The Faerie Queene

by: Edmund Spenser

Book III, Cantos vi & vii

Summary Book III, Cantos vi & vii

For example, in Canto vii, we see the continued misfortune of Florimell to be lusted after by each man she meets. She does not try to use her beauty for seduction, and yet upon seeing her, the old hag's son "cast to love her in his brutish mind; / No love, but brutish lust, that was so beastly tind (III.vii.15)." Spenser fully realizes the danger of beauty without a positive chastity and, perhaps, admits a generally lustful character in most men--we will see such incidents as these repeated. On the other hand, in the "giauntesse" Argante, we have the embodiment of the extremes to which a woman's sexual desire can go. Her great size allegorically represents the enormity of her pride and perversion: She has committed incest and even "suffred beasts her body to deflowre (III.vii.49)." While characters like Florimell and Belphoebe represent chastity missing an essential element, they are made to look holy by Argante, who represents the total rejection of chastity or even discretion. Thus, only true chastity can conquer the giantess; as the squire reveals, the knight who chased Argante off is actually a warrior maid like Britomart--Palladine is her name.

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