"Waues of weary wretchednesse"
Florimell and the sea
in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
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This chapter examines sermon uses of the image of the sea and the ship to demonstrate that the ocean, for Elizabethans, represented not only a realm of magic and fertility but also the spiritual dangers of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sermons by Stephen Gosson, Richard Madox, Robert Wilkinson (among others) as well as Geneva Bible illustrations and glosses, provide parallels for Britomart’s lament at III.iv and a key to the moral meaning of the various settings of Florimell’s adventures: her near-rape by the fisherman, imprisonment by Proteus at III.viii-ix, and rescue by Cymoent in IV.xii. The sea setting sharpens the point of narrative references to divine intervention, and the sermons show how these episodes’ sea settings make sense for Spenser’s dramatizing the incompleteness of the single life that propels men and women toward their destiny of married love.

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