End-songs
Final vistas of Spenser and Shakespeare
in Renaissance psychologies
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Does Spenser’s Mutabilitie Song complete his epic, or point to a more transcendent scope in its final half? It derogates the pagan gods; it reforms the titan Mutability (unlike the discarded demon-titans in books 1-6); and its grand pastoral pageant falls short of the symbolic city toward which the poem moves. Spenser’s holistic design is more clearly implied in his ordering of deadly sins (FQ 1.4). Compared with Dante’s pattern of sins, of purgations, and of ascensions in the Commedia, it offers a vital clue to The Faerie Queene’s format – based on the Christian-Platonism that informs all its figures and sequences. Much evidence suggests Elizabeth I would admire a mystic structuring of this epic that so honors her. As for Shakespeare’s attentiveness to last things, we explore the theme of ‘summoning’ in Hamlet and King Lear, both concerned – as in The Summoning of Everyman – with ‘readiness’ and ’ripeness’ in the face of death and judgment. In The Tempest’s deft collocation of all social levels and artistic genres, and its odd convergence with Spenserian allegory, we debate the insistence on Shakespeare’s secularism by examining the range of meaning in Prospero’s ‘Art’.

Renaissance psychologies

Spenser and Shakespeare

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