Study Guide

The Faerie Queene Politics

By Edmund Spenser

Politics

Upon a great adventure [Redcrosse] was bound,/ That greatest Gloriana to him gave… To winne him worship, and her grace to have,/ Which of all earthly thinges he most did crave. (I.i.3)

Gloriana's power over her subjects isn't only understood in terms of pure, political authority. As we can see with Redcrosse, she's also in his heart and he deeply wants to win her favor. The political and the personal collide!

Lo yonder is the same,/ In which my Lord [Redcrosse] my liege doth luckelesse ly,/ Thrall to that Gyaunts hatefull tyranny. (I.viii.2)

When Redcrosse is imprisoned by Orgoglio, Una describes his capture as being subject to Orgoglio's "tyranny." Any ideas why she might use such a clearly political term?

Who so in pompe of proud estate (quoth [Belphoebe])/ Does swim, and bathes himselfe in courtly blis, Does waste his dayes in darke obscuritee. (II.iii.40)

Explaining her choice not to participate in the overtly political world of the court, Belphoebe appeals to a common Renaissance idea that the court is full of "pompe" and unnecessary luxury. She prefers the simplicity of the natural world, suggesting that politics and nature do not go hand-in-hand.

Of all Gods workes, which do this world adorne/ There is no one more faire and excellent,/ Then is mans body both for powre and forme,/ Whiles it is kept in sober gouernment. (II.ix.1)

Check out our narrator using government metaphors to describe a well-functioning body. We told you politics were everywhere!

Which that [Queen Elizabeth] may the better deigne to heare,/ Do thou dred infant, Venus dearling doue,/ From her high spirit chase imperious feare,/ And vse of awfull Maiestie remoue;/ In sted thereof with drops of melting loue. (IV.proem.5)

While love and politics have often been linked in the Faerie Queene, here we see Spenser asking the queen to temporarily replace her political perspective with one of love so that she can truly appreciate his poem… suggesting the politics and love are somehow incompatible.

Dread Souerayne Goddesse, that doest highest sit/ In seate of iudgement, in th'Almighties stead,/ And with magnificke might and wondrous wit/ Doest to thy people righteous doome aread,/ That furthest Nations filles with awfull dread. (V.proem.11)

Now addressing the queen as a goddess (though still "sovereign," you'll notice) our narrator praises her political power by making her sound like a deity. Effective? Your call, Shmooper.

What euer thing is done, by [God] is donne,/ Ne any may his mighty will withstand;/ Ne any may his soueraine power shonne,/ Ne loose that he hath bound with stedfast band. (V.ii.42)

Returning to this religion-politics connection, our narrator suggests that our experience of political power is always actually a manifestation of divine power. So, does this undercut the real power of the Queen?

To all which cruell tyranny they say,/ He is prouokt, and stird vp day and night/ By his bad wife, sthat hight Adicia,/ Who counsels him through confidence of might,/ To breake all bonds of law, and rules of right. (V.viii.20)

Tyranny is the #1 threat in Book 5, the Book of Justice. Based on this unflattering description of the tyranny of the Souldan and his wife, Adicia, why do you think justice and tyranny are always in opposition?

For th'heauens enuying our prosperitie,/ Haue not vouchsaft to graunt vnto vs twaine/ The gladfull blessing of posteritie,/ Which we might see after our selues remaine/ In th'heritage of our vnhappie paine:/ So that for want of heires it to defend,/ All is in time like to returne againe/ To that foule feend. (VI.iv.31)

Here, as Matilda bemoans her inability to conceive children with her husband, Bruin, we see that familiar intertwining of the political and personal re-emerge. Children aren't just adorable little cuties; they play a significant role in the security of a political state.

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