Book Five of The Faerie Queene is Spenser's Legend of Justice. It tells of the knight Artegall's efforts to rid Faerie Land of tyranny and injustice, aided by his sidekick Talus and the timely intervention of his betrothed, the woman warrior Britomart. As allegory, Book Five figures forth ideal concepts of justice and explores how justice may be applied in a real world complicated by social inequality, female rule, political guile, and excessive violence. At the same time, as historical allegory, it retells a number of the most important events of early modern England, in particular the controversies surrounding the colonization of Ireland. An integral part of the larger poem, Book Five also stands on its own as one of the most challenging meditations on justice in English literature.
Abraham Stoll is Assistant Professor of English, University of San Diego.