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Book II, Canto XI

May 8, 2011

Before dawn the next morning Guyon and the Palmer are preparing to leave. Alma arranges a boat for them and off they go. Just as Guyon is leaving, the hordes of wicked villains are back to attach the castle. This time there are more than a thousand, “so huge and infinite their numbers were, / That all the land they vnder them did hide”. They are led by an evil Captain who strategically places his 12 groups of fighters against the castle. In front of the gate he sets 7 groups (the deadly sins). The other 5 attack each bulwark, representing the physical senses of the body-castle:

  • Vile-looking creatures against the eyes – Sight
  • Creatures with vile verbal assaults against the ears – Hearing
  • Spenser doesn’t give any specific descriptions of stank, but a section of the horde is fighting the nose – Smell
  • Greedy ugly creatures assault the mouth – Taste
  • And finally, texturally unpleasant things like hedgehogs and snails are against the skin – Touch
The castle defends itself but the fight isn’t going so well for them. Prince Arthur steps in, gears up, and heads out with his squire to fight the monsters. The monsters let out a terrible cry at seeing a knight in shining armor and immediately swarm him with arrows. The evil Captain hears the commotion and rides up on his tiger mount. He is described as a tall, broad, gaunt, dried-up apparition clad in a “canuas thin” and a human skull helmet. His name is Maleger. At his heels are the two hags of physical assault, Impotence and Impatience.
Maleger fires his bow at Arthur, then flees. The chase ends when Arthur realizes that one of the hags is collecting all of Maleger’s arrows and returning them as fresh ammunition. He stops to capture the hag and is set upon by the other hag and Maleger. Even for Arthur this is too much, and he has a very close call before being rescued by his faithful squire.
Back on his feet, Arthur fights a now-unarmed Maleger and has the upper hand. Maleger is knocked down but gets up immediately to throw a giant boulder at Arthur (luckily he misses). Stanza 37 has a terrific description of what comes next:
So braue returning, with  his brandisht blade,
He to the Carle himselfe againe addrest,
And strooke at him so sternly, that he made
An open passage through his riuen brest,
That halfe the steele behind his back did rest;
Which drawing backe, he looked euermore
When the hard bloud should gush out of his chest,
Or his dead corse should fall vpon the flore;
But his dead corse vpon the flore fell nathemore.
Maleger is a boss with a gimmick. After another attempt at killing him (this time without his sword), it dawns on Arthur that maybe he should stop knocking him down. This tactic works and he tosses the dead Maleger into a river as the two hags kill themselves.
With the battle won, the castle is safe yet again and Alma tends to Arthur.
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