Florimell is a character that first appears in book 3 of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. She is a woman that represents chastity, but in a different way from others.
What Does Florimell Represent in the Faerie Queen?
Florimell represents chastity and The Faerie Queene, but unlike other characters, her role is different. There are many characters that represent chastity, including:
- Britomart: who defends chastity through fighting
- Belphoebe: who defends chastity by hunting perverse men
- Amoret: who represents the forced loss of chastity through rape
- Malecasta: who represents a complete lack of chastity
Florimell, on the other hand, is different because she runs away from all men who wish to impose themselves on her.
Indeed, she spends most of book 3 running away from everyone and anything, even those who don’t wish her harm, such as Arthur and Timias.
Florimell’s Many Adventures
After first running from the forester, she eventually stays with a witch and her son, but she runs away from them as well.
To fetch Florimell for her son, the witch creates a huge monster and sends it after Florimell. Florimell barely escapes by leaping onto a fishing boat, piloted by an old man.
Sadly, that old man is not a good old man, because he tries to impose himself on her.
She is seemingly rescued by a water spirit known as Proteus. But when Proteus takes her back to his lair in a giant sea cave, he falls in love with her as well, and tries to win her heart.
When she refuses, he gets mad and also tries to impose himself on her (she seriously cannot catch a break). She is then held captive for several months.
Who Does Florimell Love?
While Florimell spends most of her time running away from men, there is one man that she actually loves, a knight known as Marinell. Sadly for Florimell, Marinell is determined to stay away from all women, until he doesn’t.
Since both Florimell and Marinell strive to remove themselves from the company of others, in the end, it turns out to be a good match.
The False Florimell
During book 3, the aforementioned witch ends up creating a false Florimell (an exact duplicate of Florimell) for her son. But her son is not able to enjoy this false Florimell for long, because she is quickly picked up by Braggadochio, and then by another knight.
We actually spend more time with the false Florimell then we do with the real Florimell, as she is the focal point of a huge tournament in book 4.
During that tournament, she is offered up as the prize for whoever wins, and she is passed around from knight to knight, having relations with many of them. Unlike the real Florimell, this false copy is the exact opposite of chastity.
See our complete list of Arthurian characters for more entries like this one.
- Norris Lacy, Geoffrey Ashe, Debra Mancoff – The Arthurian Handbook (Second Edition)
- Alan Lupack – The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
- Ronan Coghlan – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
- Anonymous – Lancelot-Grail, the French Vulgate
- Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur
See also my ever-expanding list of primary and secondary sources.