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Book III, Canto IV

May 10, 2011

You know, it’s a good thing that Britomart started out in Canto I as such a badass, because otherwise I might have stopped liking her character right about now. She complains incessantly. This canto begins with Britomart and her squire stopping by the sea to reflect upon the ocean. Britomart sighs about her lovesickness until stanza 12, when she sees a knight approaching. He challenges her (knights can never, ever be friends at first meeting) and she unhorses him instantly, mortally wounding him. Then she rides away, noticing that the Rich Strand is covered with treasure.

This dying man’s name is Marinell, a very nautical name. He is the daughter of a sea-nymph named Cymoent. His prowess in arms had become legendary, “That none durst pass through that perilous glade”. Cymoent persuaded her sea-deity father to lavish all the sea’s riches upon her son, hence the treasure that Britomart just passed by. Cymoent was a very cautious mother, worried about her son’s fighting habit, so she consulted the god Proteus. Proteus prophesied that Marinell’s defeat would come through a woman. Hence Cymoent warned Marinell to avoid all women.

But ah, who can deceiue his destiny,
Or weene by warning to auoyd his fate?

His mother bad him women’s loue to hate,
For she of woman’s force did feare no harme;
So weening to haue arm’d him, she did quite disarme.

When his mother hears the bad news, she wails and weeps and has the dolphins pull her sea-chariot to the Rich Strand. They carry his body back to the ocean depths, where one of the nymphs discovers that he is only “mostly dead”.

The story returns to Britomart, completely unaware that her actions have wreaked havoc under the sea. We learn that everyone’s favorite villain Archimago is after her. In the meantime all the boys who were distracted by the lady on the horse are still running hard after her. Arthur almost catches her, but she will not stop for him or anyone. Finally night falls and Arthur is forced to take a break.

But gentle Sleepe enuyde him any rest;
In stead thereof sad sorrow, and disdaine
Of his hard hap did vexe his noble brest,
And thousand fancies bet his idle braine
With their light wings, the sights of semblants vaine:
Oft did he wish, that Lady faire mote bee
His Faery Queene, for whom he did complaine:
Or that his Faery Queene were such, as shee:
And ever hastie Night he blamed bitterlie.
-stanza 54

Like Britomart (despite his obsession with this current damsel in distress), he is pursuing a destined love he has never seen. Like Britomart, he loves to complain about it. He blames Night bitterlie for the rest of the canto.


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