The Faerie Queene, Books Three and Four: Bk. 3 & 4

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These paired Arthurian legends suggest that erotic desire and the desire for companionship undergird national politics. The maiden Britomart, Queen Elizabeth's fictional ancestor, dons armor to search for a man whom she has seen in a crystal ball. While on this quest, she seeks to understand how one can be chaste while pursuing a sexual goal, in love with a man while passionately attached to a woman, a warrior princess yet a wife. As Spenser's most sensitively developed character, Britomart is capable of heroic deeds but also of teenage self-pity. Her experience is anatomized in the stories of other characters, where versions of love and friendship include physical gratification, torture, mutual aid, competition, spiritual ecstasy, self-sacrifice, genial teasing, jealousy, abduction, wise government, sedition, and the valiant defense of a pig shed.