Alternative worlds in Spenser's The faerie queene

Van Zyl, Liezel (2000-03)

Thesis (MA)-- Stellenbosch University, 2000.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Although The Faerie Queene was written in 1589 as a commentary on and criticism of issues which would concern many sixteenth-century Protestant subjects of Queen Elizabeth of England, Spenser creates in his text worlds which even a twentieth-century reader can find significant. Allegorical representations, mythical, historical and poetical figures and pastoral retreats, for example, not only reflect the harsh realities which sixteenth-century English society experienced, but also offer the possibility of escape to worlds of divine and charitable interaction. Spenser, drawing on Philip Sidney's An Apology for Poetry, constructs an ideal world where there is no strife, only peaceful interaction and stability, as opposed to the problems and fears of the "real" world of sixteenth-century England. The story of Faery Land is, therefore, about a magical world of wish fulfilment, but at the same time it also draws on the concrete reality of sixteenth-century England, which has relevance for a twentieth-century world still concerned with many of the same issues of crime, justice, religion, government, relationships and history. Discussion in this thesis focuses on the different "real" and ideal worlds and the devices used to represent these worlds in the narrative of The Faerie Queene. Chapter 1 deals with allegorical representation and distinguishes between two levels of representation: a "literal" or primary level of signification which reflects the everyday experiences of the sixteenth-century reader, and the allegorical level whereby these experiences and desires are personified. The allegory, in tum, communicates and reveals different doctrines or themes: this chapter shows how Redcrosse represents the struggle of the religious man who finally earns salvation by perseverance and dependence on the grace of God. In this allegorical world, Spenser shows the religious conflicts, doubts and victories of the sixteenth-century Protestant man. Chapter 2 explores a series of allegorical parallels in plot, theme and structure in Book 2 of The Faerie Queene which create the "real" and ideal worlds through which Guyon now runs his race. Here, the discussion focuses on the clues provided by the allegory which lead the reader to a redefinition of the categories of good and evil. The primary purpose of the allegory is, therefore, didactic and the sixteenth-century reader is taught how to interpret the signs and symbols of Spenser's allegorical, historical and mythical worlds. This chapter concludes with an examination of Spenser's mythical devices and an exploration of the historical significance of his fictional characters and plots - all of which help the reader to grasp the significance of Spenser's world of knights and fairies. Chapter 3 focuses on a discussion of Books 3 and 4, in which issues of love and friendship come to shape Spenser's ideal world. The analyses consider how sixteenth-century perceptions of marriage, love and power may have influenced his conceptionalization of such an ideal world. The chapter concludes with an exploration of sixteenth-century concerns with time and discord, and demonstrates how Spenser fmally resolves these issues in his vision of the Garden of Adonis. Chapter 4 deals with Book 5, where Artegall represents the just knight. Here the thesis examines Spenser's political aspirations, and shows how historical events are reflected in the actions of characters and how they may influence Spenser's vision of the ideal society with its just ruler. This discussion also focuses, among other things, on those factors which may have contributed to Spenser's disillusionment with sixteenth-century society. Chapter 5 concludes with Spenser's pastoral ideal of Book 6, which brings the promise of peace and prosperity, as opposed to a life of waste and thwarted ambition at Court. On Mount Acidale, Spenser's alternative worlds coincide, as Calidore, representing the fallen and "real" world of Faery Land, is allowed a glimpse of the poetic and divine worlds which the poet, Colin Clout, already shares with three Graces and his mistress. Chapter 5 examines the poet's autobiographical persona in the figure of Colin Clout and the relevance of his appearance on Mount Acidale in particular, and in the poem in general. It is the intention of this thesis to follow the route which Spenser has marked out, to read and interpret the signs and to finally share in this world of dream and thought, experience and vision.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Ten spyte van die feit dat Spenser se Faerie Queene reeds in 1589 geskryfis as 'n kommentaar of kritiek op kwessies wat vir menige sestiende-eeuse Protestantse onderdaan van koningin Elizabeth van Engeland van belang sou wees, is daar in Spenser se teks wêrelde geskep wat selfs vir 'n twintigste eeuse leser waarde sou hê. Allegoriese voorstellings, mitologiese-, historiese-, en poëtiese figure, asook herderstoevlugte byvoorbeeld reflekteer nie net die harde realiteite waaraan 'n sestiende-eeuse Engelse gemeenskap blootgestel is nie, maar bied ook die moontlikheid van ontsnapping na wêrelde van goddelike en mensliewende interaksie. Spenser, wat gebruik maak van Sidney se An Apology for Poetry, konstrueer 'n ideale wêreld waar daar nie konflik of oorlog is nie, slegs vreedsame interaksie en stabiliteit; teenoor die probleme en vrese of "realiteite" wat 'n sestiende-eeuse Engeland gekenmerk het. Die Faerie Queene gaan dus oor 'n verbeeldingryke wêreld van wensvervulling, maar terselfdertyd verwys dit ook na die konkrete realiteit van 'n sestiende-eeuse Engeland wat relevansie het vir 'n twintigste-eeuse gemeenskap nog steeds gemoeid met baie van dieselfde kwessies rakende misdaad, geregtigheid, godsdiens, regering, verhoudings en geskiedenis. Bespreking in hierdie tesis fokus op die verskillende "werklike" en ideale wêrelde asook die tegnieke waarvan daar gebruik gemaak is om hierdie wêrelde in Spenser se gedig voor te stel. Hoofstuk 1 bespreek die allegoriese voorstelling en onderskei tussen twee vlakke van representasie: 'n "letterlike," of primêre vlak van aanduiding wat die alledaagse ervaringe van die sestiende-eeuse leser voorstel en die allegoriese vlak waar hierdie ervaringe en begeertes gepersonifieer word. Die allegorie, op sy beurt, kommunikeer en onthul verskillende leerstellings ofboodskappe: hierdie hoofstuk wys hoe Rederosse die stryd van die gelowige man verteenwoordig wat uiteindelik gered word as gevolg van volharding en erkenning van sy afhanklikheid van God. Hierdie wêreld beeld die konflik, onsekerheid en oorwinning van die sestiende-eeuse Protestant uit. Hoofstuk 2 ondersoek 'n reeks allegoriese paralleie in plot, tema en struktuur in Boek 2 van The Faerie Queene wat die "werklike" en ideale wêrelde skep waardeur Guyon nou sy wedren hardloop. Hier fokus die bespreking op die leidrade wat deur die allegorie voorsien word en waardeur die leser gelei word tot 'n herdefinieering van die kategorieë van goed en sleg. Die primêre doel van die allegorie is dus didakties en die sestiende-eeuse leser word geleer hoe om die tekens en simbole van Spenser se allegoriese, historiese en mitologiese wêrelde te interpreteer. Hierdie hoofstuk sluit af met 'n ondersoek na Spenser se mitologiese tegnieke en die geskiedkundige relevansie van sy fiktiewe karakters en plot - waarvan laasgenoemde die leser help om Spenser se wêreld met sy ridders en feë te kan interpreteer. Hoofstuk 3 fokus op 'n bespreking van Spenser se Boeke 3 en 4 waar liefde en vriendskap bydra tot die skep van Spenser se ideale wêreld. Die hoofstuk ondersoek hoe sestiende-eeuse persepsies van die huwelik, liefde en mag Spenser se konsep van so 'n ideale wêreld kon beïnvloed. Die hoofstuk sluit af met 'n ondersoek na sestiende-eeuse bemoeienis met tyd en wanorde en demonstreer hoe Spenser uiteindelik 'n oplossing vind in sy visie van die Tuin van Adonis. Hoofstuk 4 bespreek Boek 4 waar Artegall die ridder van reg en geregtigheid is. Hier ondersoek die tesis Spenser se politiese aspirasies en wys hoe geskiedkundige gebeure eerstens in die optrede van karakters gereflekteer word en tweedens ook Spenser se visie van die ideale gemeenskap met sy regverdige leier kon beïnvloed. Die bespreking fokus ook onder andere op daardie faktore wat kon bydra tot Spenser se ontnugtering met 'n sestiendeeeuse gemeenskap. Hoofstuk 5 sluit af met Spenser se herders-ideaal in Boek 6 wat die belofte bring van vrede en voorspoed, teenoor 'n lewe van verspeelde en verlore geleenthede of misplaaste ambisie in Elizabeth se hof. Dit is op Mount Acidale dat Spenser se verskillende wêrelde saamkom wanneer Calidore, wat die sondige en "werklike" wêreld verteenwoordig, 'n vlugtige blik in die poëtiese en goddelike wêrelde gegun word. 'n Wêreld waarin die digter, Colin Clout en die drie "Graces" saam met sy geliefde, reeds deel. Hoofstuk 5 ondersoek die digter se outobiografiese persoon in die figuur Colin Clout en die relevansie van sy spesifieke verskyning op Mount Acidale en sy algemene verskyning in die gedig. Dit is die doel van hierdie tesis om die roete te volg wat Spenser uitgelê het, om die tekens te lees en te interpreteer en om ten slotte te deel in hierdie wêreld van droom en gedagtes, ervaring en vISIe.

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