This chapter explores Spenser’s technical debt to Chaucer arguing for the
semantic character of Spenser’s rhyming practice, and the ways in which his
choices of rhyme and stanza impinge on the broader meanings of his poems.
The first section analyses Chaucer and Spenser’s use of rime riche, arguing
that while the device shows the latter’s fealty to the former, it also shows
the updating of Chaucerian language to the metrical norms of early modern
English. The second section explores the question of stanzaic syntax,
arguing that Spenser wanted a more restrictive mise-en-page than in the
Chaucer folios; this is illustrated through a detailed reading of his
continuation of the Squire’s Tale in The Faerie Queene IV.iii which stresses
the extreme repetitions across stanzas in which Spenser specialised. In this
view, repetition is a device used in context to enhance readerly wonder at
the extraordinary deeds narrated, while Spenserian diction works to keep
Chaucerian English in the reader’s mind. The final section reopens the old
question of the origins of the Spenserian stanza, repointing an old answer:
the Spenserian is a deliberate development of the rhyme royal stanza as
practised by Chaucer.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.