Saracens, Assyrians, and Spaniards
Allegories of the Armada
in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
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When the Spanish invasion force of 1588 met with successful English resistance and disastrous weather, losing thousands of men and 62 of 130 ships, contemporary observers and participants on both sides believed the outcome reflected God’s intervention. English sermons used Bible stories to develop a patriotic and providentialist interpretation of the gathering threat and subsequent Spanish defeat. Sermons before the attempted invasion, by Thomas Drant, Meredith Hanmer, and William Gravet, demonstrate the comparison preachers drew a between Islam and Roman Catholicism (as Spenser created a Muslim sultan to represent the Roman Catholic Spanish threat). Sermons celebrating the English victory, by John Prime, Thomas White, Roger Hackett, and Stephen Gosson, show that Spenser and the preachers drew on the same biblical theme of God’s judgment and motifs of horses, chariot, and hardware.

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