In the previous episode, Britomart, the Squire of Dames, Sir Satyrane and Paridell had stayed overnight in the miserly Malbecco’s castle, during which Paridell was busy seducing the keeper’s wife Hellenore.
Paridell rapeth Hellenore;
Malbecco her poursewes;
Fynds emongst Satyres, whence with him
To turne she doth refuse.
The following morning, Sir Satyrane and Britomart leave early, but Paridell claims he’s still suffering from an injury inflicted when Britomart unseated him the previous evening. He stays and completes his seduction of Hellenore before leaving with her. Her husband Malbecco then angrily chases the couple. Before long, the fickle Paridell has grown tired of his new lover, casts her aside, and she’s discovered wandering by a troop of satyrs. They make her their servant and communal lover. Her husband is unable to persuade her to leave their wanton life, and is transformed into Jealousy itself.
Britomart chaceth Ollyphant,
findes Scudamore distrest;
Assayes the house of Busyrane,
where loves spoyles are exprest.
Britomart and Satyrane rode away from the castle, and quickly come acress Ollyphant, the giant twin brother of Argante, who is chasing a young man. When the two knights charge at the giant, he abandons his quarry and runs away. The knights pursue him into a forest, where they split up to search for him.
Britomart happens on a grieving knight, who has stripped off his arms and armour beside a spring, and is sobbing. He introduces himself as Sir Scudamore, and explains that his lady, Amoret, has been captured by an evil magician named Busirane and is being tortured by him in his dungeon. Britomart tells the knight that she will free Amoret or die in the process, so he guides her to the sorceror’s castle.
The castle has no gates or doors to prevent their entry, but its doorway is filled with the flames of a foul-smelling fire. Britomart holds her shield up in front of her face as she plunges through the flames, which immediately part before her, then close in to prevent Scudamore from following. She finds herself in a huge room with richly tapestried walls, showing episodes in which the classical gods had been wounded by Cupid’s arrows. At the far end is a statue of Cupid, with his foot caught up by a blind dragon. The next room she enters has walls of gold, in which images of false love are carved.
The maske of Cupid, and th’enchanted
Chamber are displayd,
Whence Britomart redeemes faire
Amoret, through charmes decayd.
As these rooms grow dark with the setting of the sun, a trumpet sounds from the depths of the castle. A thunderstorm strikes suddenly, with strong gusts of wind passing through the room. Everything shudders in an earthquake, and choking sulphurous fumes fill the air. The wind rushes through again, blowing each door open.
A man named Ease, who’s wearing opulent clothing, then enters, and talks and gestures in complete silence. He’s followed by a band with singers telling of love, and a courtly masque featuring Fancy, Desire, Doubt, Danger, Fear with Hope, Dissemblance, Suspicion, Grief, Fury, Displeasure with Pleasure, and finally Malice and Cruelty. Each looks the part.
The last two bring with them a beautiful woman whose breast has been cut through to her heart, which was cut out and lies in a silver disk, transfixed with an arrow.
Behind them comes Cupid riding a lion and peeping at the crowd from behind his blindfold. Another succession of figures follow, from Reproach and Repentance to Death himself, all the afflictions of false love. Once they have paraded in front of Britomart, they exit through the door, which slams shut and is secured with spells that even Britomart can’t undo.
As she’s still trapped in the room the following night, once the doors spring open Britomart rushes through the one through which the previous night’s masque had entered. Although none of the other figures are present, the woman whose heart had been cut out is there, bound by iron bands to a pillar. In front of her, writing in her blood, is the sorceror Busirane. She is Amoret, Scudamore’s lady and twin sister of Belphoebe.
Busirane makes for his captive with his dagger, but Britomart is too quick for him and drags him back. He slashes his blade at the knight, cutting a shallow wound in her breast. She strikes him down half dead with her sword. At that, Amoret cries to stop her from finishing Busirane off, as he’s still needed to undo the spells which bind her.
Britomart makes the magician an offer, that if he restores his victim fully, he will be allowed to live. In fear of her threat of death, he agrees and starts uttering the spells, which bring tremors and rumbles to the fabric of the castle. All the time, Britomart holds her sword to his throat to ensure good progress. Step by step, he undoes his spells: Amoret’s bands drop away, the pillar crumbles, the arrow is removed from her heart, which is replaced in her chest, and the hole in her breast is healed magically.
Amoret falls on her knees to thank Britomart, who helps her up and escorts her out of the castle, which has lost all its splendor and the guardian flames at its entrance. But once they’re outside they can’t find any sign of Scudamore, or Britomart’s old nurse who acted as her squire. They had apparently abandoned the knight for dead.
That completes the legend of Britomartis, or Chastity and is the end of the third book of The Faerie Queene.
Amoret, or Amoretta, twin sister of Belphoebe, raised by Psyche as a paragon of grace and beauty, with only one true love. She’s abducted and tortured by Busirane.
Argante, a woman giant, daughter of Titans, and sister of Ollyphant, with an obscene lust.
Belphoebe, twin sister of Amoret, who prefers hunting to being at court. Raised by Diana as a huntress, she is adept with her spear, and bow and arrows.
Britomart, or Britomartis, heroine of Book 3, “Chastity”, or faithfulness in true love. A woman knight and virgin, taken to represent the Fairy Queene herself, she has fallen in love with the image of the knight Artegall, and is in quest of him.
Busirane, an evil sorceror who captures Amoret and tortures her to try to make her succumb to his lust.
Hellenore, wife of Malbecco, who elopes with Sir Paridell. When abandoned by him, she serves as communal lover and servant to a troop of lecherous satyrs.
Malbecco, miserly keeper of a castle, who guards his wealth and wife, Hellenore, jealously, and becomes Jealousy itself.
Ollyphant, a giant, son of Titans, and brother of Argante, with an equally obscene lust.
Sir Paridell, a fickle knight from Gloriana’s court who falls in love with Hellenore, elopes with her, then abandons her.
Sir Satyrane, a good knight, who helped Una in the past.
Sir Scudamore, a good knight, whose lady is Amoret. He is plunged into grief when she is adbucted and tortured by Busirane.
The Squire of Dames, a young squire sent on missions to please his lover, currently struggling to find more than three women who won’t surrender their chastity to him.
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.