The last episode completed the story of Una and the Redcrosse Knight (alias Saint George), reaching the end of the first book of The Faerie Queene.
Book 2: The Legend of Sir Guyon, or Of Temperance
Note: Sir Guyon is here accompanied by a palmer, a Middle English term for a pilgrim, typically one who has undertaken a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As a mark of their devotion, they commonly bore the branch or leaf of a palm, giving rise to the name. The word lives on in the surname.
Guyon by Archimage abusd,
the Redcrosse knight awaytes,
Fyndes Mordant and Amavia slaine
With pleasures poisoned baytes.
Once the Redcrosse Knight has set off to return to the Faery Queene, the evil sorceror Archimago sees the opportunity to escape from the castle’s dungeon, and go in pursuit of the knight. He comes across a different knight, Sir Guyon, who bears a portrait of Gloriana herself; he is preceded by an elderly Palmer dressed in black, walking slowly with his staff to steady him. The magician turns himself into a squire and convinces the knight that he has just seen another knight brutally ravish a maiden.
Sir Guyon follows Archimago and reaches the young woman, whose clothing is torn and her hair dishevelled; she is really the evil Duessa. She tells Guyon that she was ravished by the Redcrosse Knight, which leaves him puzzled, but obliged to ride in search of her assailant. Sir Guyon eventually reaches a glade where he finds Redcrosse cooling off by a river. Guyon immediately charges with his lance at the ready, and Redcrosse leaps into the saddle to join battle. Just before the two reach one another, Guyon stops and explains himself.
When they turn to confront the squire and the maiden, both have fled. After the Palmer talks with Redcrosse, the latter resumes his journey, leaving the Palmer to lead Guyon on their travels.
After a long hot day a little later, the Palmer leads Sir Guyon into the cool of a forest, where they hear the cry of a woman in distress. When Guyon finds her, she is lying beside a spring with a dagger in her breast, clutching a baby who is dabbling its hands in her blood, with a knight dead beside her. Guyon removes the blade and staunches the bleeding, allowing her to return from the brink of death.
The woman is Amavia, and the dead knight her husband Sir Mordant, who had ridden on a quest when Amavia was still expecting her baby. He fell under the power of an evil enchantress, Acrasia, who enslaves men on her wandering island, the Bower of Bliss. Hearing of this, Amavia had gone to seek her husband, during which she had given birth to her son in a wood. Sir Mordant had fought Acrasia’s enchantments, but succumbed when he drank from that spring, and dropped dead. Amavia then decided to take her own life, and saying that, she dies in the knight’s arms.
Sir Guyon and the Palmer bury the knight and his lady.
Babes bloody handes may not be clensd,
the face of golden Meane.
Her sisters two Extremities
strive her to banish cleane.
The pair then try unsuccessfully to wash Amavia’s blood from the infant. The Palmer explains that water in that pool is enchanted, after a nymph had been turned into stone by Diana to protect her from pursuit by the lustful Faunus. This prevents the spring water from being defiled.
Guyon gives the baby to the Palmer to care for, but discovers his horse and lance have been stolen.
They walk on until they reach a castle built on a rock at the edge of the sea. Three sisters live within it, the oldest (Elissa) and youngest (Perissa) of them constantly bickering with the third, named Medina, who greets the knight and the Palmer. Medina’s sisters are with their lovers, Elissa with the foolhardy Sir Huddibras, and Perissa with the pagan knight Sansloy.
Huddibras and Sansloy head towards Guyon to challenge him, but on the way get into an argument which breaks into a furious fight. Guyon tries to separate them, so they turn on him. When he shows his skill with the sword, they back down. Medina then tells them to stop, and her sisters try to egg them on.
The middle sister wins the day, and they sit down together to eat dinner. During the meal, Elissa seems annoyed at the food and company, while Perissa overindulges and flirts with Sansloy. Medina keeps order and invites Sir Guyon to explain the nature of his quest for Gloriana, Queen of Faeryland. He explains that he had been at court when the Palmer complained of the wrongdoing of an evil enchantress, and he had been sent by the queen to put an end to the wickedness of Acrasia.
Vaine Braggadocchio getting Guyons
horse is made the scorne
Of knighthood trew, and is of fayre
Belphoebe fowle forlorne.
The next day, with Amavia’s baby safely in the care of Medina, the Palmer leads Sir Guyon off on their journey, still on foot.
The knight’s horse and lance have been stolen by a puffed-up waster and thief Braggadocchio, who is living up to his name with false pride. He rides up to a gaudily dressed man named Trompart, threatens him with the lance, and forces him to act as his servant. Trompart quickly learns how to flatter his new master to gain advantage of him.
Braggadocchio and his new servant soon come upon Archimago, who is plotting against his enemies. The sorceror tricks the pair into offering to find and wreak vengeance on Sir Guyon and the Palmer, for which Archimago will provide them with Prince Arthur’s sword. Braggadocchio’s boastful behaviour stops suddenly and he pales with fear and flees, Trompart chasing after him.
The pair hide in a forest, trembling like leaves when they hear a hunting horn followed by someone moving through the undergrowth. Braggadocchio hides even deeper, but Trompart sees a fine lady approaching, dressed for hunting, and carrying a boar-spear, bow and arrows; her name is Belphoebe. She sees Trompart and asks him if he has seen a deer she has wounded, to which he replies no. She then sees Braggadocchio moving in the undergrowth, and is preparing to shoot him with an arrow when Trompart warns her that she’s about to kill his master.
At that, Braggadocchio emerges casually and leers at the huntress. When he asks her why she is hunting rather than at court, she says that she prefers the value and honour which are the reward of the hunt. He moves towards her, lust in his eyes, until she raises her spear, then turns and races off into the forest. Braggadocchio rides awkwardly out of the trees, still talking boastfully, with Trompart in tow.
Acrasia, an evil enchantress who lures men to her wandering island, the Bower of Bliss. Sir Guyon has been sent to put an end to her wickedness.
Archimago, an evil sorceror who tries to stop all knights in the service of the Faerie Queen.
Belphoebe, a young woman who prefers hunting to being at court. Adept with her spear, and bow and arrows.
Braggadocchio, a waster and thief, prone to boastfulness, with not an ounce of honour or goodness. He steals Sir Guyon’s charger and lance.
Duessa, Una’s opposite, personifying falsehood, and the symbol of the Roman Catholic Church.
Sir Guyon, hero of Book 2, “Temperance”, a knight at the Faery Queen’s court, who is sent to stop the wrongs of Acrasia.
The Palmer, an elderly man dressed in black, who is leading Sir Guyon in his quest to put a stop to the evil of Acrasia.
Redcrosse Knight, hero of Book 1, “Holiness”, a knight on his first adventure, Saint George.
Sansloy, a Saracen knight who, in Book 1, had tried to seduce then force himself upon Una.
Trompart, a lazy and sly man who wears gaudy clothes. He becomes Braggadocchio’s servant.
Wikipedia on The Faerie Queene, with a partial summary
Wikipedia on Edmund Spenser
Richard Danson Brown (2019) The Art of the Faerie Queene, Manchester UP. ISBN 978 0 7190 8732 5. (Note: this isn’t about visual art, but literary art and poetics.)
AC Hamilton (ed) (2007) Spenser, the Faerie Queene, 2nd edn, Routledge. ISBN 978 1 4058 3281 6. (Critical edition.)
Elizabeth Heale (1999) The Faerie Queene, A Reader’s Guide, 2nd edn, Cambridge UP. ISBN 978 0 521 65468 5.
Douglas Hill (1980) Edmund Spenser, The Illustrated Faerie Queene, Newsweek Books. No ISBN.
Richard A McCabe (ed) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser, Oxford UP. ISBN 978 0 1987 0967 1.