Gougousi 1

The first really commanding figure in the Elizabethan period, and one of the chief of all English poets, is Edmund Spenser. One of the most important Spenser’s poems, considered to be a masterpiece, is the ‘ aerie !ueene’. "y the time of that great Elizabethan literary period, and #ery much after the English $eformation, the si%&boo' ‘ aerie !ueene’ (as published in 1)*+. ,t (as in that post&$eformation England, (hich had recently replaced the authority of $oman -ope (ith -rotestantism as the national religion, Spenser de#eloped his poetic s'ills. To .uote /./.Gray, 0Spenser (as an Elizabethan Englishman, educated (ith a strong -rotestant 1 indeed -uritan& bias, he (as a courtier of !ueen Elizabeth an official of the English Go#ernment in ,reland2 34567. 8ot to mention the fact that Spenser’s ‘ aerie !ueene’ being profoundly influenced by the socio& political conditions of that era, urges us to focus on one of its many aspects9 that of historical allegory. Ta'ing into consideration all these abo#e, the purpose of this essay is to illuminate the (ays in (hich Spenser relates his themes to the Elizabethan age and illustrate his position to(ards the related political, social, and religious issues that are raised through specific elements. Spenser addresses to Sir :alter $aleigh (riting that 0in that aery !ueene , mean glory in my general intention, but in my particular , concei#e the most e%cellent and glorious person of our so#eraine the !ueene, and her 'ingdome in aery land. ;nd yet in some places els, , doe other(ise shado( her2 3<1<7. Though she ne#er appears in the poem, the aerie !ueene 3also 'no(n as Gloriana7 is the main focus of the poem9 the castle is the ultimate goal or destination of many of the poem’s characters. She represents Spenser’s o(n monarch, !ueen Elizabeth. To .uote =ouis /ontrose’s (ords, 0Edmund Spenser ga#e form to his literary ambitions and constructed his authorial persona by means of his multiple and ambi#alent representations of !ueen Elizabeth2 3*><7. Spenser, himself, reassures us that 0although he cannot reproduce the .ueen’s beauty, his can#as (ill be analytic and (ill approach its sub?ect from a #ariety of angles2 3/ichael O’@onnell 557. 8ot only (ill Spenser’s epic celebrate #irtue, but England itself, both in the person of ;rthur, the embodiment of a past national greatness, and in the person of Elizabeth. ;nd, besides,

glorifies #ehemently his . /ichael O’@onnell argues that 0the =egend of Coliness re.t (ould be a mista'e to see Spenser’s praise of Elizabeth as a mere personal flattery. this is (hat Spenser attempts to do (ith his poetry and his Elizabethan protestant beliefs. as =ouis /ontrose points out. . "y this. . or Spenser. "rin'.n other (ords. in order to become the national poet of England 3<1+7. . being a hardcore protestant. Spenser’s single dedication to Elizabeth is the least (e could e%pect from such an author (ho (anted to (rite the English $enaissance epic 347. #irtuous herself and the inspiration for #irtue in others. to sho( us the One True @hurch. e%presse Colynes2 3<1<7. Elizabeth had already been transformed into an image of perfection. the embodiment of idealized so#ereignty.Gougousi 5 according to Aean $. (ho (as also protestant.nd of course. Spenser. though no doubt he had hopes of ad#ancement by pleasing the !ueen. (e are tal'ing about the ‘$edcrosse 'night’. she is.ueen Elizabeth. as Gloriana. this myth concerns the communal sal#ation and the endurance of the true @hristian @hurch through time.uired a prophetic #ision of a sacred rather than secular cast2 36*7. true indi#idual @hristian could understand the traps of $oman @hurch and by this could a#oid the sins.n general.ueen.ue national -oets. such as Birgil. it is meant that Spenser (as bra#e enough to employ the boo' of $e#elation. E#ery protestant (ho is de#oted to Elizabeth (ants to support his protestant dogma and urges the rest of other people to follo( -rotestantism. is to illustrate the true indi#idual @hristian (ho has all the #irtues.n the ‘=etter to $aleigh’. . .ueen. as a myth to mediate the claims of history upon holiness. 0the re&articulation of such formal elements 3Elizabeth7 in ne( configurations 3Gloriana7 meant that the socio&political imaginary (as unstable and that #arious attempts (or'ed so to enforce the uniformity in the political culture2 3*>D7.s Spenser puts it in his ‘=etter to $aleigh’.n the (ritings of innumerable poets. Spenser admits that he chooses the e%emplar of anti.part from the fact that Spenser (ants to attract the attention of his . moreo#er. Generally. he (anted to become a national poet and the only (ay by doing this (as to glorify the nation’s . Comere and lately Tasso. (hat Spenser aims. in (home . instead of @atholicism. . /ichael . ‘$edcrosse 'night’ is 0the 'night. . . "esides. urthermore. .

Ena inherits the lost innocence and rights of . a dramatically opposed image to Ena is Guessa.dam and E#e (ill be purged and (e shall be restored to our first communion (ith God 35<7. The latter leads us immediately to another figurati#e persona of the ‘ aerie !ueene’. /ichael O’@onnell rightly obser#es that 0in England the #ictory (as achie#ed by the English people.dam and E#e before the fall in the Garden of Eden. suggests an English fulfillment of the boo' of $e#elation9 0the -rotestant historical interpretation of $e#elation had found a further realization in the England of Elizabeth2 3Ceale Elizabeth 5>7. to be restored by the defeat of $oman @atholicism. 0by employing this historical interpretation. . and the promise by (hich our sinful inheritance from . Ceale argues that 0Ena’s association (ith the lamb thus suggests both her identity as @hrist’s True @hurch. of course. Spenser ad#ances the claim that the England he celebrates is playing a part in the fulfillment of the sacred history prophesied in $e#elation2 36*7.s (e ha#e been referring to boo' 1 so far. (hich constitutes the personification of the One True @hurch. . Ena. The name itself ma'es initially e#ident Ena’s polysemous nature.Gougousi 6 O’@onnell indicates that. (hich in the -rotestant #ie( had ruled o#er East and :est before the usurpation of the $oman @atholic @hurch. symbolizes the dedication of the True @hristian indi#idual to the Fingdom of England. is the de#otion of $edcrosse to help Ena sa#e her parents from the dragon. the figure of Ena stands at the center of the celebration of historical accomplishment in boo' 1 3447. though they had fallen into the . The contrast bet(een them is de#eloped both in terms of their significance and in the details of their narrati#es.lso. (hich. :hat’s more.s /ichael O’@onnell points out. . :e learn in the course of the narrati#e that Ena also symbolizes the True @hurch that guides the @hristian soul. (ho. . The fact that ‘Ena’ and ‘$edcrosse 'night’ are associated (ith historical and allegorical allusions. Cer inheritance is also that of the primiti#e @hristian @hurch. in the boo' of $e#elation. Spenser found an account of the stri'ingly opposed figures of good and e#il 35+7. .ccording to Elizabeth Ceale.nother element that pro#es us the connection of ‘ aerie !ueene’ (ith the socio& political condition of that era.

Gougousi 4 capti#ity of . Ceale Elizabeth suggests that 0this particular dimension of $edcrosse. . but he (as also closely connected (ith the monarchy as patron of the prestigious Order of the Garter. George ha#e been. it’s significant to remember that the picture of $edcrosse 'illing the monster Error clearly identifies (ith the imaginary of St George. it’s important to mention. George.ueen. but in the emotional and imaginati#e life of the poet as these are reflected . . St George. This suggesti#e replacement of George (ith Elizabeth not only (or's to glorify the monarch. The dragon. (ho had cooperated (ith God’s grace to lead them bac' to the primiti#e English @hurch2 3+)7. (as he the patron saint.ueen should supplant e#en England’s saintly male patron. One of the most important religious elements Spenser uses.lison .lthough emblematic of English nationalist sentiment for centuries might St.t this part. and by their . . The influence of Spenser’s life in . that St.. Spenser seems to imply that 1+th century Englishmen should loo' to their o(n time and place for a patron saint.lso. is the =egend of St. The opinion most commonly held that the influence (as not so important consists an inade. added ?ust before his final battle (ith the dragon. @hapman seems (edded to the idea that 0Elizabeth’s triumph o#er the dragon of man @atholicism becomes the 1+ th substitute for George’s of a more literal dragon2 31)7.ntichrist. (hich ‘$edcrosse Fnight’ e#entually 'ills. George (as the England’s saintly male patron. Spenser suggests that the li#ing -rotestant . is the one 'illed by St. suffered through their martyrs and returned to the reformed church. .rish e%periences not only in the bac'ground and incident. helps the reader to find historical allegory in the e#ents described2 3547. @ontrary to (hat ha#e been argued so far.t’s a (ell&'no(n thing that history and religion are interrelated things and (e seem (edded to the idea that both history and religion should be e%amined along (ith the social conditions. 8ot only.uacy9 for it is possible to trace the influence of his . George.reland on the aerie !ueene has usually been under& estimated. but it also spea's to a ne( -rotestant understanding of the saint. e#en though (e don’t get $edcrosse’s name until the Couse of Coliness. .

Gray’s (ords. (here Spenser in#ents a fanciful legend of an offended Giana to e%plain the unhappy and desolate state of . Elizabethan attempts to bring 0the . . /ore interesting are the passages in the last fragment of the poem. see more and more thro(n upon her IJK 3Spenser 1*7. one realizes that there e%ists a reciprocal relationship bet(een the indi#idual and that history2 3+<7. (ho once hunted the beautiful hills and (oods of . 0the Couse of Temperance in the "oo' 5 gi#es #ery li#ely pictures of ho( the .n 1)*D. and Spenser (ith many of his 'ind had to flee.fter ha#ing analyzed all the socio&political and religious elements of Spenser’s time.Gougousi ) in the poem.reland.uences for the . (here repeated rebellions against English authority could ha#e de#astating conse./. or Spenser. held as an official of the English Go#ernment in .Gray. . . (as tric'ed and no( see's for re#enge.uote /ichael O’@onnell’s (ords. To .ccording to /.nglican @hurch. To e%plain more. Specifically. On . 0because history re#eals a prophetic order.reland must be #anished completely. as e#ery day . may no( come to the conclusion that ‘ aerie !ueene’ constitutes a poem (ritten mostly in historical allegory.rish rebels impressed the English Go#ernment officials2 341)7.t (as a $oman @atholic nation in a state of constant turbulence. .uote Ceale’s (ords./. .reland’s sa#agery (as a tragic themeH 0 .n Spenser’s ‘ aerie !ueene’.rish from desire of (ars and tumults to the lo#e of peace and ci#ility2 3Spenser 1)D7 notoriously failed. rebellion spread in support of Tyrone.reland is #ery attracti#e but this 'ind of beauty is too dangerous for the True @hristians that they must destroy all the rebels in . do much pity that s(eet land to be sub?ect to so my e#ils. these features of . Spenser describes ho( Giana. 0slightly more important are passages in "oo' ). Ta'ing into consideration /. li'e that in (hich the poet celebrates the .reland are depicted in #arious forms. Spenser. as (e ha#e said.rish ri#ers in the allegory of the (edding of the Thames and the /ed(ay2 34167. the picture of Sir @uyon destroying completely the "o(er of "liss implies that @atholicism in . .reland (as the place (here all their fears and an%ieties about the #ulnerability of their long peace under Elizabeth too' nightmare form2 3<7. . To . . inally.reland. 0to the Elizabethans. .reland.reland.

.-ee'’s (ords. . as something to us at first necessarily remote and strange. (e ha#e to approach it from the point of #ie( of the author and his age.n addition to that. history itself depends upon the actions of indi#iduals. O’@onnell sees 0the de#elopment of the ‘ aerie !ueen’ as being increasingly concerned (ith the poet’s o(n e%perience. the more (e understand about the relationship bet(een Spenser’s poem and the political culture in (hich (as created. To .Gougousi + the other hand.:. -rotestant and official English Go#ernor in . 0(hen (e ha#e come through an historical understanding to appreciation as (ell. and broadened our conception of the #ariety of the spiritual capacity of the race2 364<7. . "y this. historically. (e shall ha#e enlarged our sympathies. To sum up. mean that not only ha#e historical e#ents contributed to Spenser’s (riting ‘ aerie !ueene’ but also to his personal de#elopment as an educated.reland. especially his e%perience of .uote C. the more (e may come to see it as the most copious manifestation of the Eli zabethan political imaginary. e%tended our literary horizon.reland2 3147. "esides. To profit by a study of the ‘ aerie !ueene’. it is the masterpiece of a species of literature (hich (as popular for four centuries.