Andrew Wadoski
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Immoderation and necessity
Spenser’s Machiavelli
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Central to Spenser’s ethics is the question of the political and metaphysical insufficiency of the ancient virtues to the task of establishing colonial rule in Ireland. Chapter 6 focuses on Spenser’s engagements with the Florentine political theorist, Machiavelli, claiming that if Spenser’s Irish experience exposes the political limitations of an Aristotelian understanding of virtuous action, then the View’s Machiavelli-inflected account of Arthur, Lord Grey as an icon of virtue notably clarifies the scope, aims, and ambitions of what we might describe as a specifically Spenserian account of virtue. Spenser’s account of Grey’s violent tenure in Ireland, in which he upholds the massacre of Spanish troops at Smerwick as an exemplary action, defines virtue not as fulfillment of normative principles of excellence, but as the ability to respond in politically efficacious ways to various bad choices compelled by fortune and necessity.

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Spenser’s ethics

Empire, mutability, and moral philosophy in early modernity


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