Spenser’s Busirane and Donne’s ‘A Valediction of my name, in the window’
innocence as a kind of juridical deposition, a testament by proxy that could proclaim her innocence even if she were executed. 5 Although Donne does not acknowledge this diamond-engraved precedent directly, he might well have known of Elizabeth’s inscription from Foxe or Holinshed. 6 As a poetic couplet that could outlast the extreme political hazard in which Elizabeth found herself, the lines provide an analogue for Donne’s carved autograph just before his own enforced departure. Donne wittily adapts his own glassy signature as a prophylactic not against legal
, Peter Ramus’, and Ramist dialectical thought became a ‘virtual manifesto’ for the ‘emergent protestant mindset’, particularly in matters of scriptural interpretation and ‘pedagogical strategies’. 23 My focus, therefore, will be on Book I of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene , the Book of Holiness. However, I shall begin by commenting more generally on the rhetorical underpinnings of The Faerie Queene at large.
If the two words in the title of Spenser’s epic give any indication, the poem cannot but be an allegorical poem with a political message. Allegory is the best
the borrowing ironically shows up Gonzalo as, in his naïveté, reciting someone else’s script. The effect is thoroughly to destabilise the similar role he will later play as a spokesman for eternal romance wonder – ‘set it down / With gold on lasting’ ( Tmp. , V.i.207–8) – and self-realisation: ‘all of us ourselves, / When no one was his own’ (212–13). His generic inflation there is arguably ventriloquised in service to a political and materialist agenda that again devalues the island: ‘ ... Prospero, his dukedom / In a poor isle’ (211–12). The earlier debate over
suspicious of ‘self-made’ men.
It is not surprising that Spenser would be self-conscious about
his humble origins. William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the most powerful political
official in England, was so troubled by charges that he was an upstart that he
worked and reworked his family tree. Edmund Spenser, however, was one of the
few early modern cultural figures – perhaps the only one – who
advertised the insignificance of his social background. When
Shakespeare’s shifting sonnets. From Love’s Labour’s Lost to The
sonnets, unlike Shakespeare’s sonnets (when not mediated by
any dramatic character other than Will), conceal this fundamental
political issue under the varnish of the conventional
love-at-first-sight motif. No matter how anxious these immature
young men may be about their destiny and their masculinity, they
have to put up a bold front and decide to focus on amorous games.
Figures of comparison and repetition in Spenser’s Cantos of
Mutabilitie and Donne’s Anniversaries
palilalia – which, if Donne had read the Cantos , would also be a kind of echolalia. 59
In figuring ‘the euer-whirling wheele / Of Change ’ ( FQ VII.vi.1), and so natural metamorphosis, historical aetiology, political genealogy, and, ultimately, Christian eschatology, the Cantos chiefly draw on Ovid, Chaucer, Natalis Comes, and the New Testament. 60 And while by the time they were published in 1609 the political crises informing them had mostly subsided, the epistemological crisis, which had long troubled Renaissance humanism, had only grown
just such an ironic
sequence. E.K. engages in some serious name-dropping: Vergil and Chaucer, Marot
and Skelton. In the Gloss to the Januarie eclogue of the Shepheardes
Calender , we are given a literary source for Spenser's name, John
Skelton's Boke of Colin Clout (1530), a satire of church and state. The
Shepheardes Calender contains religious and political satire and so
resembles Skelton in theme and genre. Both Spenser and
, astronomy is neither wholly good nor wholly evil: though it benefits science, it also attempts to elucidate the inner workings of heaven, a violation of God’s authority’. 77 Donne’s metaphysics of sublime authorship explodes the value system of the West, including as epitomized in the poetry of Edmund Spenser.
The concluding couplet is especially mind-bending. Perhaps Donne means that the ‘only measure’ and ‘judge’ of a ‘quality’ is through ‘comparison’ and ‘opinion’ – which Bell glosses as ‘Moral or political judgement; report, rumour
The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night
to trace links among the three emblematically counter-generic figures in these plays, as they may be termed, but there are telling ones: each is a trouble-fête , self-righteous, obsessed with a narrow idea of the Law that he sees himself as representing. Two of the three are tarred with the Puritan brush and one of its common corollaries, hypocrisy; by way of another anti-Puritan stereotype, that of the usurer, Shylock rejoins the picture. 3 In two cases, the political and ethical issues focused in the sources, notably the relative claims of justice and mercy
Queene is, in this sense, typical of the period.
The Renaissance proclivity for mixing modes was not, however, accepted without objection. I have noted that humour was fuelled by areas of social and political sensitivity; by the same token, humour raised anxieties. The frivolous and potentially anarchic nature of laughter was often emphasised by moralists, by literary critics, and by authors themselves. A capacity to subvert and unsettle is a timeless attribute of humour, but concerns about the right uses of humour were particularly acute during the period in