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Book V, Canto IX

July 16, 2011

After a bit, Arthegall, Talus, Arthur, and Samient leave the Souldan’s castle. Samient begs the others to come with her to meet the Queen Mercilla. During the journey they pass the dwelling of a notorious thief named Malengin. Samient tells them that Malengin plunders the country and brings his loot to his impenetrable rock fortress. An expert engineer, he has built a terrible series of tunnels in the mountain to entrap anyone who should seek him or his treasure.

The knights agree that they wish to see this place. They set up a trap. Samient sits and wails close to the den’s opening, attracting the attention of Malengin. He is a vile wight, armed with hooks and nets to snatch whatever he might. The damsel distracts him while the knights block the entrance to the cave. Malengin immediately drops his netted victim and dashed up the mountainside. It is impossible for the knights to follow, but Talus chases him all around. Malengin tranforms himself in various animals to get away, but he eventually falls prey to Talus’ flail.

Now the group comes to Mercilla’s palace. It is a magnificent building, staffed with Awe and Order and others to keep the peace. They see a poet whose tongue has been nailed to a post with the world Malfont (bad fountain, or slander) written over him. In the throne room they interrupt the current hearing. After courtesies have been performed, Mercilla lets the two knights sit with her during the trial.

This is Spenser at his political best. The rest of the canto is the trial of Duessa (the villainess of Book I), an allegory of the trial and tragic fate of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was executed by Elizabeth’s order in 1587.


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