Paridell is the Anti-Chaste

To me, the most interesting part of Faerie Queene is Spenser’s use of allegory to uphold the virtue of chastity, because it is engaging to try to pick out all of the references he makes. There are many allegorical personifications of virtues and sins throughout Book III. Lucifera, the Queen of Pride, is obviously a personification of evil; she also has six advisors named after the six remaining deadly sins: Idleness, Gluttony, Lechery, Avarice, Envy, and Wrath. Spenser depicts her lack of chastity by the revealing tapestries throughout her castle, and by the scene when she tries to climb into bed with Britomart, assuming she is a man.

There are many other examples of unchaste characters. Martinell, the man who tries to prevent Britomart from making passage across a river, has been warned by his mother to avoid women at all costs, as she knows that he will be killed by a woman someday. This may seem like chastity in that he doesn’t sleep with or desire a woman, but in fact it is a poor representation, because he cannot love any woman, not even his true love.

Paridell is the anti-chaste. He sleeps with many women and is quick to abandon them and move on the next one when he loses interest. Paridell steals off with Malbecco’s wife, Hellenore, in a scene clearly in reference to the story of Paris and Helen of Troy (Paris = Paridell, Helen = Hellenore). He seduces her just as Paris seduces Helen of Troy, and they steal off together, only for Paridell to abandon her in a forest, where she is used as a concubine by a group of Satyrs. Paridell is perfectly unchaste, and Hellenore is not much better as she cheats on Malbecco with Paridell and then lets her body be used by Satyrs. While chiding unchastity in this scene, Spenser also shows the sinfulness of greed, when Malbecco asks Hellenore to return with him, but she would rather stay and let her body be used than go with him and be less important than his treasure.

There are many other characters who represent unchastity in Book III. Argante, the woman giant, literally has an insatiable appetite for men. The wife of the Squire who is rescued from the giant perverts the virtue of chastity by assigning her lover impossible quests to fulfill.

Some characters exhibit chastity. Belphoebe and Amoret each have their own true lover, and do not sleep around. Florimell is relatively chaste, however has the worst luck with men and seems to be always in danger of losing her virginity, first to the witch’s son, then to a fisherman, and finally to the sea god Proteus. Naively and stupidly, she believes that every man she meets will be better than the last. Britomart is really the only truly chaste character, as she has the ability to love and resist temptation at the same time.



One thought on “Paridell is the Anti-Chaste”

  1. Wonderfully expressed!!! This is excellent work. It’s funny that Britomart is scene as so chaste. I wonder if that extends to her desire to find that true love — or is that love just lust and fantasy — I mean it was revealed through a mirror given to her ultimately by a wizard.

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