Margaret Christian
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Allegorical reading in sermon references to history and current events
in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
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Elizabethan preachers and homilists embraced providentialism, looking to history, both biblical and secular, to read universal moral principles and God’s eternal purposes in their contemporary scene. According to John Aylmer, Esther was a type of Anne Boleyn while Mordechai figured Archbishop Cranmer; Richard Curteys saw Athaliah as a type of Mary Tudor, and David foreshadowed Elizabeth. According to William Barlow, the Roman Coriolanus typified the Earl of Essex, while the earl perversely saw himself as David and Elizabeth as Saul—an identification Barlow took seriously enough to refute at some length. Thomas Holland, preaching on Accession Day, recounted the positive attributes and godly behaviour of the Queen of Sheba without explicitly identifying her with Elizabeth, demonstrating how adept sermon-goers were expected to be at the kind of allegorical reading The Faerie Queene demands.

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