While attempting to save the kingdom of princess Una from a horrible dragon, The Red Cross Knight falls under the hellish influences of a wicked enchanter and a seductive witch. Not only must the hero face the strange and terrible dangers of Faerie Land, he must also come to terms with his own weaknesses along the way. In this high chivalric tale, Red Cross begins his quest confidently attempting to save his beloved, yet he must find the ends of his own strength first. While Una and Red Cross work to save one another, they also learn to lean upon a greater power than their own as they face down evil that strives to snuff out all that is holy and good.
VOLUME ONE: BOOK TWO
The Faerie Queene has commissioned Sir Guyon, a knight of Faerie Land, to overcome the wicked allures of The Bower of Bliss and subdue the deadly enchantress Acrasia. Accompanied by his faithful palmer to guide him, the knight’s first encounters appear simple. A disciplined and noble warrior, Guyon exercises superhuman strength while facing down one temptation after another. As his journey progresses, however, we are shown the complex, inner wranglings of such a quest and learn that not only Guyon, but also Prince Arthur, have some things to learn about the true nature of temperance.
VOLUME TWO: BOOK THREE
Britomart’s life changes forever after stumbling into a magic seeing glass where she catches a glimpse of her future love. Tormented with longing, she adopts the armor of a famous female knight, and with her faithful nurse begins a dangerous quest to find him. Along the way, she vanquishes wicked opponents and rescues the vulnerable while facing her own insecurities and fears. This brave, complex female warrior ignites both awe and terror in those she encounters. She also remains vulnerable enough to elicit tenderness and a sense of kinship in readers. Masterful subplots interweave through Britomart’s narrative, initiating adventures that will extend into other books of The Faerie Queene. Namely, the tragic story of beautiful Florimell and her unrequited love begins—a tale that will not resolve until the end of Book Four.
VOLUME TWO: BOOK FOUR
In his book devoted to friendship, Spenser masterfully juggles complementary plot lines. Though Britomart still hasn’t found her future husband, she has rescued Amoret from a wicked enchanter, and the two women sally forth on a quest to find both of their loves. Britomart, still disguised as a male warrior, must face attacks from a number of male aggressors as she protects her beautiful friend. Spenser also introduces a wicked company of four companions whose greed and disloyalty is contrasted with a noble company of four—two of whom (Cambell and Triamond) began their alliance in lethal combat. Britomart finally meets Artegall, her foretold husband, in the midst of a battle in which both (not recognizing the other) nearly slay their destined love. Meanwhile, Amoret is captured by a vile creature, Florimell is held captive at the bottom of the sea by Proteus, Arthur’s squire Timias faces the torments of love, and Arthur must overcome a giant.
VOLUME THREE: BOOK FIVE
The goddess Astraea can no longer bear the deep corruption of planet earth, so she returns to heaven after entrusting her protégé Artegall with a powerful iron man named Talus to assist in his work. Artegall and Talus accept a commission from The Faerie Queene to rescue Eirena from the giant Grantorto. Yet, along the way, Artegall must face down grave injustices to redeem a broken land. He boldly (ruthlessly, even) overcomes all he deems corrupt– until he is at last overcome by the Amazonian queen Radigund. Thrown into captivity with other conquered knights, Artegall is forced to wear women’s clothing and spin wool until Britomart comes to his rescue. In this most controversial book of Spenser’s epic poem, Spenser’s allegiance to British rule influences a story that has both great strengths and grave weaknesses. Yet, of all books of The Faerie Queene, perhaps Artegall’s tale offers the most fodder for reflecting upon how allegiance to earthly leaders and alliances can distort our understanding of justice.
VOLUME THREE: BOOK SIX
Never has the world seen such a courteous knight as Sir Calidore. His social graces are impeccable. He is courageous, powerful, gallant, charming. Unfortunately, Calidore’s graceful sheen is marred by occasional Quixotic scuffs. Commissioned to conquer a terrifying creature called The Blatant Beast, Calidore’s journey raises questions about the essence and source of true courtesy, highlighting Spenser’s shift from the high glories of court-centered chivalry in Book One to a recognition of the pastoral virtues found in a simple shepherd’s community. Calidore shares his book with Calepine, a secondary hero who works valiantly to save his love Serena from wounds inflicted by The Blatant Beast, the inhospitable and bloodthirsty Sir Turpine, and a wild band of cannibals.
VOLUME THREE: FRAGMENT SEVEN
Mutability charges the throne of Cynthia (the moon) before demanding sovereignty over the gods. The age-old debate between change and constancy is featured in this strange and beautiful fragment, as the case of Mutability is brought before Dame Nature, who determines her fate.