The Faerie Queene

by: Edmund Spenser

Book III, Cantos x, xi & xii

Summary Book III, Cantos x, xi & xii

However, none of these is the true enemy of Chastity as embodied in Britomart, because she is not merely concerned with preserving her maidenhood. Her Chastity is ordered toward Christian love, and so her true enemies are those that seek to destroy love, not just chastity. Her archenemy (in the Book) is Busirane, who (as we can predict from seeing the maske) intends to remove the heart of Amoret; she is wounded in the chest when Britomart finds her, just like the woman in the procession whose heart was then plucked out. The enchanter is no great physical challenge to Britomart, but his sinister intent, strengthened by his magic, is to remove Amoret's capacity to love by removing her heart. In this way, he is a great danger to a champion of Christian love.

Britomart's battle is not won by extraordinary might because her great virtue lies in moderation. She is capable of superlative physical acts but only because her chaste heart is neither too rash nor too timid. This is what allows her to pass through the fire; while Scudamore ran toward it "with greedy will, and envious desire," she passes through in calm confidence (III.xi.25). This is also the meaning of the strange signs she sees in the castle; over every door are written the words, "be bold" -- but over just one door, she sees, "be not too bold." Had she leapt to battle at the first sign of the maske or kept trying to force open the immovable door, she surely would have used up her strength. Instead, she is patient and spends two nights in the castle waiting alertly for the right moment. This patience, combined with powerful action at the appropriate time, gains her an easy victory and brings the allegory of love to a conclusion. True, it is disappointing that we do not see the end of Britomart's own quest; but Book III is more a collection of episodes than a continuous plot. While Britomart is its declared hero it is not necessary for her to reach her ultimate goal within the Book; having witnessed the quality of her patience, we know that she will in the end.

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