Nelson 25 horses necke doth lay the raine” and gives “her palfrey leave to chuse the way” (I.xiii.2; 5).
Neither woman can control her passions, so both allow their horses to run wherever they choose.
But Spenser is not always consistent with his symbolism.
When Florimell flees for the second time, this time from the witch’s son and the Hyena, her horse represents her reputation instead of her passion.
As Helen Megee Hogan writes, “Florimell’s palfrey sets the character of poor, pursued Florimell by his flight and by his pathetic end” (63).
Florimell’s horse desperately tries to carry her to safety: And her flitt Palfrey did so well apply His nimble feet to her conceiued feare, That whilest his breath did strength to him supply, From perill free he her away did beare: But when his force gan faile, his pace gan wex areare. (III.vii.24.5-9) When Florimell’s exhausted horse can run no farther, she dismounts and continues on foot.
The Hyena, which supposedly “feeds on wemens flesh, as others feede on gras,” instead “sett vpon her Palfrey tired lame, / And slew him cruelly, ere any reskew came” (III.vii.22.9; III.vii.28.8-9).
The Hyena resembles Lust in its tendency to prey on women, but it cannot actually wound Florimell.
In settling for devouring her horse, the Hyena behaves like Sclaunder or the Blatant Beast, whose worst wounds affect their victims’ reputations, not their physical bodies.
In Florimell’s case, the witch’s son’s advances have just compromised her good name, and the Hyena devouring the horse is a physical representation of an injured reputation.
Like Florimell’s palfrey, Pyrrhocles’s horse also dies in place of his rider.
While Florimell’s horse represents her reputation, Pyrrhocles’s horse is a more direct representation of the rider himself.
The perpetually angry Pyrrhocles rides a horse that is “bloody red, and fomed Nelson 26 yre, / When with the maistring spur he did him roughly stire” (II.v.2.8-9).
In a discussion of the colors and humoral composition of horses, Thomas Blundeville writes that if a horse is composed chiefly “of the fier, then is he cholorique, and therefore lighte, whote, and fiery, a sterer, and seldome of anye great strength, and is wont to be of colour a bright sorell” (I.1).
When referring to horses, sorrel means bright reddish brown.
The color of Pyrrhocles’s horse reflects the fiery, choleric temperament he and his rider share.
In a depiction of an overly passionate equestrian, one might expect the horse to take control, but Pyrrhocles is still “maistring” his steed.
This is not a dichotomy of horse and rider representing passion and reason.
Pyrrochles’s horse is an extension of his faculties rather than another force to be controlled.
Both horse and rider are furious and heedless, so it is only fitting that one also becomes headless.
Pyrrhocles charges Guyon, who must defend himself on foot against a mounted knight.
Guyon attempts to strike Pyrrhocles, but his blow hits the horse instead: With his bright blade did smite at him so fell, That the bright steele arriuing forcibly On his broad shield, bitt not, but glauncing fell On his horse necke before the quilted sell, And from the head the body sundred quight. (II.v.4.1-5) Pyrrhocles’ horse dies as a result of his own and his rider’s fury.
The connection between man and beast becomes even more apparent when “The truncked beast fast bleeding, did him fowly dight” (II.v.4.9).
The originally blood red horse becomes truly bloody, and his rider is covered in gore.
Pyrrhocles and his horse are no longer merely partners; they are joined by blood.
Just as the horse’s fury allows Guyon to smite him, Pyrrhocles’s reckless anger allows Furor and Occasion to overcome him. Nelson 27 The Red Cross Knight’s horse’s color is just as significant as that of Pyrrhocles’s horse.
When Duessa accuses the Red Cross Knight of raping her, she tells Guyon “I wote not, how he hight, / But vnder him a gray steede he did wield, / Whose sides with dappled circles weren dight” (II.i.18.6-7).
Hamilton speculates that “since the lustful Argante rides a grey horse at III.vii.37.3, the colour may represent the lust with which the Red Cross Knight is charged” (II.i.18.6n).
However, Blundeville’s comments on horses’ coloring indicate that this conjecture is unlikely: “But when he doth participate of all the foure Elements equallie, and in due proportion, then is he perfect, and most commonlie shall be one of these colours following.
That is to say, a browne bay, a dapple gray, a blacke full of silver haires, a blacke like a Moore, or a faire rone, which kinds of horses are most commendable, most temperate, strongest, and of gentlest nature” (I.1).
Spenser never mentions the color of the Red Cross Knight’s horse in Book I.
At his first appearance, the horse does not display the virtues of a dapple gray.
Instead, the “angry steede did chide his foming bitt, / As much disdaining to the curbe to yield” (I.i.1.6-7).
However, by the time the horse’s color is revealed in Book II, the Red Cross Knight has grown enough in his virtue that he is worthy of a valiant but temperate steed.
During the Red Cross Knight’s battle with the dragon, his horse is a significant part of three successive incidents.
First, the dragon knocks both horse and rider to the ground, but they immediately rise to continue the fight (I.xi.16-17).
Next, it “Snatcht vp both horse and man, to beare them quite away,” but by “struggling strong,” the Red Cross Knight and his horse manage to free themselves (I.xi.18.9; I.xi.19 3-4).
In the third incident, the dragon’s tale trips the Red Cross Knight’s horse, and when he struggles to free himself, he inadvertently throws his rider (I.xi.23.1-7).
Hamilton notes that the horse “cooperates in his fall,” but this interpretation is problematic (I.xi.23.5n).
Only five stanzas earlier, the knight and horse escaped the dragon by Nelson 28 struggling against the dragon, so it is not quite fair to blame the horse for attempting to do so again.
Spenser’s main reason for removing the horse from the action at this point is probably to shift the focus from the Red Cross Knight’s riding abilities to the armor of faith and weapons of truth he bears.
Because the Red Cross Knight finally understands his faith, he needs no extra assistance from his horse to defeat the evil dragon.
Britomart’s horse also falls in battle but remains relatively unscathed.
When Arthegall fights Britomart, he unintentionally strikes her horse: So sorely he her stroke, that thence it glaunst Adowne her backe, the which it fairely blest From foule mischance; ne did it euer rest, Till on her horses hinder parts it fell; Where byting deepe, so deadly it imprest, That quite it chynd his backe behind the sell, And to alight on foote her algates did compel. (IV.vi.13.3-9) After Arthegall injures her horse, Britomart “no whit dismayd, her steed forsooke” (IV.vi.14.6).
Given the description of the “deadly” blow and the forsaking of the steed, one might initially infer that Britomart’s horse has died.
However, once the conflict is resolved, Arthegall and Britomart mount “their steeds, and forward thence did pas” (IV.vi.39.3).
Britomart and her horse are both healthy and capable of travel.
Because Arthegall and Britomart are destined for marriage, neither one can seriously injure the other.
They cannot “bathe their hands in bloud of dearest freend, / Thereby to make their loues beginning, their liues end” (IV.vi.17.8-9).
In several other episodes, Britomart is victorious even after removing pieces of her armor or getting into compromising situations that would be the downfall of male knights like the Red Cross Knight. Nelson 29 Somehow, these actions and attacks do not affect Britomart, and her horse remaining unscathed after a fierce battle is an extension of Britomart herself safely defeating her enemies.
Like Britomart’s horse, Arthur’s Spumador also experiences a harrowing moment.
Gerioneo attempts to kill Arthur, but he hits Spumador instead: But the sad steele seizd not, where it was hight, Vppon the childe, but somewhat short did fall, And lighting on his horses head, him quite did mall.
Downe streight to ground fell his astonisht steed, And eke to th’earth his burden with him bare: But he him selfe full lightly from him freed, And gan him selfe to fight on foote prepare. (V.xi.8.7-9.4) Despite being “malled,” Spumador is perfectly fine a few stanzas later.
Arthur “to his former journey him addrest, / On which long way he rode, ne euer day did rest” (V.xi.35.8-9).
Just like the heroic Arthur cannot remain defeated, Spumador cannot be seriously harmed.
Spumador is a complicated horse.
Spenser calls him a “Lybian steed,” which Hamilton explains as “Arabian; evidently a type of excellence” (II.viii.17.9; n).
While Spenser does praise the horse as Arthur’s “courageous steed” and “The fierce Spumador borne of heauenly seed,” not all of the associations are completely positive (II.xi.19.6; 9).
Spenser describes Arthur and Spumador: A goodly person, and could menage faire, His stubborn steed with curbed canon bitt, Who under him did amble as the aire, And chauft, that any on his backe should sitt, Nelson 30 The yron rowels into frothy fome he bitt. (I.vii.37.6-9) Evidently, Arthur has some difficulty controlling Spumador.
A curb bit is designed to give the rider more leverage and control than a simple snaffle would provide.
Arthur may need extra control because of Spumador’s breed.
The distinctions between Arabian, Turkish, and Barbary horses are not always clear.
Elizabeth Tobey explains the difference: “Sometimes confused with another ancient breed, the Arabian horse, the Barb is distinguished from the Arabian in that its head is straight or convex, lacking the ‘dished’ profile of the latter” (68).
She also claims that the “Turk or Turcoman” has great stamina resulting from its “Arabian blood” (70).
If we take Spenser’s “Lybian” to mean “Arabian” and therefore “Turk,” Blundeville’s remarks on the breed may explain why Arthur has trouble with his feisty horse.
He says that “for the most parte they will be euill mouthed…whereby they waxe so hedde stronge, as they be not easely brought to make a good stoppe” (3).
This characteristic both justifies Arthur’s use of a curb bit and explains why Spumador “chauft” at being ridden.
Blundeville has further insight into horses of Spumador’s breed: “they be of nature verye couragious, and will do more by gentle meanes than by stripes or great threateninges, for that maketh them more desperate and bringeth them cleane out of order” (3).
Much of Spenser’s praise of Spumador relates to his courage, so his description matches Blundeville’s.
While Arthur may need a curb bit to control the courageous and headstrong Spumador, there is no indication that he rides roughly.
He can “menage fair” by being assertive, not abusive.
The term “menage” has special equestrian significance.
This type of riding requires great discipline in both horse and rider. “Menage,” or “manège,” meaning “riding arena,” involves collection, meaning that the rider builds the horse’s energy through leg pressure but controls the length of the horse’s stride by maintaining firm contact with his mouth (Tucker 282).
Riding in a Nelson 31 collected manner engages the horse’s hind end and makes him round his back and neck, carrying his head approximately perpendicular to the ground.
Once horse and rider master this collection, they can start to perform the very intricate and complex movements of manège, several of which are based on cavalry training.
The fact that Arthur can “menage” Spumador indicates that he is a very accomplished equestrian, which, in the context of The Faerie Queene, identifies him as an ideal knight.
In Book V, Arthur and Spumador are placed in direct opposition to the Souldan and his horses.
In contrast to the knights who ride their horses, the Souldan opts to drive “a charret hye, / With yron wheeles and hookes arm’d dreadfully” (V.viii.28.4-5).
The use of a chariot instantly marks the Souldan as different from the heroic Arthur.
Driving instead of riding appears to be a sign of evil.
Lucifera rides in a coach, Night delivers Sansjoy to Aesculapius in her chariot, and Proteus abducts Florimell in his.
Part of the reason for the association of the chariot with evil is the fact that a chariot requires multiple horses.
In a poem that constantly reinforces the idea that unity is holy and multiplicity is sinful, someone who attempts to drive multiple horses is evil.
The diminished connection between the horse and his master means that the knightly “menage” is not possible, so according to the values of The Faerie Queene, chariot drivers are automatically less praiseworthy than mounted knights.
The chariot also poses a different sort of challenge to Arthur.
He cannot joust against a man in a chariot, so he must adapt his usual knightly behavior to more effectively fight the Souldan.
The Souldan’s horses make the distinction between accomplished riding and unskillful driving very clear.
In contrast to the courageous Spumador, the exuberant Brigadore, or even Pyrrhocles’s passionate mount, the horses that pull the Souldan’s chariot are truly evil.
Like the Hyena that eats women’s flesh, these steeds eat the “flesh of men” (V.viii.28.7).
In a herbivorous Nelson 32 animal, a willingness to feast on human flesh is especially heinous.
Even Spumador, “all were he much renound / For noble courage, and for hardie race, / Durst not endure their sight, but fled from place to place” (V.viii.36.7-9).
While Spumador cannot abide the evil of these unnatural horses, the sight of Arthur’s shining shield forces them to flee and completely disregard the Souldan.
Arthur’s knightly equestrian skills allow him to direct Spumador to chase the very steeds he fears, but once the Souldan’s horses are frightened, they wrest all control from him.
Of all the horses in The Faerie Queene, Guyon’s Brigadore displays the most personality.
While the other knights’ horses obey their commands, albeit somewhat grudgingly, Brigadore clearly expresses his own opinion of those around him, sometimes by directly sabotaging those he deems unworthy.
Waldo McNeir writes that when Braggadocchio steals Brigadore, he manages to ride him “for a long time apparently without any trouble” (104).
However, by examining Brigadore’s behavior immediately after being stolen, we see that Braggadocchio fails to meet the horse’s standards: Lo to his steed he gott, and gan to ride, As one vnfitt therefore, that all might see He had not trained bene in cheualree.
Which well that valiaunt courser did discerne; For he despisd to tread in dew degree, But chaufd and fom’d, with corage fiers and sterne, And to be easd of that base burden still did erne. (II.iii.46.3-9) Evidently, Braggadocchio does have some “trouble” managing Brigadore.
His inability to manage a spirited steed highlights his inadequacy as a knight.
As a knight not trained in chivalry, he lacks both the social and equestrian skills that he should possess.
In contrast, Guyon, “the Nelson 33 rightfull owner of that steede, / Who well could menage and subdew his pride,” embodies true knighthood, and Brigadore displays the spirit and understanding ideal for a knightly steed (II.iv.2.1-2).
Brigadore steals the scene when Guyon attempts to reclaim him from Braggadocchio in Book V.
Guyon, the paragon of temperance, lays one hand on Brigadore’s “golden bit” to claim him (V.iii.29.6).
According to Hamilton’s notes in The Faerie Queene, Brigadore’s name comes from Brigliadoro, “bridle of gold,” in Orlando Furioso, and this bridle symbolizes “the rule of temperance, the golden mean, over the willful passions symbolized by the horse” (V.iii.34.3n).
Hamilton’s interpretation is fairly standard.
After all, bridles and bits typically symbolize discipline and control.
In a discussion of the equestrian use and social significance of bits, Pia Cuneo writes, “Usually, the bridle and bit in images signify self-control that is socially and even morally beneficial.
The virtue of Temperance, for example, is sometimes depicted as a female personification who actually wears a bridle…The need for passions to be subject to Prudence is exemplified by a man restraining an unruly horse by firmly grasping the lead rope attached to the horse’s halter” (156).
Given the widespread association of bridles and bits with reason and horses with passion, Hamilton’s interpretation is reasonable.
However, if the temperate Guyon uses this golden bridle to control his horse, Brigadore should not attack innocent people like he does immediately after Guyon touches the bridle: …one did take The horse in hand, within his mouth to looke: But with his heeles so sorely he him strake, That all his ribs he quite in peeces broke, That neuer word from that day forth he spoke. Nelson 34 Another that would seeme to haue more wit, Him by the bright embrodered hedstall tooke: But by the shoulder him so sore he bit, That he him maimed quite, and all his shoulder split. (V.iii.33.1-9) If we momentarily apply Hamilton’s interpretation, we might be tempted to explain Brigadore’s violent behavior by saying that he acts out with these handlers because they are not as temperate as Guyon; they are unable to correctly use the golden bridle to calm his passion.
While this hypothesis seems reasonable at first, it becomes more problematic as the story continues.
Guyon calls Brigadore by name, and “Eftsoones he stood as still as any stake” (V.iii.34.5).
However, Brigadore’s calm stillness does not last long: “And when as he him nam’d for joy he brake / His bands, and follow’d him with gladfull glee, / And friskt, and flong aloft, and louted low on knee” (V.iii.34.7-9).
Interestingly, Brigadore’s response places him in direct opposition to the Souldan’s horses, who ignore their master’s instructions: “He to them calles and speakes, yet nought auayles; / They heare him not, they haue forgot his lore, / But go, which way they list, their guide they haue forlore” (V.viii.39.7-9).
The Souldan cannot control his horses by force or by voice, which demonstrates his unworthiness.
In contrast, all of the truly knightly figures in The Faerie Queene can control their steeds.
Arthur guides Spumador with a bit, but Guyon has apparently trained Brigadore to respond to his voice alone.
The “bands” that Brigadore breaks must be his bridle.
It is the only piece of tack mentioned in the scene, and it is the only logical piece for the horse to break in this context.
Brigadore has just kicked a man, so he obviously has not been hobbled.
The only other pieces of equipment he could break would be the saddle or the girth holding it in place.
In a similar scene in Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, Adonis’s horse escapes to chase a mare by breaking Nelson 35 multiple pieces of tack.
He “Breaketh his rein,” and “his woven girths he breaks asunder” (line 264; 266).
Finally, “The iron bit he crushes ‘tween his teeth, / Controlling what he was controlled with” (269-270).
A struggling horse is much less likely to break a girth or saddle than a bridle, so if Spenser had intended Brigadore to break a saddle or girth, he would have specified the piece of tack like Shakespeare did.
As it stands, Brigadore appears to break his bridle.
Since he does so upon hearing Guyon’s voice, the bridle cannot represent a temperate restraint.
This scenario would indicate that Brigadore is so joyful at being returned to temperance that in his passion, he destroys the physical representation of that temperance.
Guyon’s true power over Brigadore comes from a mutually loyal partnership, not from a restraining bridle.
An examination of Spenser’s likely sources for this scene yields a better explanation for the bridleless interaction between Guyon and Brigadore.
Guyon speaking to Brigadore is reminiscent of Christ as the Good Shepherd: “My sheepe heare my voyce, and I knowe them, and they follow me” (The Geneva Bible, John 10.27).
Brigadore follows Guyon like the sheep follow the shepherd, but he makes a deliberate decision to do so.
The sheep are trusting, but the horse obviously has more of a thought process.
A more direct source for this scene is Orlando Furioso, in which the horse Bayardo refuses to let Renaldo, his owner, mount (I.32).
However, when Bayardo meets Angelica, he remembers her previous kindness and allows her to take “the bridell boldly in her hand” (I.lxxvi.1).
While it is Angelica’s kindness that calms Bayardo, it is the Pagan Sacrapant who mounts him.
Spenser alters this story in The Faerie Queene by allowing only the rightful owner to control the unruly horse.
It is not merely angelic kindness that prompts Brigadore’s actions.
His behavior toward Guyon and others is probably the result of careful training, not just fond memories or voice recognition. Nelson 36 McNeir suggests Michel de Montaigne’s “Des Destries,” or “Of war horses,” as a source for Brigadore’s actions.
He mentions a parallel between Montaigne’s description of Bucephalus, the horse who refused to allow anyone but Alexander the Great to ride him, and Spenser’s description of Brigadore but argues that Montaigne’s account of warhorses trained to fight for their masters is more relevant (104).
McNeir makes a valid point here; Montaigne’s portrayal of warhorses’ fighting techniques sounds much like Spenser’s description of Brigadore’s wild behavior: “There are many horses trained to help their masters, to hurl themselves with feet and teeth on those who attack and confront them; but they turn out to hurt their friends more often than their enemies” (210).
Like the uncontrolled warhorses, Brigadore attacks those who approach him with both teeth and hooves and unnecessarily injures those who are only trying to return him to his rightful owner.
Montaigne’s essay also provides insight into Brigadore’s commendable behavior while he is unbridled.
Montaigne praises the Roman soldiers who trained their horses to run “at top speed side by side without bridle or saddle” (209).
He also mentions that the Massilians “rode their horses without saddle or bridle” and that Quintus Fabius Maximus Rutilianus ordered that his soldiers “unbridle their horses” so nothing could stop their charge (213; 214).
If Spenser did use this essay as a source, he could not have missed these references to riding bridleless.
While Guyon is not actually riding when Brigadore breaks his bridle, there is still a significant connection.
In all these cases, an unbridled horse still obeys its owner.
The point of this type of horsemanship is not to forcefully constrain the horse’s movement but to take advantage of his freedom.
In this part of the scene, Brigadore is completely unrestrained, but he still chooses to follow Guyon.
The golden bridle is insignificant, and the assumption that Brigadore represents Nelson 37 passion that must be restrained, while common, is wrong.
McNeir writes, “The calming of Brigadore by Guyon…is an example of that fine horsemanship involving absolute control over the animal” (104).
The calming itself may illustrate this principle, but Brigadore’s subsequent actions do not.
Lewis states that the virtue temperance “is a dull and pedestrian one to fallen man.
That is why Guyon loses his horse in the second canto.
It is better that he should be without it, for he found it difficult to restrain its pace to that of the Palmer and impossible to pull up in the presence of St George” (338).
However, there is no indication that Guyon has difficulty slowing or stopping Brigadore.
Guyon “taught his trampling steed with equal steps to tread” to keep pace with the Palmer (II.i.7.8-9).
There is no mention of a bridle or a curb bit in this passage, but Guyon can obviously control his horse’s pace.
In fact, Archimago asks Guyon to stop and listen to him, and Guyon easily “stayd his steed for humble misers sake,” and when St.
George and Guyon joust, St.
George, not Guyon has trouble halting his horse (II.i.9.1; II.i.27.89).
Lewis, Judith Anderson claims that Guyon’s “Palmer is associated with his reason; his horse, with his heroic passions and aspirations” (160).
All of these arguments rely on the traditional connotations of horses, bits, and bridles and neglect the fact that Spenser frequently alters well-known images to serve a different purpose.
The guiding Palmer does represent reason, but so does Brigadore.
Brigadore is the only character to immediately see through Braggadocchio’s appearance of chivalry, and he struggles against him.
The fact that Brigadore follows Guyon even when unbridled is even more significant.
The Palmer represents reason that guides temperance, but in freely and joyfully following Guyon, Brigadore signifies reason resulting from a free acceptance of temperance.
In contrast to the multitude of characters who ride horses, only three characters ride asses.
The discrepancy in numbers is enough to signal that an ass is symbolically significant, but its
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