Book II, Canto IV
Happy New Year everyone!
Guyon’s horse is pissed at having Braggadocchio on his back. Spenser reminds us that the nobility ride much better than common folks.
Now we return to Guyon and the Palmer. They spy a madman dragging along a young man, beating him. A hag follows the madman. Her description is hideous – her forehead is covered in hair, but behind her head is all bald, “That none thereof could euer taken hold”*. As they walk, she goads on the madman to keep beating the poor youth.
Of course Guyon intervenes in this scene. He pushes away the hag and fights with the madman, who fights back blindly, even injuring himself. Guyon is confused by this crazy, disorganized combat style and is knocked down. After a few beatings he jumps back up again with his sword, but is advised by the Palmer that his blade will not avail against this monster Furor (the personification of wrath). We also learn that the hag is called Occasion, “the root of all wrath and despight”. The way to defeat Furor is to deal with Occasion first.
Guyon takes this advise to heart and restrains the hag, locking her tongue to shut her up. Furor runs off but is caught and bound by Guyon. Even constrained by a hundred iron chains and a hundred knots, he is still acting crazy. Guyon turns his attention to the beaten man. His background with Occasion and Furor is a familiar story, used previously by Ariosto and subsequently by Shakespeare. It is the plot of Much Ado About Nothing but with a tragic ending.
This beaten man was once a Squire who had a childhood friend named Philemon. He also had a lady love whom he became engaged to. The friend, while previously acting graciously toward the fiancee, now claimed that he knew she had been cheating and bids the Squire to hold off on his marriage. Philemon’s lies continued with a tale of the fiancee meeting her lover in a particular place. He told the Squire he would take him there so he could see with his own eyes.
Philemon, however, was secretly having a tryst with the lady Claribell’s maid. He convinced her to steal her mistress’s clothes and meet him at the designated spot, where to the Squire’s horror they acted out the scene he had heard of. The next time he saw Claribell, he killed her. Then he poisoned Philemon. Then he went after the maid, Pryene, and was chasing her with a knife when he was set upon by Occasion and Furor.
Guyon sympathizes and advises the Squire to cultivate our book’s virtue of Temperance. The Palmer takes over with a lecture on the dangers of passion, wrath, and jealousy. Guyon suggests that the Squire practice more caution in the future and asks his name. His name is Phedon. At this moment a varlet runs up to them at full speed. He carries a red shield with an image of fire and two sharp darts. The varlet Atin threatens Guyon, telling him to leave this place or else risk the wrath of his master Pyrochles. Guyon asks what brought him out and he replies that he is looking for Occasion, as his master is in the mood to fight. Guyon indicates the bound and gagged Occasion. Atin is pissed, reproves them for fighting an old woman, threatens them with Pyrochles’ vengeance, throws a dart, and leaves.
* My book’s notes inform me that this is a common Renaissance portrayal, as Occasion must be seized as she approaches and not after she has already past.