Edmund Spenser – The Faerie Queene (ctd.)

Duessa ashamed flees into the desert, where she hides among the rocks. Una and both knights stay for some time in the castle to recuperate after the dramatic events, thus ending Canto 8. In Canto 9 they set out but before they part, Una asks Arthur about his name and family, so that his noble deeds may not go unrecorded. And here Spenser does again something weird and kind of similar to his vague use of pronouns. He never mentions Arthur’s name up to this point, it appears only in the epigraphs to the cantos. When Una asks his name, he instead gives her a long answer about how he really doesn’t know his family, but still doesn’t say his first name. (I’ll overlook the logic of asking somebody’s name after you’ve spent several days in his company, instead of at the beginning of the acquaintance.) And then Una, who apparently hasn’t heard his name yet, addresses him as “Prince Arthur”. I really don’t understand if it’s some kind of mysterious literary device, or just sloppy writing.

Anyway, Arthur tells his story, which roughly corresponds to the one we know from other Arthuriana: he doesn’t know his family, because as a baby he was delivered by a Faerie knight into the care of an old and wise man named Timon (meaning “honour”) who lived in Wales (the source of many Arthurian legends as well as the place of origin of the Tudor family). He was often visited by Merlin, who oversaw his education, and he asked him about his family, but all Merlin told him was that he was from a royal lineage and he would learn everything in due time. “But what brings you here, Prince Arthur?”, asks Una, without revealing how she knows his name. “Well, it’s the mystery of fate”, he answers. I hope he’s going to explain more in the next page.

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