This chapter is concerned with the diction and choice of word in the poem. It focuses on questions which relate to the rhetorical character of Elizabethan thinking and the styles Spenser deploys and the choices he makes in the construction of his poem. The first half of the chapter considers questions surrounding how Spenser used language – was he diffuse or condensed; to what extent is his lexis formulaic? – through the debate around his use of archaic diction. The second half of the chapter considers the episode of Artegall’s encounter with the egalitarian Giant in V.ii in terms of the ways in which Spenser’s choices of epithet position the protagonists and the reader in relation to the episode’s complex political meanings.
Richard Danson Brown
The Art of The Faerie Queene is the first book centrally focused on the forms and poetic techniques employed by Spenser. Though much scholarly attention in recent years has been on the relationships between Spenser’s poetry and political and colonial history, the place of his epic in literary history has received less attention. This book aims to rectify that by re-reading The Faerie Queene as poetry which is at once absorbing, demanding, and experimental. The Spenser explored here ingeniously uses the tricks of his poetic style to amplify his symbolic agendas and to deepen the reading experience.
One of the book’s particular originalities is the way in which it reframes Spenser’s place in literary history. As opposed to the stylistic conservatism diagnosed by previous generations of scholars, The Art of The Faerie Queene presents the poem as more radical, more edgy, and less conventional, particularly as it appeared to Spenser’s first readers. As such, the book proposes new ways of understanding the Elizabethan poetic Renaissance and the ways in which Spenser is best understood in terms of literary history.
The book progresses from the choice of individual words through to questions of metre, rhyme, and stanza form up to the larger structures of canto, book, and the incomplete yet massive poem itself. It will be of particular relevance to undergraduates studying Elizabethan poetry, graduate students, and scholars of Renaissance poetry, for whom the formal aspect of the poetry has been a topic of growing relevance.
Richard Danson Brown
This chapter asks the question of whether or not the Spenserian canto is simply a proxy term for a convenient division in a long work. It probes the question of how Spenser’s cantos work through the juxtaposition of two different parts of the poem: it begins with Spenser at his most fractured and seemingly casual, in the second installment at the heart of Book VI, with its incomplete narratives, and explores questions of canto structure and the role of the narrator. The second part of the chapter then moves on to the more networked composition which characterises the first installment, to look at thematic connections across sequential cantos where narrative connections less clear cut.
Felicity Lyn Maxwell
This chapter analyses how the Shrewsburys’ servants’ letters represent the micropolitics of their employers’ combined or dispersed households throughout the turbulent 1580s, revealing that they used a range of rhetorical techniques, such as positive and negative characterisation, deferential and emotional language, strongly worded advice and practical problem-solving to perform their duties and demonstrate their allegiance at all costs. It concludes with reflections on the significance of servants’ emotional, political and epistolary engagements.
Telling stories from the Cavendish financial accounts
This chapter focuses on a book of financial accounts from the mid-sixteenth century and looks outwards from the static lists of payments to the surrounding lively and animate web of social and interpersonal relations. It asks what might be revealed to us about the objects and persons named in its monetarised lists and what gendered power dynamics might arise. Early modern financial accounts have often been underestimated as sources – mined as quarries of facts within the biographical tradition – but this chapter is concerned with the ways in which they can reward analyses of their language, materiality and archival afterlife. It is concerned with how these conventional texts could be customised to serve the agendas of individuals or to accommodate the requirements of particular communities. It asks how and why a person might draw up a set of financial accounts, but also considers the implications of choices made over scribes, handwriting, presentation, personal spelling system and linguistic scripts. Financial accounts had communicative functions related to their moment of production, but could also carry meanings across time and between generations.
This chapter reads Bess’s life and achievements in the light of a poem written about her by her great-granddaughter, the playwright Lady Jane Cavendish. It offers an account of her significance and of the areas in which she is of interest. It concludes with a brief glance at what the essays in the collection contain.
Building a woman’s house
Sara L. French
This chapter analyses the significance of the innovations at Hardwick in terms of Bess’s gender as well as the way Elizabethan gender roles were crucially important to the map of domestic space in the late sixteenth century. Powerful female figures such as Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart had a profound impact on the politics and art of the late sixteenth century. Bess of Hardwick’s impact on the Elizabethan country house remains a visible example of the complex interweaving of courtiership, patronage and design with women’s domestic and political roles.
Jessica L. Malay
Throughout her life Bess engaged in a number of strategies to secure authority through her use of objects. In particular, her will exposes the relationships through which her communities formed, and her attempt to secure a continued authoritative presence in these beyond the grave. Death, as Bill Brown notes, provides objects with a hyper-presence that can reveal the social and psychological dynamics between human beings. This chapter draws upon Brown’s work on the dynamics inherent in the relationship between human beings and objects, as well as Bruno Latour’s theories of objects as actors in the formation of networks through which communities are created and sustained. The primary sources for this analysis are rich in both textual and material form and the chapter draws from Elizabeth Hardwick’s letters, her will and the wills of her circle, as well as the many objects associated with her that remain in existence today.
The countess of Shrewsbury and the Lady Arbella Stuart
Sara Jayne Steen
Of Bess’s complex family relationships, none was more troubled than that with her granddaughter, Lady Arbella Stuart. Their interactions necessarily encompassed both the personal and the political and were of great interest to the crown, especially as Queen Elizabeth grew older and the succession was unclear. As a result, substantial correspondence written to and about each has survived from which to examine their difficult and volatile alliance. This chapter traces how through their letters Bess and Arbella shaped oppositional narratives. Their letters offer fascinating perspectives on their roles in the confused events that divided them.
Considers Bess’s achievement overall and rounds off the book.