The Faerie Queene 15: Tournament and a troth plighted

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Both Scudamour and Arthegall (1895-97), print, 'Spenser's Faerie Queene', ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

The previous episode, covering the first three cantos of the fourth book of The Faerie Queene, told the story of the knights Cambell and Triamond, and how they came to be such close friends, and married to one another’s sisters.

Canto 4

Satyrane makes a Turneyment
For love of Florimell;
Britomart winnes the prize from all,
And Artegall doth quell.

As Blandamour and Paridell are still nursing wounds from their recent fights, they soon settle down and accompany Cambell and Triamond to Sir Satyrane’s tournament. They next meet the vainglorious thief Braggadochio, who starts eyeing up the false Florimell, who is accompanying Blandamour. The latter makes him an offer: fight for her as prize, the loser getting the hag Ate. At that, the challenge is hastily withdrawn.

Once they arrive at the tournament, the knights are soon in combat. Blandamour is thrown from his mount by Ferramont, who in turn is overwhelmed by Triamond, who goes on to defeat his next three opponents, so reaching the final joust of the day with Satyrane himself. Although Triamond remains in his saddle, Satyrane’s lance pierces his armour and gashes his side. The host is therefore declared winner of the day, and they all withdraw until the morning.

On the second day, Triamond withdraws to tend to his injury, leaving his friend Cambell to face Sir Satyrane in his stead. They unseat one another, remount, and draw their swords. When Satyrane’s horse stumbles and throws him, Cambell goes to take his opponent’s shield in triumph. Before he can seize that, he’s surrounded by a hundred knights who’ve come in Satyrane’s defence. Triamond rushes from his sickbed to help his friend beat back his attackers, but when they succeed, they can’t agree whose is the victory, each claiming it’s the other’s.

The third day sees Satyrane dispose of a long succession of challengers, and an unknown newcomer is also fighting his way through the field, overthrowing seven knights in quick succession. His shield bears the text ‘savagery without art’, and he turns out to be none other than the mighty knight Sir Artegall.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Satyrane makes a Turneyment (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Another stranger is also proving highly successful, and soon has to face the victorious Artegall.

This stranger throws Artegall from his charger, following which Cambell, Triamond and Blandamour succumb in turn to the same invincible lance. At the end of the day, the overall winner is found to be none other than Britomart.

Canto 5

The Ladies for the girdle strive
of famous Florimell;
Scudamour comming to Cares house,
doth sleepe from him expell.

Once Britomart has been declared champion, the knights’ many ladies compete for the golden sash as their prize. This had been the girdle of Venus, and represemts both chaste love and wifely virtue, so can’t be worn by anyone who lacks either.

Cambina, Canacee and Duessa all vie for the sash, but when Amoret is brought forward by Britomart she becomes favourite, until the false Florimell is promoted by Blandamour. When this pretender tries the sash on, though, it loosens itself and falls from her waist. Other damsels who try the sash on have similar problems, which greatly amuses the Squire of Dames as it confirms his opinion of their lack of virtue.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), The Ladies for the girdle strive (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Eventually, the ladies allow Amoret to try the sash on. When it both fits and stays on her body, the false Florimell snatches it away and demands that it’s hers as her prize for being the fairest. That also makes her Britomart’s prize, which Britomart refuses. By this time Sir Artegall has already departed, leaving Triamond to refuse in faithfulness to his wife Canacee. This brings argument which is stoked further by the false Florimell, who is taken away by Braggadochio before he can be challenged.

While this is going on, Britomart seizes the moment to ride away with Amoret, unaware that she has just encountered the subject of her knightly quest, Artegall, with Amoret equally unaware that she has missed Scudamour, her beloved, who is currently looking for Britomart, as he mistakenly believes that she has stolen Amoret’s love.

Later that evening, Scudamour and Britomart’s old nurse and squire Glauce, still searching for the knight who has stolen Amoret’s love, come across a small cottage in which to stay the night. There they are accommodated by the blacksmith Care, who with his labourers works his smithy day and night. The combination of the unceasing clangour of the hammers and Scudamour’s anxiety for Amoret prevent him from falling asleep.

Arthur George Walker (1861-1939), Whereto approaching nigh they heard the sound of many iron hammers beating ranke (1900), engraving, ‘Stories from the Faerie Queene’, Mary MacLeod, Gardner, Darton, London, location not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Canto 6

Both Scudamour and Arthegall
Doe fight with Britomart,
He sees her face; doth fall in love,
and soone from her depart.

Moving on in the morning, Scudamour and Glauce come across a knight resting in the shade. As the two knights are about to meet one another in combat, the stranger pulls up and seeks Scudamour’s pardon for not engaging with him. He is in fact Sir Artegall in disguise, but introduces himself as the Savage Knight. He tells Scudamour of Sir Satyrane’s tournament, and explains that he seeks to reclaim his honour from defeat by a knight whom Scudamour immediately recognises is Britomart. Since they are both looking for her, they agree to wait together.

Soon she appears, and the two knights decide that Scudamour will make the first challenge. He charges fiercely, and almost instantly is hurled violently to the ground by the impact of her lance. Sir Artegall follows, and falls just as hard. He is now angry, and draws his sword, striking a glancing blow which wounds Britomart’s charger and forces her to dismount. They fight violently until her sword cuts through his armour into his flesh.

As they fight on, Britomart grows more tired than her opponent, and he lands a blow so forceful that it shears her helmet away completely. Artegall then freezes at the sight of her beautiful face and long golden tresses. He immediately drops on one knee and begs forgiveness, but she tells him to rise and fight on.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Both Scudamour and Arthegall (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

On seeing it is Britomart, Scudamour and Glauce are overcome with delight, and when the knights raise their visors, Britomart is overjoyed to see Artegall at last. She recognises his is the face she saw in the magic mirror all that time ago: she has found her beloved. Artegall immediately falls in love with her, leaving them both speechless, unable to express their feelings for one another.

It’s Scudamour who breaks the silence, and asks about his lady Amoret. Britomart reveals that, after they had slept in a forest nearby, Amoret left before Britomart had woken up, so she doesn’t know where she has gone.

Artegall and Britomart then spend some time together, enabling him to plight his troth. But as he has just begun a dangerous quest of his own, he has to ride off to complete that before the couple can marry. Britomart then joins Scudamour in search of his beloved Amoret.

Principal Characters

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.

Sir Artegall, a mighty and good knight, who is the subject of Britomart’s quest.

Ate, discord personified, an ugly old woman with a forked tongue and feet which point in opposite directions. An accomplice of Duessa, she lives by the gates of Hell.

Blandamour, a knight whose weaknesses are his inconstant nature and shallowness.

Braggadochio, a waster and thief, prone to boastfulness, with not an ounce of honour or goodness. He steals Sir Guyon’s charger and lance, and with them poses as a knight.

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.

Cambell, a valiant and chivalrous knight, the brother of Canacee and husband of Cambina.

Cambina, sister to Triamond, Diamond and Priamond, who married Cambell.

Canacee, sister of Cambell, beautiful and with many suitors, but determined to remain a virgin until she marries Triamond.

Duessa, Una’s opposite, an evil sorceress who personifies falsehood, and is the symbol of the Roman Catholic Church.

Florimell, another virgin in search of her true love, but passive and defenceless. She represents perfect beauty. Presumed eaten or killed by a witch’s monster, but in reality saved and a captive of Proteus in the depths of the sea.

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 Scudamour, 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.

Sir Triamond, triplet brother of Priamond and Diamond. Their mother Agape did a deal with the Fates whereby their individual souls would transfer to enhance those of their surviving brothers, in the event of their death. His sister is Cambina, and he marries Canacee.


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.
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