Margaret Christian
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Court and courtesy
Sermon contexts for Spenser’s Book VI
in Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis
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Sermon references to courtiers and court inveigh against ambition, luxury, pleasure-seeking, flattery, and intrigue while commending biblical courtiers like Joseph, Moses, David, and Nehemiah for their godliness and service to common people. Elizabethan courtesy, a Christian virtue reflecting the character of God, is properly manifested in court as well as contryside: by noblemen to those in distress and to commoners like shepherds, and conversely by hospitable householders like Abraham and Lot to their angel visitors, or Caelia to Redcrosse and Melibœ to Calidore. Its opposite is malicious slander like that personified in the Blatant Beast. Sermon references to court and courtesy show that Spenser’s treatment of these topoi, far from being subversive or jaded, is very conventional. Spenser’s Calidore had important biblical role models, particularly in Nehemiah and Moses.

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