155. THE BITTER FIT, the bitterness of death.
158. ASSURED SITT, etc., sit firm (in the saddle), and hide (cover) thy head (with thy shield).
160. WITH RIGOUR SO OUTRAGEOUS, with force so violent.
161. THAT A LARGE SHARE, etc., that a large piece it (the sword) hewed, etc.
162. FROM BLAME HIM FAIRLY BLEST. 1, fairly preserved him from hurt; 2, fairly acquitted him of blame. Him in (1) refers to the knight, in (2) to the Saracen. (1) is the better interpretation.
169. GRUDGING. Because reluctant to part from the flesh.
196. DAUGHTER OF AN EMPEROUR. Duessa represents the Pope, who exercised imperial authority in Rome, though the seat of the empire had been transferred to Constantinople in 476.
200. THE ONLY HAIRE. The dauphin of France, the first husband of Mary Queen of Scots, afterwards King Francis II, son of Henry II. Duessa’s story is full of falsehoods.
244. SO DAINTY THEY SAY MAKETH DERTH, coyness makes desire. The knight is allured on by Duessa’s assumed shyness.
251. NE WONT THERE SOUND, nor was accustomed to sound there.
254. COOL SHADE. The Reformed Church, weakened by Falsehood, is enticed by doubt and skepticism.
262. FAIRE SEEMLY PLEASAUNCE, pleasant courtesies.
263. WITH GOODLY PURPOSES, with polite conversation. This whole stanza refers to Mary’s candidacy for the English throne and its dangers to Protestantism.
269. HE PLUCKT A BOUGH. In this incident Spenser imitates Ariosto, Orlando Furioso, vi, 26, in which Ruggiero addresses a myrtle which bleeds and cries out with pain. The conception of men turned into trees occurs also in Ovid, Vergil, Tasso, and Dante.
272. O SPARE WITH GUILTY HANDS, etc. Cf Vergil’s account of Polydorus in Aeneid, iii, 41, in which a myrtle exclaims, Parce pias scelerare manus, etc.
284. FROM LIMBO LAKE, here, the abode of the lost. With the Schoolmen, Limbo was a border region of hell where dwelt the souls of Old Testament saints, pious heathen, lunatics, and unbaptized infants. Cf. Milton’s Paradise of Fools, Paradise Lost, iii, 495.
291. FRADUBIO, as it were “Brother Doubtful,” one who hesitates between false religion and pagan religion, Duessa and Fraelissa (Morley). Fraelissa is fair but frail, and will not do to lean upon.
342. FAIRE IN PLACE, fair in that place.
351. TO TREEN MOULD, to the form of a tree. Treen is an adj. like wooden.
354. THE SAME. Supply “as she appeared to be,” i.e. fair and true.
357. PROPER HEW. Witches had to appear in their “proper hew” one day in spring and undergo a purifying bath. The old romances make frequent mention of the enchanted herb bath.
370. BY CHAUNGES OF MY CHEARE, by my changed countenance or expression.