This “Spenser’s Despair Episode and the Theology of

This
assignment will discuss the variation of the magnitude of the public issues
that may be interpreted as psychological issues that are related to Edmund
Spenser’s The Faerie Queene using the
passage from Book II, canto xii. This will relate to some of the separate Books
virtues and will include discussion of the critical resources Harold Skulsky,
“Spenser’s Despair Episode and the Theology of Doubt.” and Frederic Ives
Carpenter, “Spenser’s Cave of Despair.” The deeper meanings
and and virtues within the six books of The
Faerie Queene, however, are a matter
of interpretation and therefore tend to lead to differing results from any
given critic.

 

It
is important to state that Spenser has written The Faerie Queene an allegory, which is a story or poem that can be
interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, this typically being a moral or
political one, public issues often arise from a political background.
Psychological issues or patterns that can occur in an individual and can be
associated with a present or past distress or disability or with a significantly
increased risk of suffering death and or pain. This then can exasperate
emotional issues that can cause the person significant psychological distress.
There are the six published allegories which concern private issues: holiness,
temperance, chastity, friendship, justice and courtesy, these private virtues
can often morph into public issues and then as Danson Brown suggests oscillating
between public issues and what might be characterised as more inward,
psychological problems’

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 (Danson Brown, 2015, p. 250).

Within
these six books Of The Faerie Queene,
Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy, each stanza
has a complete idea or description and these then become linked by their common
subject or virtue to form a longer story these, In turn, then form the cantos
and link the books. Danson Brown explains a canto “functions in much the same
way as chapters in a novel”. (Danson Brown, 2015, p.
340)

Danson
Brown informs “The Faerie Queene is
very much a public poem” (Danson Brown, 2015, p. 251) and continues to state, “The Faerie Queene is symbolic, rather
than realistic” (Danson Brown, 2015, p.254) which is shown through the virtues
perceived in the Books.

Book
1 represents the very public and personal virtue of holiness

In
summary of canto ix Arthur, travelling
with Redcrosse and Una tells them of his quest for the Faerie Queene. Two knights swear their allegiance
to each other, Queene and Country. Redcrosse
and Una come across a second knight who
has just met with the creature Despair.
Redcrosse announces his plan to
battle Despair. He continues on to
find his cave, corpse-littered, dank and gloomy, as such written, it appears to
describe the state of one’s mind whilst in despair, Redcrosse discovers the creature which has just finished killing
his latest victim. Despair deviously manipulates
Redcrosse in believing that he should
end his own life now rather than continuing to consume his life with sin. Una prevents Redcrosse from stabbing himself and must take him away to resume
his strength and faith. Redcrosse
Knight represents holiness and England, he will, in fact, be revealed to be the
significant St George. This stanza begins to illustrate how one’s mind can be altered
from a strong state such as Redcrosse’s upon
entry to cave to one of confusion and psychological damage that the character
is in upon exit. Showing the interpretation of inward psychological problems as
Danson Brown suggests.

There
are numerous examples of both psychological and public virtues represented in
the relevant stanzas, publically it is to read and construed for a Christian to
be holy, he must have true faith. Spenser was of the view that, in the English
Reformation, the people had defeated “false religion” Catholicism,
and embraced “true religion”, Protestantism/Anglicanism. King in the Cambridge
companion informs that Spenser “was a member of the Anglo-Protestant minority
in Catholic Ireland”. (king, 2017,Google Books p 208)    However,
psychologically the story’s setting, as a mythical, fairyland combining, myths
and legends, only emphasizes how its allegory is meant for a land very close to
home, England. The title character, the Faerie
Queene herself, is intended to represent Queen Elizabeth. Una, who travels with Redcrosse, name means “truth.”
There is deceit is organized by Archimago,
whose name means “arch-image”. This representing Spenser’s religious
views as the Protestants accused the Catholics of idolatry due to their
extensive use of images. The sorcerer is able, through deception and lust, to
separate Redcrosse from Una–that is, to separate Holiness from
Truth.

Critics
have seen in Spenser’s epic poem about a variety of types of allegory,
including social, political, historical, religious, moral, philosophical, and
psychological. However, there are some generally recognised interpretations.
Both religious and political allegory are central to the long, complex plot
structure and diverse characterization of The
Faerie Queene.

 The Faerie
Queene is defined as a political allegory
concerning the domestic and international status of Elizabethan England. But as
stated before that both public and psychological issues often embroil and indeed
spark wars, stemming from both politics and religion.

The Faerie Queene
was recognised by both the Queen of England and prominent literary figures of
the day as the greatest work of English verse to be written by a poet of
Spenser’s generation. Over the centuries, since Spenser’s death, critical
response to The Faerie Queene has
varied. Certainly, Spenser has exerted tremendous influence over generations of
poets and has rightly been called “a poet’s poet.” Edmund Spenser was first
called the “Poet’s Poet” by the English essayist Charles Lamb.
Although the phrase does not appear in any of Lamb’s writings, Leigh Hunt
attributes it to him in his critique of Spenser in Hunt’s book Imagination and
Fancy (published in 1844), which is an anthology of English poetry with
accompanying commentary Spenser was recognized as an important influence on
major English poets of the seventeenth century, most notably John Milton.
Spenser’s tremendous influence on writers of the eighteenth century is
indicated by the countless imitations of The
Faerie Queene to be produced by a broad range of poets throughout that
century. In the nineteenth century, critics generally dismissed The Faerie Queene. There has been more
recent criticism of The Faerie Queene.
In the twentieth-century academics of the New Criticism devoted much critical
attention to Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.,
the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the New Criticism as a “focused attention
on the individual work alone as an independent unit of meaning. It was opposed
to the critical practice of bringing historical or biographical data to bear on
the interpretation of a work.” (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017)   Danson
Brown informs of leading Spenserian Harry Berger Jr, remarked: “The poem never
let me go because it has never let me in, has kept me digging outside its
crooked walls for five decades in a responsive delirium of interpretation.”
(Berger, 2003, p.19) (Danson Brown, 2015, p 278)

Considering
some of the critical responses, In stanza 35 the description of Despair with
his ‘sullien mind’ his ‘griese lockes, long growen and unbound.’ Describes not
only an image of desperation but also the strewn, dishevelled state of mind,
when one is in Despair. (Spenser,stanza 35)

Skulsky
writes of Book 1 about the way Spenser uses effective and persuasive writing as
a metaphorical battle with his theological speech and Despair.

He
continues to state “Merely as a piece of Spenserian narrative technique, the
Despair episode in the book of Holiness is a considerable achievement” (Skulsky,
1981, p.227)

Carpenter
also talks of Despair in his journal
and suggests that Spenser was “an idealist, or more properly an idealizer, and
a dreamer” he continues “Despair is the forerunner of self-destruction”
(Carpenter, 1897, p.129) suggesting that it is a sin to contemplate such
thoughts as suicide and this is what sparks Spensers agon with his theological
repertoire.

Carpenter
states “Despair, the advocatus diaboli, the personifi- cation of the morbid
Puritanical conscience”

Discussing
a conscience begins to probe a personal psychological virtue and to describe this
as puritanical is tantamount to suggest that Spenser is again talking of sin,
displaying a very strict or censorious principled attitude towards
self-indulgence or sex. Sin is only what one person conceives as so this is
once again a personal virtue.

This
begins to delve into the crossing of public and psychological virtues and
issues which Danson Brown suggested, suggesting more inward problems.

There
is no matter of doubt that Spencer’s poem. The
Faerie Queene is filled with allegorical significance, and Spenser’s
writing prowess, Spenser stands among the great writers of the Elizabethan
period and partly began to fashion a new tradition in English Literature, the
rich and vigorous imagery and careful treatment of metrical structure left an
outstanding impact and influence on succeeding poets. The Spenserian stanza,
Britannica explains was “a fixed verse of nine lines with a number of specific
restrictions, the stanza being compiled of the rhyme scheme ababbcbbc, the
first eight lines of each stanza are in iambic pentameter, the ninth and last
line of the stanza is an alexandrine, which is a line of twelve syllables with
an audible pause between the sixth and seventh syllables.” (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2017)

In conclusion, as in the introduction
the allegorical meanings and the virtues represented  within the six books of The Faerie Queene, however, are in part a matter of interpretation
and according to one’s own views and morals can either keep public and
psychological issues, separate or amalgamate and as Danson Brown suggests
oscillate , this depends on individuals religious and political background,
where such social, moral and emotional can differ and therefore tend to lead to
differing results from any given critic.