The Faerie Queene 17: The Temple of Venus, and Florimell released

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Marin, for love of Florimell (1895-97), print, 'Spenser's Faerie Queene', ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

In the previous episode, Prince Arthur had freed the young squire Amyas from the monster Corflambo’s dungeon, allowing him to marry Aemylia. His close friend Placida and the monster’s daugher Poeana agreed to marry as well. Arthur and Amoret then came across a fierce battle between four knights and Britomart with Scudamour. When that was finally stopped, they asked Scudamour to tell them how he had gained Amoret’s love.

Canto 10

Scudamour doth his conquest tell,
of vertuous Amoret;
Great Venus Temple is describ’d,
And lovers life forth set.

When he was young, Scudamour had visited a fortified island containing the Temple of Venus. When he crossed the bridge to the castle’s entrance, he saw the Shield of Love, bearing the words “Whoever holds this shield also holds the fair Amoret”, a challenge to which he rose. He first had to defeat the twenty knights guarding that entrance before he could take the shield onwards. There the two-faced porter Doubt let him in. He then passed Delay, who tried to hold him back, before arriving at the Gate of Good Desert, which was guarded by Danger, a hideous giant.

Scudamour successfully forced the giant to let him through, and entered into a perfect paradise of nature. Thousands of couples strolled around its glades, chaste and happy lovers. There were also pairs of close friends such as Hercules and Hylas, and David and Jonathan. The knight headed for the beautiful Temple of Venus, where he found a sober dame sat in its porch with two young half-brothers, Love and Hate. Despite their opposing characters, she had brought them into harmony; her name was Concord, the true guardian of the temple, and her divine twin children were Peace and Friendship.

He made his way into the inner sanctum, which was splendidly festooned with flowers, and at its centre stood a statue of the veiled Venus on a crystal altar. Her attendants were at her feet: Womanhood, Shamefastness, Cheerfulness, Modesty, Courtesy, Silence and Obedience. Resting in the lap of the first was Amoret herself, dressed in the purest white.

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

When Scudamour stepped forward to take Amoret’s hand, Womanhood rebuked him. He flourished the shield and assured her that it is only right that Cupid’s knight should be joined with Venus’s maid. The statue looked as if it smiled in approval as he led Amoret away.

Canto 11

Marinells former wound is heald,
he comes to Proteus hall,
Where Thames doth the Medway wedd,
and feasts the Sea-gods all.

Meanwhile, in Proteus’ dungeon in the depths of the sea, the true Florimell was being held captive. For seven months she had refused to forsake her true love Marinell, who had been recovering from the near-fatal injury which he’d suffered in combat with Britomart. The knight’s mother, a Nereid, had enlisted the help of Tryphon, and between them they nursed him back to health.

To celebrate the marriage of the river-god of the River Thames and the nymph of the River Medway, the sea deities are gathering at Proteus’ house. At their head are Neptune and his wife Amphitrite, followed by the other seniors, then all the river-gods from across the world. Marinell’s mother is in the train of the bride, the River Medway, although her son had a mortal father so is unable to attend the feast, and wanders around other parts of Proteus’ house.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Marinells former wound is heald (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Canto 12

Marin for love of Florimell,
In languor wastes his life;
The Nymph his mother getteth her,
And gives to him for wife.

As Marinell is wandering around Proteus’ house, he reaches an impending cliff, where he hears a piteous voice talking about its suffering, and faithfulness unto death, before invoking his name.

Marinell is unable to release that damsel in distress, so returns home with his mother. He can’t forget that voice, though, and pines for her, falling ill again. Tryphon can’t help him this time, as he diagnoses Marinell’s illness as being caused by love. His mother is angry at first, then fearful, before deciding that the woman must be a sea-nymph. She promises to help her son to bring her to him, to restore his health.

Walter Crane (1845–1915), Marin, for love of Florimell (1895-97), print, ‘Spenser’s Faerie Queene’, ed TJ Wise, George Allen, London, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

Marinell’s mother pleads her son’s case to Neptune himself, and convinces him to issue an order to Proteus to release his captive. Florimell is then united with Marinell, and they declare their mutual love.

This completes the fourth book of The Faerie Queene.

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.

Prince Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, bearer of a magic shield which blinds his enemies and turns them to stone, and future king.

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.

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.

Marinell, a knight, son of a Nereid, who has been warned to keep away from women, as a maiden will bring him great injury and grief.

Proteus, a junior sea god, who lives in house at the bottom of the sea, where he holds Florimell captive in his dungeon.

Sir Scudamour, a good knight, whose lady is Amoret. He is plunged into grief when she is adbucted and tortured by Busirane.


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.