 edition of The Faerie Queene has Scudamour united with Amoret through Britomart's assistance, the continuation in Book IV has them separated, never to be reunited.
  • Talus, an "iron man" who helps Arthegall to dispense justice in Book V. The name is likely from Latin "talus" (ankle) with reference to that which justice "stands on," and perhaps also to the ankle of Achilles, who was otherwise invincible, or the mythological bronze man Talos.
  • Triamond, one of the Knights of Friendship, a hero of Book IV. Friend of Cambell. One of three brothers; when Priamond and Diamond died, their souls joined with his body. After battling Cambell, Triamond marries Cambell's sister, Canacee.
  • Una, the personification of the "True Church". She travels with the Redcrosse Knight (who represents England), whom she has recruited to save her parents' castle from a dragon. She also defeats Duessa, who represents the "false" (Catholic) church and the person of Mary, Queen of Scots, in a trial reminiscent of that which ended in Mary's beheading. Una is also representative of Truth.

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