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The Temple of Venus episode has become a textual crux for readers of The Faerie Queene because of the way in which it complicates the connection between the poem’s two halves. Interpretations have tended to focus on the erotic relation between Scudamore and Amoret; this essay, in contrast, focuses on the structural relation between Scudamore and the poem’s allegorical design. It demonstrates how Spenser uses Scudamore to highlight the tension between character and figure, representation and allegorization, at the beginning of the 1596 continuation of The Faerie Queene, and, more broadly, to reflect upon character as system in narrative.


Scudamore's account of his seizure of an unwilling Amoret from the Temple of Venus in book 4, canto 10 of The Faerie Queene has come to pose a problem to interpreters, some of whom see it as a rescue, some as an act of rape.1 The problem is compounded by the fact that Spenser asks us to fit together two separate narratives: the 1590 three-book poem, where the wicked enchanter Busirane has Amoret in his possession and where Scudamore, as Cupid's man, is powerless to liberate her although Britomart, as a figure of Chastity, is not; and the 1596 continuation, where the story gets the beginning that it previously lacked. Departing from the premise that Scudamore's actions in book 4 are intended to elaborate or explain what has already happened in book 3, critics have argued that the casting of Scudamore as a rapist makes good retrospective sense: Scudamore cannot save Amoret from Busirane, her second male aggressor, because he did not save her from himself.

Amoret, the foster child of Venus, is the erotic enticement placed at the end of Scudamore's chivalric adventure. Sitting in the lap of a protective Womanhood and surrounded by a congregation of personified feminine attributes, Amoret has no defense against the Cupid "with his killing bow / And cruell shafts" whom Scudamore brandishes on his shield.2 Initially hesitant to rob this church of its prize, Scudamore hardens his resolve and takes possession of Amoret's hand. He relates how Amoret [End Page 93] breaks her silence to plead with her captor as she is being led from the Temple:

She often prayd, and often me besought,      Sometime with tender teares to let her goe,      Sometime with witching smyles.


Imputing to Amoret a duplicity—"tender teares" but "witching smyles"—that confirms his own misogynistic stereotypes, Scudamore offers the rationale of a rapist: "For no intreatie would forgoe so glorious spoyle" ( A keyword in Spenser's, as well as in Scudamore's, vocabulary, "spolye" (, or alternately, "spoile" (, connects Amoret to other female victims, including Una, the prize of Sansloy (;, the False Florimell claimed by Paridell and Blandamour (, Æmylia imprisoned by "a wilde and sauage man" (;, Serena the captive of the cannibals (6.8.41–2), and Pastorella abducted by a band of brigands (6.10.39–40).

It remains the case, however, that condemnation of Scudamore's actions in the Temple requires us to read Spenser's allegorical poem at the level of character, a reading that Paul J. Alpers has cautioned against because the narrative materials of The Faerie Queene are "not conceived as the utterances of a speaker who has a dramatic identity and presence."3 Critics have tended to ignore Alpers's stricture, at least in Scudamore's case, because the autobiographical integrity of his account appears to establish a consistent subjective perspective, encouraging consideration of him as a character and therefore as doli capax, capable of crime. For the same reason, the mythopoetic details that do exonerate Scudamore—the consent of a laughing Venus (4.10.56) and the allusion to Orpheus and Eurydice that suggests that the Temple is a kind of underworld and that Amoret is enduring a form of living death (–5)—are often seen to be compromised by the first-person frame within which they are articulated.

My reading is intended to reorient, but also to complement, this critical approach to Scudamore's narrative. It argues that Spenser does, indeed, grant to Scudamore the kind of dramatic identity that Alpers suggests is not present in The Faerie Queene, but that he does so primarily to engage the procedures of his allegory and, in particular, the terms of its continuation beyond 1590. Spenser uses Scudamore to show a character in the process of becoming an allegorical function, and he uses Scudamore's autobiographical [End Page 94] complaint to show how subjectively he registers resentment and discontent with this objectifying process.4 In book 3, canto 10, Spenser traces the reduction of the jealous husband Malbecco to a personified abstraction, Gealosie (; in book 4, canto 10, he traces the reduction of another jealous husband, Scudamore, to a personified insignia (4.10.8). However, whereas Malbecco "quight / Forgot he was a man" (–9), Scudamore never forgets who he is because Spenser does not complete the effacement of his personality into an allegorical presence.5 Instead, he externalizes Scudamore's submerged perspective and allows him briefly to establish a center of consciousness in competition with the allegorical logic of the poem.

The conflict that Spenser stages between allegory and representation interconnects with a thematic conflict between marriage and male honor. In the allegory's taxonomy of erotic options, Scudamore is destined to become a minor negative exemplum—married rather than single, domesticated, even cuckolded (at least in his own imagination), rather than heroic. His proximity to Malbecco, the wronged husband, and to Paridell, the serial seducer, is emphasized by the narrative interlace and, in an important sense, he comes to represent the possible conjunction of their two roles: the man who, fearing cuckoldry, turns rapist, thereby sealing his fate as a cuckold.6 Most importantly, his fate enables Spenser to reflect upon the function of allegory in furthering an epic-romance agenda and exalting an epic-romance heroine, Britomart, whose centrality partly emerges through the marginalization and subordination of other characters, including Scudamore. In this regard, The Faerie Queene makes a precocious contribution to discussion of systems of characterization in narrative, and particularly in the novel, the modern genre that emerges out of and in opposition to early modern romance.


When Britomart and the reader first encounter Scudamore in book 3, canto 11, they see a knight lying prone upon the grass by a fountain, surrounded by his armor and weapons:

     His haberieon, his helmet, and his speare;      A little off, his shield was rudely throwne,      On which the winged boy in colours cleare      Depeincted was, full easie to be knowne, And he thereby, where euer it in field was showne.

(–9) [End Page 95]

As A. C. Hamilton has pointed out, Scudamore's posture of overwrought distress offers an exaggerated rearrangement of Pinabello's sorrowful reverie in the Orlando furioso.7 Spenser also rearranges the elements of Ariosto's romance plot: Scudamore, like Pinabello, speaks of a ladylove trapped in an enchanted castle, and the poem's warrior-heroine Britomart, like Bradamante, undertakes to rescue her in his stead. But in the Orlando furioso, the enchanted shield belongs to the captor, the magician Atlante, and not to the impotent rescuer.8 Spenser's description is meticulous: Scudamore has set down his weapons but he has cast his shield aside—"rudely" in early modern English carries connotations of excessive force or violence, indicating the strength of Scudamore's disgust.9 The separation of Scudamore from his allegorical identity (the shield, or scud amor) is immediately overturned, however, when the narrator draws attention to the derivation of the knight's identity from its insignia: "full easie to be knowne, / And he thereby, where euer it in field was showne." Even before Scudamore names himself some four stanzas later, he has already been recognized as "Cupid's man." The problem with this identification comes less from the fact that Scudamore has lost his lady, than from the fact that the shield has proved useless at winning her back. Shouldn't Cupid's man be capable of rescuing Venus's maid?

Scudamore's disgust at the shield's inability to grant him access to the House of Busirane is compounded by Britomart's ability to enter in his stead. Approaching the House together, the two knights are confronted not by a gate or allegorical gatekeeper, as will be the case with the Temple of Venus in book 4, but by a barrier of "flaming fire, ymixt with smouldry smoke" ( Conquering her initial dismay, Britomart advances toward the fire with her shield protecting her face and her sword pointing forward. The flames part before her, and she enters the castle (3.11.25). Having witnessed her success, Scudamore tries his luck:

                    he likewise gan assay, With greedy will, and enuious desire, And bad the stubborne flames to yield him way: But cruell Mulciber would not obay His threatfull pride, but did the more augment      His mighty rage, and with imperious sway      Him forst (maulgre) his fiercenesse to relent, And backe retire, all scorcht and pitifully brent.

(–9) [End Page 96]

Spenser leaves us in little doubt as to the cause of Scudamore's failure. The manner in which he makes his attempt only serves to stoke the flames; anaphora—"His threatfull pride," "His mighty rage"—suggests an equivalence between the two antagonists, the fierce knight and the wrathful blocking figure. Indeed the referent of "His mighty rage" is left unclear, picking out Scudamore as well as Mulciber and intensifying the parallel between them. Scudamore, Spenser would have us understand, is his own worst enemy.10 Since Britomart is the Knight of Chastity, it is plausible to read Scudamore's "greedy will, and enuious desire" as lust, explaining his failure in terms of her prior success.11 But a different reading is also possible, one that points forward and prepares toward the 1596 continuation of the poem; in this reading, Scudamore's "greedy will, and enuious desire" are directed neither at Amoret nor at Busirane, the rival for Amoret's virgin body, but at Britomart, the knight who has just usurped his place. Thwarted in his desire to emulate her example, Scudamore returns to his former routine of self-abjection and self-punishment: "wilfully him throwing on the gras, / Did beat and bounse his head and brest full sore" (–6, emphasis added). Spenser gets comic mileage out of the verbal doublet—Scudamore hits the ground with such force that his body rebounds for a second descent—but the important word here is the adverb "wilfully," recalling the "greedy will" of the previous stanza.12 Scudamore is back where he started, on the ground and in distress, but his reason for being there is now quite different: not that he cannot rescue Amoret, but that another knight can. As though to underscore his irrelevance, the poem promptly abandons Scudamore midstanza in order to pursue Britomart as she begins her journey through the House of Busirane.

Did Spenser already have an idea in 1590 of how he would develop the Scudamore-Britomart-Amoret triangle in 1596? Certainly, he launches the poem's continuation upon the dramatic interest accruing to the displacement of Scudamore by Britomart outside Busirane's prison-palace, playing up the anxieties of Amoret, who anticipates being taken advantage of by her rescuer (4.1.5–6), and of Scudamore, who is easily duped by Ate into believing that Amoret has been unfaithful to him:

I saw him haue your Amoret at will,      I saw him kisse, I saw him her embrace,      I saw him sleepe with her all night his fill,      All manie nights, and manie by in place,      That present were to testifie the case.

(–5) [End Page 97]

Ate imagines Amoret's infidelity as a common occurrence open to common view. Here the anaphora comically insists upon Britomart's masculine disguise even as it unfolds a sequence of erotic transgressions—"haue," "kisse," "embrace," and finally "sleepe." The deception of Scudamore recalls the opening of the 1590 poem, where Archimago separates the Redcrosse Knight from Una by presenting him with false evidence of her infidelity. To begin the poem anew, Spenser suggests, is simply a matter of repeating the same moves.13 On the one hand, Scudamore's jealousy is purely imaginary since Britomart is not in fact the male competitor he takes her to be; on the other, it is all too real since, regardless of her sex, Britomart has taken not only the lady but also the quest, which more properly belongs to him. For if the switch between Britomart and Scudamore at the end of book 3 curtails Scudamore's involvement in his own plot, the larger switch, played out over the course of book 4, curtails his involvement in the poem's plot of translatio imperii that centers on her. To put this another way, Scudamore's heroic pretensions are those of a minor character aspiring to the place of a major one, and it is, I think, a sign of Spenser's daring and growing confidence in his allegorical design that he makes Scudamore's disenchantment with his subordinate position an opening theme of the 1596 continuation. By the time Scudamore narrates the beginning of his adventures at the Temple of Venus in book 4, canto 10, the poem is already moving past him; nonetheless, it is here, where he alone takes center stage, that he becomes, in the fullest sense, the failed "Cupid's man" who first appeared in book 3, canto 11. By granting him a voice, Spenser allows Scudamore to reflect upon the allegorical prescription of the shield of love, but he also suggests that Scudamore may be at least partially responsible for diminishing his own possibilities, that his marginalization represents a failure not of the poem's design, but of his own imagination.14


Before entering the Temple of Venus, Scudamore wins the shield of love that secures his right to Amoret, Venus's maid and a votary of her Temple—"Blessed the man that well can vse his blis: / Whose euer be the shield, faire Amoret be his" (–9). The ease with which Scudamore gains the shield is reflected in the speed with which he recounts the victory in his narrative. Six lines are sufficient to describe the defeat of twenty guardian [End Page 98] knights whom Scudamore leaves "groning there vpon the plaine" (–6, 6). While it is true that the allegorical landscape starts to thicken around Scudamore as soon as he takes up the shield, his progress to Amoret involves no further combat—the Temple's gatekeepers Doubt and Danger stand aside once they recognize the shield (4.10.14; 4.10.19). Passing Danger for a second time on his way out of the Temple, Scudamore comments upon his allegorical prop and the protection it grants him: "But euermore my shield did me defend, / Against the storme of euery dreadfull stoure" (–7). Like the golden bough that secures Aeneas's passage to and from the underworld, the shield grants Scudamore unimpeded access to the Temple and its contents.15

The Virgilian parallel is an apt one, both because it reinforces the idea of the Temple as a kind of underworld and because it places Scudamore in the role of Aeneas, the epic hero he wants so desperately to be. It is Britomart, not Scudamore, who is destined to become the "alter Aeneas" of Spenser's poem, founding a new Troy in Britain through her marriage to Artegall, but the Scudamore of book 4, canto 10, fresh from the Court of the Faerie Queene, has heroic aspirations of his own: "To winne me honour by some noble gest, / And purchase me some place amongst the best" (–5). The shield's guarantee of success in the Temple appears initially to confirm these aspirations, explaining Scudamore's frustration with its subsequent failure outside the House of Busirane. But in order to explain why the shield proves useless in that instant, and, more generally, why the heroic and the amatory prove incompatible aims in Scudamore's case, we need to consider whom he encounters on his way to claim Amoret.

Having successfully passed the two gatekeepers, Scudamore pauses to admire the male companions who sport together in the Elysian grounds of the Temple. The identity of these exemplary pairings—Hercules and Hylas, Jonathan and David, Theseus and Pirithous, Pylades and Orestes, Titus and Gesippus, and Damon and Pythias (4.10.27)—is unsurprising since they represent the standard entries in classical and Elizabethan catalogs of male friendship.16 What is perhaps surprising is the way in which Scudamore turns the exemplary into a personal epiphany.

Which when as I, that neuer tasted blis,      Nor happie howre, beheld with gazefull eye,      I thought there was none other heauen then this;      And gan their endlesse happinesse enuye,      That being free from feare and gealosye, [End Page 99]      Might frankely there their loues desire possesse;      Whilest I through paines and perlous ieopardie,      Was forst to seeke my lifes deare patronesse: Much dearer be the things, which come through hard      distresse.


Scudamore's assessment recalls the narrator's earlier description of the Garden of Adonis, the childhood playground of Amoret, where, "Without fell rancor, or fond gealosie; / Franckly each paramour his leman knowes" (–7). There the narrator spoke from experience, having tested the pleasures of Venus's earthly domain "by tryall" ( Scudamore's envious spectatorship bespeaks, by comparison, his inexperience: he looks on as one uninitiated, "I, that neuer tasted blis." His reaction may perhaps be dismissed as hopelessly naive—"I thought there was none other heauen then this"—but we fail fully to appreciate the regret articulated in these lines if we are not prepared to hear a faint echo of the Redcrosse Knight's unwillingness to renounce the New Jerusalem (1.10.63), as though Scudamore, in his own tenth canto, has been brought to a height from which he, too, must descend to a lesser arena of action. Certainly, the verbal phrase "forst to" articulates a coercion that threatens to compromise the voluntary heroics of the quest narrative.

It is possible that Scudamore is reacting here not just to the male friends of stanzas 26 and 27, but also to the lovers of stanza 25, that his envy is directed toward everyone who is already paired off and possessed of "loues desire" ( while he still has to work to obtain Amoret. Male philia and heterosexual love need not be incompatible ends, as the action of book 4 has already taken pains to point out. The tale of Cambell, Cambina, Triamond, and Canacee (4.2.30–54; 4.3.1–52) ends by emphasizing the equality achieved among sibling, fraternal, and marital love—"So all alike did loue, and loued were" ( In the subsequent tale of Amyas, Æmylia, Placidas, and Pœana (4.7.15–8; 4.8.47–64; 4.9.1–17), this equality is called into question, however, first by Placidas, who claims that his friend Amyas "did professe" to love him more than the highborn lady Æmylia (–10), and then by the narrator, who asserts that "faithfull friendship" is able to "suppresse" both the natural affection of kinship and the flame of erotic love (–5). Thus by canto 10, male philia has started to be perceived as an antithesis rather than a complement to familial and heterosexual love, a perception that Scudamore continues by drawing a distinction between the two types of lovers on view: [End Page 100]

     And therein thousand payres of louers walkt,      Praysing their god, and yeelding him great thankes,      Ne euer ought but of their true loues talkt, Ne euer for rebuke or blame of any balkt.

All these together by themselves did sport      Their spotlesse pleasures, and sweet loues content.      But farre away from these, another sort      Of louers lincked in true harts consent;      Which loued not as these, for like intent,      But on chast vertue grounded their desire,      Farre from all fraud, or fayned blandishment;      Which in their spirits kindling zealous fire, Brave thoughts and noble deeds did euermore aspire.


Spatially demarcated from the erotic couples, who seem to be taking their pleasure only by walking and talking, the male friends absorb the majority of Scudamore's attention.17 Not only do they receive ten additional lines of narrative, they are also named and arranged into an epic catalog (4.10.27). Repetition associates, if only implicitly, the heterosexual couples in line 3 of stanza 26 ("farre away from these") with the less laudatory aspects of love in line 7 ("Farre from all fraud, or fayned blandishment"), although the larger point of the stanza is that male friendship, unlike erotic love, is not an end in itself, but an incitement to heroic action. Scudamore's reading of the two kinds of love as exclusive and distinct is not necessarily identical to the "meaning" of the episode, which may, as Thomas P. Roche Jr. has argued, collapse the difference between erotic love and male friendship by grouping them together in Venus's Temple, but it does make the commitment to Amoret coincident with the death of honor inside his masculine imagination.18 For by bypassing the homosocial male heroes and progressing onward toward the Temple, Scudamore clearly thinks he is bypassing the heroic career they represent. His complaint is that he is never going to play the part of a Theseus, Hercules, or Pylades because as Cupid's man he is already committed to an allegorically arranged union with Venus's maid.

Scudamore's separation of philia from eros, noble deeds from amatory pleasures, has important implications for how we—and he—interpret his quest. At the critical moment of choice, Scudamore turns away from the heroes in the Temple because he believes himself to be, or, more precisely, he believes by allegorical logic that he ought to be, moving toward his marriage partner, [End Page 101] Amoret. In this scenario, the shield of love becomes the allegorical equivalent of a wedding ring. But as the narrative distribution of the Scudamore-Amoret plot has already made clear, the shield of love is not a shield of marriage in any straightforward sense; it does not help Scudamore win back his wife from the erotic prison-palace of the enchanter Busirane, and it does not reunite him with her at the end of his narrative. Scudamore has simply been handed the badge of Cupid's man; he will not be hanging out with the boys any more but neither, given his negative place in the poem's erotic design, will he be happily married. To the Scudamore who has been indentured to allegory by the shield of love, this outcome appears doubly unjust, denying him both the male friendship he desires and the erotic compensation for its loss. To the reader, for whom all this is happening after the narrative fact of book 3, the outcome appears irresistible, as if Scudamore were passing by the male friends on the way to the marriage he dreaded, only to find himself cast—perhaps precisely because he dreaded marriage—as a rapist so that he might in turn become the failed "Cupid's man" who first appeared in book 3, canto 11. In short, Scudamore's fate is overdetermined; my point is that this overdetermination is deliberately compounded by the new problem introduced at 4.10.28.


In the 1590 Letter to Raleigh, which narrates the occasion of each quest and introduces the knight assigned to it, Scudamore is designated as the lover and not as the husband of Amoret, so that the marital aspect of his character is entirely a 1596 addition.19 His change of status casts retrospective light on the erotic tortures of Busirane, contextualized after the fact as the anxieties of the virgin bride, but it also prepares for the Temple of Venus, an underworld episode that enters the mind of the bridegroom-to-be. More broadly, Scudamore's post-1590 portrayal as a reluctant husband is incorporated into and exploited by a containing allegorical design, one in which the narrowing of his identity contrasts with the freer subjectivity of Britomart as she approaches her own marital destiny. In this way, Spenser allows the dissenting opinion of Scudamore a place in his poem, but he does so only to subordinate that opinion to his praise of marriage.

As a devaluer of marital commitment, Scudamore may usefully be compared to another Renaissance bachelor and reluctant bridegroom: Bertram from All's Well That Ends Well (1602–03). [End Page 102] Marital issues are at the center of Shakespeare's play in which the antihero abandons his bride in order to have the soldier's career he believes she will deny him, but instead ends up as a friendless seducer. As its title suggests, the play ends with the reconciliation of wife and husband; Helena, the lowborn woman, rescues Bertram, the highborn aristocrat, in a reverse taming plot that relies, perhaps too heavily for comfort, upon the hoary device of the bed trick. Although Shakespeare's comedy invites a level of psychological explanation that Spenser's allegory resists, its erotic logic—that the man who fears the commitment of marriage is likely to wind up as a Lothario—gets played out through the narrative interlace of book 4, which brings Scudamore, the unhappily married man, into close proximity with a debased version of himself, the cynical seducer Paridell. Paridell has already made a case against epic marriages, ending his account of the wanderings of his Trojan ancestors with the union between Aeneas and Latinus's daughter Lavinia.

At last in Latium he did arriue,      Where he with cruell warre was entertaind      Of th'inland folke, which sought him backe to driue,      Till he with old Latinus was constraind,      To contract wedlock : (so the fates ordaind.)      Wedlock contract in bloud, and eke in blood      Accomplished, that many deare complaind:      The riuall slaine, the victour through the flood Escaped hardly, hardly praisd his wedlock good.


Paridell builds a rhetorically adept attack, making full use of the dead weight of repetition that sinks the stanza down to the final repeated adverb bent around the break in the alexandrine. His sequence of events—war followed by and necessitating dynastic marriage—reverses the order of the Aeneid, which presents the proposed alliance as the cause of the war, not as a diplomatic last resort to end it.20 The reversal casts Aeneas as a reluctant bridegroom, trapped into marriage by his own epic fate, bringing him closer to the sentiments of Scudamore at 4.10.28 as well as to those of Paridell himself.21 In practice, however, the threat that Paridell poses to marriage is more elegiac than epic; unlike Scudamore, who fears marriage because he believes it to preclude the occasion of heroic friendship among men, Paridell treats marriage as an opportunity to seduce other men's wives, a motive that [End Page 103] makes him parasitic on the very institution he claims to despise. His Trojan tale is itself part of a concerted attack on the wife of his host, who, we are to understand, is desirable precisely because she belongs to another man.22

Ever the opportunist, Paridell is willing to admit the geopolitical benefits of dynastic marriage, as the beginning of the following stanza makes clear: "Yet after all, he victour did suruiue, / And with Latinus did the kingdome part" (–2). The concessive turn in Paridell's Virgilian narrative, from dispraise of marriage to its advantageous political outcome, traces the movement of the larger poem, which introduces spokesmen against marriage, first Paridell's position in book 3 and then a more sympathetic version of that position in Scudamore's account of the Temple in book 4, only to discredit and discard them. But it is no accident that the audience of both these male narrators is Britomart, the female knight-errant in search of her ordained husband so that she too, like Aeneas, can found another Troy in Britain.23

By embedding the Britomart-Artegall marriage plot in a complex narrative structure that includes Paridell and Scudamore, Spenser inscribes the negation of his own economiastic fiction—the mythic foundation of the Tudor dynasty through the alliance of Britomart and Artegall—into his text. Nor is the negation easily evaded. Britomart rides away from Malbecco's castle and Paridell's sordid intrigues (3.10.1), but she does so only to encounter Scudamore (3.11.7). As though to underscore his point, Spenser populates the middle books of his poem with a succession of Lotharios and Don Juans, culminating in the stanza of bachelors at 4.9.21, the debased counterpart to the catalog of male friends that Scudamore recites in the following canto:

Druons delight was all in single life,      And vnto Ladies loue would lend no leasure:      The more was Claribell enraged rife      With feruent flames, and loued out of measure:      So eke lou'd Blandamour, but yet at pleasure      Would change his liking, and new Lemans proue.      But Paridell of loue did make no threasure,      But lusted after all, that him did moue. So diuersly these foure disposed were to loue.


This sequence of erotic possibilities, from the confirmed bachelor to the serial seducer, and from unrequited love to unbridled lust, [End Page 104] marks the terminus ad quem of the male heroic ego. Spenser depicts the four knights quarreling over the False Florimell, the contested object of male desire that generates so much of the action in the poem's fourth book. Unlike the fixed pairs of classical and biblical heroes in the Temple, the squabbling knights switch partners midfight (4.9.26) before combining forces in order to outnumber Britomart and Scudamore, four against two (4.9.29). One effect of this unstable foursome is to demystify the immutable ideal of male friendship, but even as this ideal comes under attack, Spenser reinserts its possibility in the heterosexual pairing of Britomart and Scudamore. We have seen how the latter regrets his exclusion from the matrix of heroic self-sacrifice that the male friends in the Temple of Venus exemplify. But what he does not acknowledge is that, like Pirithous and Orestes, he has already met and been rescued by his Theseus or Pylades in the shape of Britomart when she braves Busirane in his stead. By doing his job for him, Britomart fulfills Scudamore's authentic desire for heroic friendship as well as performs his protective duties as a husband, proving, contrary to Scudamore's sentiments in the Temple, that the amatory and the heroic need not be in conflict with each other.

If Britomart can have it both ways—be married and have friends—and be a hero, why is this not also possible for Scudamore? The simple answer is that the narrative needs of the poem will not let him. In book 4, canto 6, Artegall and Scudamore together encounter Britomart and discover her true identity, but the double plot resolution is marred by the unexpected absence of Amoret (4.6.36). The failure of one marital union is thus made to coincide with the fulfillment of the other, frustrating the formation of another exemplary quaternion such as that of Cambell, Cambina, Triamond, and Canacee. A more complex answer, however, is that Scudamore does not believe it to be possible. In the Temple of Venus, he separates the ties of friendship from those of love and imagines himself to be sacrificing the one in order to gain the other. By misreading the situation, Scudamore narrows his own scope of action; the amatory and the heroic do indeed prove incompatible aims in his case. The episode of the male friends thus supplies a psychological justification for the marginalization of Scudamore, making his bypassing of them, rather than his winning of the shield of love or his rape of Amoret, the critical moment that determines who he can be and what he can do in the poem. Paradoxically, it is precisely when Scudamore protests his allegorical destiny that he seals its limiting terms. [End Page 105]


In reimagining Scudamore for the 1596 Faerie Queene, Spenser anticipates a common discourse of the novel about the resistance of characters to narrative design and to the closing down of their own possibilities of importance in order to pursue those of another. In his preface to The Portrait of a Lady (1908), Henry James makes a distinction between characters that are "of the essence" and characters that are only "of the form." Those of the form, he explains, are "but wheels to the coach" and shall never be "accommodated with a seat inside" where the hero and heroine sit in splendor.24 James's point is that these characters are invariably aware of their subordinate position in life, if not in the novel as such. Not content with their functional role as the wheels that keep the coach rolling onward, they try to climb up and take what they perceive to be their rightful seat inside. Critics of the novel have elaborated upon James's authorial insight that minor characters are always striving to become major ones. In a recent study, Alex Woloch identifies "a seemingly implacable conflict within theories of characterization: the tension between the authenticity of a character in-and-of-himself and the reduction of the character into the thematic or symbolic field."25 For Woloch, the struggle of "the one versus the many," of representation versus allegorization, reaches a new level of self-consciousness in the omniscient realist novel, which exploits minor characters while, at the same time, inscribing their exploitation into the narrative.

Unlike the novel, allegory operates between two levels of representation, so that character and function typically coexist within the same fictional person, although they do not have to be coextensive with each other. On the one hand, Scudamore's autobiographical account foreshadows a twentieth-century technique of recuperating the functional character and reimagining him or her as the narrator-protagonist of a prior story.26 On the other, his reimagined viewpoint has no meaning independent from the poem in which it is encased. Scudamore's dissent from allegorical reduction contests the personal cost of the poem's progression beyond 1590, but even that dissent is used against him, being incorporated into an epic agenda from which he is excluded. To put this another way, the relation of allegory to character in the poem equates to the relation of antimaritalism to marriage. Scudamore draws our attention to this equation because he twice ends up on its cancelled side. [End Page 106]

Andrea Walkden

Andrea Walkden is an assistant professor of English at Queens College, the City University of New York. She is working on a ook-length study of life writing in later Stuart England.


1. For those who see it as rescue, see Thomas P. Roche Jr., The Kindly Flame: A Study of the Third and Fourth Books of Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1964), pp. 128–33, and David Quint, “Archimago and Amoret: The Poem and Its Doubles,” in Worldmaking Spenser: Explorations in the Early Modern Age, ed. Patrick Cheney and Lauren Silberman, Studies in the English Renaissance (Lexington: Univ. of Kentucky Press, 2000), pp. 32–42. For those who see it as rape, see A. Kent Hieatt, “Scudamour’s Practice of Maistrye upon Amoret,” PMLA 77, 4 (September 1962): 509–10; Maureen Quilligan, Milton’s Spenser: The Politics of Reading (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 206–8; Lauren Silberman, Transforming Desire: Erotic Knowledge in Books III and IV of “The Faerie Queene” (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1995), pp. 72–86; Sheila T. Cavanagh, Wanton Eyes and Chaste Desires: Female Sexuality in “The Faerie Queene” (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 96–102; and Elizabeth Fowler, “The Failure of Moral Philosophy in the Work of Edmund Spenser,” Representations 51 (Summer 1995): 47–76. Quilligan’s condemnation of Scudamore is qualified because she rightly sees in Amoret’s maidenly modesty a situation similar to that of Eve in book 4 of Paradise Lost: “There is much to be said in explication of Amoret’s coy, reluctant, amorous delay here; it is proper and fitting virginal behavior; neither, doubtless, is Scudamour’s exertion of gentle power wrong” (p. 207).

2. Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A. C. Hamilton, Longman Annotated English Poets (London and New York: Longman, 1977),–4. Hereafter all references to The Faerie Queene are from this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text by book, canto, stanza, and, where appropriate, line number.

3. Paul J. Alpers, The Poetry of “The Faerie Queene” (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1967), p. 95. Roche makes a similar point in The Kindly Flame when he disputes Hieatt’s indictment of Scudamore (p. 129).

4. My argument bears similarity to that advanced by Jonathan Goldberg in Endlesse Worke: Spenser and the Structures of Discourse (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 64–7. Goldberg also reads Scudamore’s tale as one of reduced possibility although, for him, the constraints imposed upon his development are textual, not allegorical, in nature.

5. James Nohrnberg considers the correspondence between Paridell and Scudamore, as well as that between the “seduction” of Hellenore in 3.10 and the “eduction” of Amoret in 4.10, in The Analogy of “The Faerie Queene” (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 640–1.

6. I owe this observation to Manley.

7. Note to 3.11.17–25 (The Faerie Queene, p. 402). A knight

sedea pensoso, tacito e soletto. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Lo scudo non lontan pende e l’elmetto [End Page 107] dal faggio, ove legato era il cavallo;et avea gli ochi molli e ’l viso bassoet si monstrava addolorato e lasso.(2.35)

[A knight who was sitting silent, pensive and alone . . . His shield hung close by, and his helmet, from a beech tree to which his horse was tethered; his eyes were downcast and tear-softened, and he looked weary and sorrowing.] Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso, ed. Lanfranco Caretti, 2 vols. (Torino: Giulio Einaudi, 1992), 1:37, trans. Guido Waldman, World’s Classics (1983; rprt. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998), p. 15.

8. The shield of Atlante, which defeats by dazzling its opponents, is in fact inherited by Arthur and not by Scudamore (1.7.33–6; 1.8.19–21).

9. OED, 2d edn., s.v. “rudely,” 1.

10. Thus, Kenneth Gross remarks that “for Scudamour the threshold becomes not a door but a mirror, a threatening reflection” (Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm, and Magic [Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985], p. 160).

11. The adjective “greedy” recalls the Redcrosse Knight, his bellicosity outside Error’s den, “full of fire and greedy hardiment” (, as well as his bloodlust after killing Sansfoy: “Not all so satisfide, with greedie eye / He sought all round about” (–2). In these cases, the desiring appetite is martial, not sexual, although Spenser frequently plays on the metaphorical slippage between them. One instance of such play occurs after Arthur’s killing of Orgoglio and vanquishing of Duessa:

Forthwith he gaue in charge vnto his Squire,That scarlot whore to keepen carefully;Whiles he himselfe with greedie great desireInto the Castle entred forcibly.(–4)

Arthur violates the castle rather than the lady, although the sexually charged language displaces the possibility of the one into the performance of the other.

12. OED, 2d edn., s.v. “bounce/bounse,” 6a.

13. Spenser tightens the correspondence by having Scudamore dream of Amoret’s disloyalty, as Redcrosse dreams of Una’s (1.1.47), during his hard night in the House of Care (4.5.43).

14. Harry Berger Jr. reads the landscape of the Temple as the product of Scudamore’s limited courtly consciousness (“Two Spenserian Retrospects: The Antique Temple of Venus and the Primitive Marriage of Rivers,” TSLL 10, 1 [Spring 1968]: 5–25, 11–3).

15. Virgil, Aeneid, in Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid, Books 1–6, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G. P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library 63 (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1999), 6.135–47, 187–212, 405–10, 635–6.

16. In his note to 4.10.27, Hamilton remarks that, with the exception of the biblical pairing of David and Jonathan, all of Spenser’s exempla are in John Lyly’s Euphues (1578): “Assure your selfe yt Damon to his Pythias, Pylades to his Orestes, Titus to his Gysippus, Theseus to his Pyrothus, Scipio to his [End Page 108] Laelius, was neuer foud more faithfull then Euphues will be to his Philautus,” in The Complete Works of John Lyly, ed. R. Warwick Bond, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), 1:198.

17. Bruce R. Smith notes the topographical distinction between the male friends and the lovers, although he does not discuss Scudamore’s stanza of reaction (Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England: A Cultural Poetics [Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991], p. 98).

18. “Spenser is equating chaste male friendship and sexual love so that the reader may see that the bond linking man and woman and man and man is the same” (Roche, p. 131).

19. “The third day there came in, a Groome who complained before the Faery Queene, that a vile Enchaunter called Busirane had in hand a most faire Lady called Amoretta, whom he kept in most grieuous torment, because she would not yield him the pleasure of her body. Whereupon Sir Scudamour the louer of that Lady presently tooke on him that aduenture” (Spenser, p. 738, emphasis added). The letter is not published with the 1596 version of the poem.

20. Virgil, Aeneid Books 7–12, trans. Fairclough, rev. Goold, Loeb Classical Library 64 (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2000), 7.341–5, 357–66, 385–8, 423–6.

21. Berger notes the embedded pun in “wed-lock” in “The Discarding of Malbecco: Conspicuous Allusion and Cultural Exhaustion in The Faerie Queene III.ix–x,” SP 66, 2 (April 1969): 135–54, 139.

22. The classic study and theory of this kind of mediated desire is René Girard’s Mensonge romantique et vérité romanesque (Paris: Grasset, 1961).

23. Spenser carefully differentiates Britomart’s eagerness to hear Scudamore’s account of how he won Amoret from the generalized encouragement of the party:

So gan the rest him likewise to require,But Britomart did him importune hard,To take on him that paine.(–3)

24. Henry James, preface to The Portrait of a Lady, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908), 1: xvii–xix.

25. Alex Woloch, The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2003), p. 15. See also Martin Price, “The Other Self: Problems of Character,” chap. 3 in Forms of Life: Character and Moral Imagination in the Novel (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1983), pp. 37–64.

26. Jean Rhys’s The Wide Sargasso Sea (London: André Deutsch, 1966) is a celebrated example of this technique.

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