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Book III, Canto XI

May 16, 2011

Britomart and Satyrane are riding along when they see the other twin Giant, Ollyphant, chasing a young man. They ride to fight him, but he is afraid of Britomart’s chastity and runs away very fast. Britomart and Satyrane are separated in the hunt and Britomart ends up searching through the woods. She comes across a knight lying by a fountain. His shield has an image of Cupid. This is Sir Scudamour. He is crying about his love Amoret, who is being held captive and tortured by the antagonist Busirane in a dungeon because she will not give him her love.

Britomart is moved by the story and swears to help him. He assures her that their efforts are futile, but leads her to the magic castle where Amoret is being held. There is a wall of flame surrounding the castle.

Britomart is disheartened by the magic wall of fire, so she asks Scudamour if he has a plan. He answers that entering the wall is impossible. She immediately proves him wrong by walking through with her shield held in front of her, parting the fire wall. Scudamour tries the same and fails. He cries some more.

Inside, Britomart sees a room full of tapestries, in which

weren fashioned
Many faire pourtraicts, and many a faire feate,
And all of loue, and all of lusty-hed…
-stanza 29

The tapestries tell Greek mythology’s stories of gods and their love adventures, “Cupids warres”, mostly from Ovid. At the end of the room is a great altar with a golden image of the blindfolded Cupid with his lead and gold-tipped arrows, standing victorious upon the image of a dragon with an arrow in each eye.

Britomart is impressed. She sees the words “Be bold” repeated over the doorway and wonders what it could mean. The next room is walled with gold and tells the stories of mighty men who were undone by their loves. Again the doorways all say “Be bold”, until

At last she spyde at that roomes vpper end,
Another yron dore, on which was writ,
Be not too bold; whereto though she did bend
Her earnest mind, yet wist not what it might intend.
-stanza 54

It is now evening, but she will not fall asleep, so she watches.


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