Waller, Tasso, and Marvell’s Last Instructions to a Painter
in Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell
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This chapter draws on Epic Romance, an important and wide-ranging study in which Colin Burrow argues for reading epic and romance not as distinct genres but as antagonistic impulses at work within a single tradition. Andrew Marvell's attack argues for a debilitating interdependence between the predominantly romance mode of Wallerian panegyric and the failures of English maritime power and court ideology. In treating Archibald Douglas's death, Marvell reaches back beyond Edmund Waller and Torquato Tasso and attempts to purge even from the ultimate Virgilian source of the topos the romance passions of love and pity. Waller invariably allows amorous motive to trump national obligation and imperial ambition, romance to triumph over epic. It is the political manifestation of this triumph, as the abandonment of civic duty in the face of unregulated sexual desire, that Marvell's Last Instructions diagnoses in its treatment of the Stuart court.

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