Question: 6) Discuss the theme of genealogy in Book III of
The Faerie Queene
. How isBritomart's epic quest challenged?
The Faerie Queene
Book III: Genealogy and Providential Contingency
Britomart‟s genealogy can be broken in
to two different segments. Her
„regressive‟ genealogyis her concatenation to Brutus, while her „progressive‟ genealogy is her concatenation to
Elizabeth I. Although they are contiguous, their foundations in the narrative are completelydifferent. For this
reason, analysis will be restricted to Britomart‟s progressive genealogy, for
the additional reason that its formulation and development is concurrent with Britomartherself.
Britomart‟s progressive genealogy is incredibly problematic.
It finds its expression in theinteraction of various themes within the narrative. Providence, destiny, fate, and prophecyform some of the constituent parts of genealogy in Book III, and the success or failure of genealogy as an integral theme in the narrative is contingent on how these themes interact. As such, an examination of these themes and their implications on genealogy is far morefruitful than merely examining genealogy on its own.There is a tension between Britomart on one side and Merlin and the narrator on theother. Britomart continually cites and curs
es fortune, saying it is her “wicked fortune” (III.ii.44)
to fall in love with a “body far exyld” (III.ii.44)
that “misfortune led” (III.ii.38)
her to look in
her father‟s mirror and see Artegall.
This recurrent citation imputes the aetiological origin of the things that happen to her, and the beginning of her progressive genealogy, on fortune.
This is not to be confused with fortune in the „divine‟ sense, as “[f]ortune has a very strong
claim to be counted [as not being divinity], and nobody will dissociate fortune from
inconstancy and haphazard action, which are certainly unworthy of deity” (Cicero 3.24.61).
On the other hand, providence is cited both explicitly and implicitly by the narrator as guidinggenealogy. Any doubts about this are extirpated when we look at the Garden of Adonis. It isin the garden of Adonis that regeneration and love (and the product of their synthesis,