Faerie Queene Book V

Spenser, Edmund. Faerie Queene Book V.

This book is the allegory of Justice. It ends with a very concrete commentary on Elizabeth’s actions in Belgium and Ireland.

As Artegall embodies justice, so he fights the Giant, Equality.  Forced equality always makes people unequal.  

The “Florimell arc” is finally wrapped up.  She is to marry Marinell.  The Britomart/Artegall narrative is also furthered. This raises another problem.  Britomart embodies the virtue Chastity.  And Spenser makes it even more provocative as Britomart best embodies chastity by seeking conjugal wedlock.  Well and good.  Except every time Britomart and Artegall conclude a story arc, they avoid marriage by going on another adventure.  This is doubly complicated with Artegall as he goes on to Ireland (or Irena), which was both unnecessary for Elizabeth and for Artegall.

As is the case with Spenser’s other books, this has a temple featuring prominently at the end. Britomart goes to the Temple of Isis, which is odd since she is a Christian.

Criticisms

Spenser almost waited too long to complete the Florimell arc. That character arc had been pursued several times and the flow of Marinell’s story is moving towards the climax of the wedding.  False Florimell downplays the tension without actually releasing it. I understand that it allowed Artegall to expose Braggadocio, but Spenser almost did it too late in the narrative.

There is a fun chiasm in Canto 10.26:

“The Castle was the strength of all that state,
Until that state by strength was pulled downe.”

A. Strength
B. State
B’ State
A’ Strength

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