Hierarchic architecture in The Faerie Queene
in Renaissance psychologies
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Christian Platonic hierarchy shapes Spenser’s epic: a hierarchic family triad, three stages of fall and of recovery. Spenser radically revises this allegory, blaming man, whom woman lovingly seeks to cure. Books 3-5 show Britomart’s chaste power defeating all males, freeing woman from mastery and self-induced suffering. The intellective allegory of books 1 and 2 reform higher reason, then lower reason, each in tripartite form: a triadic family, triple temptings, three-phase training of the spiritual and then natural bodies, ending with a triadic Eden. The passional allegory of books 3 and 4 is again transcendent, then immanent. Britomart brings female ascendancy by chaste skill with arms and providential goals. She unfolds in three heroic Graces (Florimell, Belphoebe, Amoret). In these passional books the male counterparts (Artegall, Marinell, Timias, Scudamour) are paralyzed; virtuous reunion comes by female prowess and endurance, aided by mothers and female deities. A female theology rests on virginity and marriage, immaculate conception, Trinitarian identity, epiphanic unveilings, female endurance of a Passion. The sensate allegory of books 5 and 6 subject even Gloriana/Mercilla and Arthur to confusing materialism. Does the ontological ‘dilation’ of books 1-6 (narrowing images of Duessa, Timias, and satyrs-salvages) show despondency about Irish terrors, or prepare for reversal in books 7-12?

Renaissance psychologies

Spenser and Shakespeare

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