Kathryn Walls
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Una’s adiaphoric dwarf
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Through the dwarf Spenser treats the relationship between the invisible Church and the institutional Church in England. The “needments” he carries represent the “ornaments” imposed by the contentious 1559 “Ornaments Rubric,” together with the ceremonies that these material objects epitomized. Such forms (anathema to the dissenters) had been strongly defended by Henry’s apologist Thomas Starkey as adiaphora (or “things indifferent”). These, according to Starkey and the Elizabethan hierarchy in general, were in fact indispensable. The dwarf’s commitment to ceremonial takes a superstitious Catholic turn in canto vi, but his revival of Una in canto vi intimates that the forms of worship embraced by the Church as a national (visible) institution support the Church as the (invisible) community of the redeemed.

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God’s only daughter

Spenser’s Una as the invisible Church


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