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5 Canto VI – the Church’s mission to the Gentiles Although canto iii ends with Una’s abduction by Sans Loy (which is clearly only the beginning of a new episode), two cantos intervene before we learn any more of Una’s fate. When, however, this narrative thread is picked up (at I.vi.2–3), the concluding action of canto iii is reiterated. The overlap, which is at one level needless, ensures that we understand that Una’s (still forthcoming) adventures are dependent upon her previous predicament. And (as always) what is literally the case is allegorically telling

in God’s only daughter
Spenser’s Una as the invisible Church

This is the first book-length study devoted to Una, the beleaguered but ultimately triumphant heroine of Book One of The Faerie Queene. Challenging the standard identification of Spenser’s Una with the post-Reformation Church in England, it argues that she stands, rather, for the community of the redeemed, the invisible Church, whose membership is known by God alone. Una’s story (its Tudor resonances notwithstanding) thus embraces that of the Synagogue before the Incarnation as well as that of the Church in the time of Christ and thereafter. Una’s trajectory also allegorizes the redemptive process that populates the City. Initially fallible, she undergoes a transformation that is explained by the appearance of the kingly lion as Christ in canto iii. Indeed, she becomes Christ-like herself. The tragically alienated figure of Abessa in canto iii represents, it is argued, Synagoga. The disarmingly feckless satyrs in canto vi are the Gentiles of the Apostolic era, and the unreliable yet indispensable dwarf is the embodiment of the adiaphora that define national (i. e., visible), Churches. The import of Spenser’s problematic marriage metaphor is clarified in the light of the Bible and medieval allegories. These individual interpretations contribute to a coherent account of what is shown to be, on Spenser’s part, a consistent treatment of his heroine.

holy orders may lie with his preference for marriage over celibacy, but the ecclesiastical eclogues of the Shepheardes Calender also show that Spenser became disenchanted with the Church of England. In an article on Spenser as priest, Jeffrey Knapp comments, ‘Aside from the “meek, wise, and merciable” Roffy, Spenser offers no clearly positive model of a living cleric in the entire Calender ’; he succinctly concludes that Spenser ‘loathed

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
‘Minde on honour fixed’

This revisionary biographical study documents that Spenser was the protégé of a circle of churchmen who expected him to take holy orders, but between 1574, when he left Pembroke College, and 1579, when he published the Shepheardes Calender, he decided against a career in the church. At Pembroke College and in London, Spenser watched the Elizabethan establishment crack down on independent thinking. The sequestration of Edmund Grindal was a watershed event in his early life, as was his encounter with Philip Sidney, the dedicatee of to the Shepheardes Calender. Once Spenser exchanged the role of shepherd-priest for that of shepherd-poet, he understood that his role was not just to celebrate the victories of Protestant England over the Spanish empire, immortalize in verse the virtues of Gloriana’s knights, but also to ‘fashion a noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline’. The received biography of the early Spenser emphasizes Gabriel Harvey, who is reported to have been Spenser’s tutor. Brink shows that Harvey could not have been Spenser’s tutor and argues that Harvey published Familiar Letters (1580) to promote his ambition to be named University Orator at Cambridge. Brink shows that Spenser had already received preferment. His life is contextualized by comparisons with contemporaries including Philip Sidney, Lodowick Bryskett, Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Ralegh. Brink’s provocative study, based upon a critical re-evaluation of manuscript and printed sources, emphasizes Philip Sidney over Harvey and shows that Spenser’s appointment as secretary to Lord Grey was a preferment celebrated even years later by Camden.

3 Una as the City of God The essential argument of this chapter is that from I.ii.7 Una represents the true Church as conceived by Saint Augustine in his De Civitate Dei (The City of God). As the City of God, she is distinguishable from any visible institution, past or present. While (as far as I have been able to discover) Augustine did not himself describe this ‘City’ as ‘invisible’, this adjective (traditionally applied in accordance with Augustine’s conception) usefully pre-empts the confusion that may arise from the adjective ‘true’ – which is applicable

in God’s only daughter

To understand the atmosphere of Spenser's undergraduate residence at Cambridge we need to recognize that universities were far from being ivory towers. During the English Reformation, battles over ritual and church government played themselves out at Cambridge as fiercely as, or more fiercely than, they did in society at large. After the accession of Elizabeth, universities served as havens to the liberal intellectuals returning

in The early Spenser, 1554–80
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, it is likely that his benefactors expected him to take holy orders. It cannot be proved that Spenser seriously considered a career in the church, but in the sixteenth century a young man without property and family connections had few options other than the church or the army. That Spenser considered a career in the church is also suggested by his staying on at Pembroke to obtain the M.A. degree. J.A. Venn, who compiled the biographical

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

a medical qualification then than it is now. Although Hall never obtained, or claimed to have, the degree of Doctor of Medicine, his MA made him better qualified than most physicians in England at this time. Hall never used the title of Dr, nor was he addressed so by his contemporaries, though he has frequently and confusingly been granted it post mortem . 1 The signature of John Hall, churchwarden, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, 20 April 1621. Hall’s is the third signature down, just below Thomas Wilson (the vicar). Seventh down is July Shaw

in John Hall, Master of Physicke
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likely that these clergymen expected Spenser to take holy orders and that he, in fact, considered combining his literary aspirations with a career in the church. As noted previously, his willingness to stay on at Pembroke College and work towards the M.A., after completing the B.A. in 1573, suggests that he was considering taking holy orders. Ninety per cent of those completing the M.A. took holy orders, but he was one of the ten per cent who

in The early Spenser, 1554–80

for an independent thinker than England, and there is evidence that difficult intellectuals, particularly those with ‘Puritan leanings’, were sent to Ireland to protect them from officials in the Church of England. We know as well that a number of Elizabethan poets who were involved with the court and its patronage system died while relatively young in 1590s England. Christopher Marlowe, a government agent, died in 1593 before he was thirty

in The early Spenser, 1554–80