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Spenser, Donne, and the metaphysical sublime

Faerie Queene ’, Spenser Studies , 22 (2007), 103–25. The fact that Spenser promotes thought does not mean he resolves what Fletcher sees as Spenser’s ‘core of profound ambivalence’ ( Allegory , 273). 15 On Spenserian ‘idealism’, see Kenneth Borris, Visionary Spenser and the Poetics of Early Modern Platonism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 16 See Carey, John Donne , on ‘the two vital factors in his career, his desertion of the Roman Catholic Church and his ambition’ (14). On Donne’s Protestantism, see

in Spenser and Donne

resemblance do not necessarily find it to be problematic. According to C. S. Lewis’s influential argument, Spenser deliberately reappropriates rejected forms of piety through allegory, prompting the reader to actively interpret – and so rehabilitate – ‘Catholic’ images. In a similar vein, Frye says of Una: ‘note that she’s dressed as a nun, an allegory the R. C. Ch. [Roman Catholic Church] takes literally’. 33 In the view of both Lewis and Frye, to assume that Red Crosse’s lady endorses Catholicism because she looks like a nun, or that the House of Holiness does likewise

in Comic Spenser
The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night

by mercy and redemption. Several other personages are similarly summoned, however, while only the Merchant is saved, so the self-applied label of ‘tragedy’ proves to be apt. The presentational style and didactic technique are typical of Reformation polemic. The eponymous protagonist is unequivocally sinful, having lecherously fathered Gain (or Usury) on the strumpet Fortune; after the message of death, his conscience, personified, torments him, as does Satan. The remedies of the Catholic church, proposed by a priest, naturally cannot save him, but at the direction

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
The new philosophy in Hamlet

Shakespeare’s lifetime. 1 In the eyes and canons of the Catholic Church the creation myth of Genesis – the so-called ‘Mosaic cosmogony’ – was received as literal history. Believers were required to accept that God, at a stroke, had created the universe from nothingness – productio totius substantia ex nihilo sui et subjecti; or, as the Old Testament book of the Maccabees put it

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
Gender and generation in Robert Southwell’s Epistle to his father

, has effectively buried him alive, just as he had been considered dead to his family upon his entry into the Catholic church. Generation has slipped into degeneration, and the tree is ‘barren and fruitless’. Southwell is not alone in subverting this traditional image of generation. It is an unfortunate consequence of Southwell’s singular biography, and particularly the isolating

in Conversions

of the false Sorceresse. 75 (26) The false sorceress, naturally, is the Roman Catholic Church, about whom more later. The pastoral frame story thus contains certain familiar conventions, such as the insistent sheep metaphors and imagery at the beginning and after the end of Willy’s monologue, as well as the movement from country to city and back again with news, as occurs in “September” of The Shepheardes Calender and in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe. Willy can tell Thenot about the events of the Plot and its foiling because he was in the city five days earlier

in Spenserian satire
England’s altered confidence

of a Catholic church, the regular progress around which was a sobering reminder to the lettered and unlettered alike. Even before the Reformation, when still up on church walls, such images had probably lost much of their poignancy, dulled by their familiarity and air of stiff antiquity. How long had it been since anyone had looked at the angels on the church roofs, now shot down like so many birds

in Robert Southwell
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George Peele’s David and Bethsabe

Catholic church and address specific practices and aspects of doctrine which encouraged superstition and exploited the laity. The reforms instituted by Luther in 1517 included the elimination of Catholic practices such as the worship of saints, recognition of the authority of the Pope and belief in purgatory. The sacraments were reduced from seven to two to include just baptism and the Eucharist. The elimination of the sacrament of confession for example, whereby individuals could receive penance and absolution for their sins from a priest, redefined the nature of the

in The genres of Renaissance tragedy
Clarendon, Cressy and Hobbes, and the past, present and future of the Church of England

Clarendon had been intensely wary, of extending royal intervention in the Church much further than was necessary to ensure the maintenance of religious peace within a structure of uniformity; of bringing into being forces that might use royal patronage to chip away at the position of the Church of England, even, perhaps, to permit the toleration of the Catholic Church. An attempt to assert the Crown’s prerogative powers over the Church and the laws concerning religion in 1663 had been resisted by Clarendon at much political cost. The debate over comprehension in 1667

in From Republic to Restoration

this grouping reflected Chaucer’s design. While it does not effortlessly fit the framework, the Plowman ’ s Tale was unquestionably adapted, by means of an effective (if somewhat artless) Prologue, to furnish a link with the Canterbury pilgrimage. 14 Once it came to be included in the Tales , it appears to have gained swift and wholehearted acceptance, presumably because its Lollard polemics were attractive for readers keen to claim Chaucer as a proto-Protestant critic of the Catholic Church, the fraternal orders and the

in Rereading Chaucer and Spenser