"Many an Idle Verse"

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"Many an Idle Verse" Spenser's Revision in 'The Faerie Queene'
Dunn, Kelly M.
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[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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Master's ( M.A.)
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University of Florida
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Committee Chair:
Shoaf, Richard A.
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Paxson, James J.
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Subjects / Keywords:
Eyes ( jstor )
Images ( jstor )
Immediacy ( jstor )
Marriage ( jstor )
Poetry ( jstor )
Queens ( jstor )
Scabbards ( jstor )
Shields ( jstor )
Swords ( jstor )
Visual perception ( jstor )
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
arthur, britomart, faerie, hellenore, malbecco, sight, spenser, vision
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
English thesis, M.A.


The very notion of sight pervades The Faerie Queene, and Spenser involves sight into his poem at both the literal and figurative levels. Throughout the poem, Spenser takes care to demonstrate the consequences of sight, beginning with self-impeded sight and, subsequently, the dangers of narcissism to his characters, his readers, even to himself as author of his own vision. This essay begins with a discussion of Malbecco, Spenser's incarnation of physical, limited sight, in an attempt to demonstrate the kind of vision Spenser opposed: projective sight that devalues its object precisely because it objectifies. From there I move to Britomart, Spenser's model of chastity, in order to foil the Malbecco example and to show Spenser's ideal instance of sight is one of reflection and of mediation. Because mirrors are agents of reflection, they play an important defensive role in the poem. Britomart views her future husband in a mirror in an instantiation of reflective love that ultimately avoids any form of narcissism. However, Spenser also understood that such a mirror would be dangerous to some, so he gave his hero Arthur a shield that no mortal could see. In doing so, Spenser exemplified exactly the kind of mediation he promotes in his tales of Malbecco and Britomart: Arthur is Spenser's re-vision. Spenser takes his predecessor Malory's Arthur, reflects upon Arthur's condition, and revises him in an attempt to cleanse him of his many flaws in Malory. Arthur, I propose, is not only Spenser's ultimate hero; he is an exemplar of redemptive, mediated sight. ( en )
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Adviser: Shoaf, Richard A.
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2008 Kelly M. Dunn 2


TABLE OF CONTENTS page ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................4 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION...............................................................................................................6 2 HELLENORE AND MALBECCO.....................................................................................8 3 BRITOMART AND ARTEGALL....................................................................................17 4 MALORY AND ARTHUR...............................................................................................31 5 CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................3 9 WORKS CITED.................................................................................................................... ........41 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................43 3


Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts MANY AN IDLE VERSE: SPENSERS REVISION IN THE FAERIE QUEENE By Kelly M. Dunn May 2008 Chair: R. Allen Shoaf Major: English The very notion of sight pervades The Faerie Queene, and Spenser involves sight into his poem at both the literal and figurative levels. Throughout the poem, Spenser takes care to demonstrate the consequences of sight, beginnin g with self-impeded sigh t and, subsequently, the dangers of narcissism to his char acters, his readers, even to hims elf as author of his own vision. This essay begins with a disc ussion of Malbecco, Spensers in carnation of physical, limited sight, in an attempt to demons trate the kind of vision Spense r opposed: projective sight that devalues its object precisely becau se it objectifies. From there I move to Britomart, Spensers model of chastity, in order to foil the Malbecco example and to show Spensers ideal instance of sight is one of reflection and of mediation. Because mirrors are agen ts of reflection, they play an important defensive role in the poem. Britomart views her future husband in a mirror in an instantiation of reflective love that ultimately a voids any form of narcissism. However, Spenser also understood that such a mirror would be danger ous to some, so he gave his hero Arthur a shield that no mortal could see. In doing s o, Spenser exemplified exac tly the kind of mediation he promotes in his tales of Malbecco and Britomart: Arthur is Spensers re-vision. Spenser takes his predecessor Malorys Arthur, reflects upon Arthurs condition, and revises him in an 4


5 attempt to cleanse him of his many flaws in Ma lory. Arthur, I propose, is not only Spensers ultimate hero; he is an exemplar of redemptive, mediated sight.


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Canti ix and x of Book 3 of The Faerie Queene purport to define chastity by exemplifying the unchaste, and while Malbecco and Hellenore are the antithesis of the chaste husband and wife, their respective cupidity is manifest on their bodies and in their ac tions. These two canti contain over eighty direct referen ces to eyes and sight and many fu rther references to appearance and discernment. What emerges from these refe rences is an illumination of the relationship between sight and lust, a relationship that probl ematizes the very noti on of vision throughout of The Faerie Queene The tale of Malbecco and Hellenore not only demonstrates that unmediated sight inevitably impedes ones ability to discern or distinguish, but it also foils the kind of sight, and most importantly the kind of reading, that, fo r Spenser, is integral to a virtuous marriage, either between man and woman, kni ght and queen, or author and reader. Spenser is the only author to use the verb read synonymously with see (Hamilton 320), and we must take seriously any discussions of sight in his work if we are to unders tand his work at all, lest we become the same kind of objectifying readers as Malbecco. Such danger was certainly extant for Spenser as well, who, as author, had the task of seeing and revising (re-s eeing) his sources; his preoccupation with sources is nowhe re more evident than in Cant o X of Book II, wherein Arthur reads the history of Britain only to find that the history stops w ith Uther Pendragon. For Spenser to have inserted Arthur in the history book at this point would have been to project an image of Arthur on Spensers own character, an image that is at odds with the magnificence Spenser ascribes to his Arthur. If we, through Spense rs Arthur, were to read Arthurian romance, Spensers Arthur would immediately become st ained with foolhardiness, impetuosity, even impotence. Thus stained, his love for Gloriana would be unfathomable, as would his role as the poems ultimate hero, and with his history alre ady written, Arthur hims elf might be rendered 6


7 incapable of further action in the poem. That he is not, and that we can entertain the notion of Arthur as the magnificent heroa nd not the fallen kingis a testam ent to the kind of vision (and revision) at work in the poem.


CHAPTER 2 HELLENORE AND MALBECCO Any discussion of vi sion and sight in The Faerie Queene must begin with the tale of Hellenore and Malbecco, since the two, especially Malbecco, serve to foil what we might deem reflective or mediated sight. Unmediated sight is a symptom of the unchaste mind, and we learn early in Canto ix that Malbecco endeavors to keepe continuall spy / V pon her with his other blincked eye ( However, any effort on his part is complicat ed by the fact of his partial blindness, so that we understand as early as the fifth stanza of the canto that Malbeccos sight is as limited as it is pers istent. The otherness of his good ey e belies his inhe rent division: Malbecco has two eyes (that is, two Is), one of which is def unct (we do not know if it ever was functional), the other of which is only nomina lly functional. His blincked eye functions insofar as he can project his vision toward an obj ect; however, that vision is faulty and incapable of serving the end to which Malbecco applies it. Project, I believe, is the correct term for how he uses his eye. Generally the eye might be deemed a receptacle for images; however, Malbecco projects his own avarici ous images onto the objects of his desi re with the result that a louely lasse becomes no more than muc ky pelfe (3.9. 4.1-4). He is l iterally blinded by his cupidity, turning sight from a reciprocal to a unidirectional process that sullies its object. He is, finally, unable to keep persistent watch over his wife, a nd his self-imposed punishme nt that begins Canto x will be for naught and would be, Spenser point s out, even if he had one hundred eyes: For who wotes not, that womans subtiltyes / Can guilen Argus when she list misdonne ( Eyes alonewhether a lover has one or one hundr edcannot keep a wife, nor, as I will discuss later, can they be the sole passage for erotic love. Malb eccos blincked eye ultimately objectifies his wife, so that notwithstanding the f act that they are lincked in marriage (, their marriage is precisely one of bondage rather th an reciprocity. The chains that bind them are 8


the same chains that separate them: Hellenore, as object of Malbeccos si ght, will never be the subject of her own marriage. Malbecco, however, is capable onl y of hoarding his heapes of euill gotten masse and with his mind set on muc ky pelfe is incapable of seeing any inherent value in the treasures he hoards. Unable to en joy his possessions (to do so would be an act of reciprocity) and having lo st (or never had) the use of his good eye/I, Malbecco is resigned to an unquenchable thirst for the accumulation of w ealtha thirst not unlike the hungry vew Britomart instills in Paridell a nd Satyrane ( an omnipres ent fear for the loss thereof. The problem evinced by Malbeccos blin cked eye is unmediated sightthat is, unreflective sight that precludes recognition and/or evaluation. The consequence of Malbeccos immediate sight is the devaluation of his object; Hellenore may be a woman which is disposd to go astray (, but Spenser empha sizes the fact that fast good will with gentle curtesyes / And timely seruice to her pleasures meet / May her perhaps containe ( Malbecco has the option of serving his wifeas opposed to observing heran option we are to understand might redeem both of them. However, Spenser carefull y shows that Malbecco is incapable of serving anyone but himself, a fact illust rated by Malbeccos pretense as his own porter. Here Malbecco perverts the notion of mediation altogether as he attempts to mediate for himself (the very problem of his sight). As porter, Malbecco te lls the knights that none [Malbecco] durst awake out of his dreme (, a falsity that also reali zes the state of Malbecco s existence: he is simultaneously dreaming and acting as his own media ting servant. As such, any perceived threat (Satyrane) to his possessions intensifies his own se lf-servitude, and, as his own mediator, Malbecco is unable to defend his possessions fr om true threats (Parid ell to his wife, and Hellenore to his money). He is never truly capable of the kind of reflection that would enable him to distinguish a perceived thre at from a true threat, just as he is unable to discern between 9


objects with inherent value and objects of no va lue at all. Malbecco can only dream about objects, acquire them, then have ni ghtmares about their theft. While he has her, Malbecco watches his wi fe only in fear, punishing both of them (3.10.34-9). Spensers language is telling here: while Malbecco still possesses his wife, he watcheth her and does not let her [o]ut of hi s sight (3.10.3). Only af ter Malbecco has lost Hellenore does Spenser tell us that the cuckold actually sees his wife (, 47.1) in the realization of his fears. Had Malbecco treated Hellenore with gentle curtesyes, had he stopped objectifying her long enough to see her and to evaluate her, he might have prevented both their errors and subsequent regressions to subhuman st ates. Instead, Malbecco projected his sight so that he never reflected upon his marriage to his wife; linked to her, observing (as opposed to seeing) her, he ultimately devalued her. As se rvant to his own cupidity, Malbecco truly changed his wiferecall the squire tell s how he in close bowre her mewes from all mens sight (, emphasis added)devaluating her from one disposd to go astray to one who truly is astray. Hellenores devaluation is ultimate ly an inversion of the type of devaluation Malbecco imposes upon his wealth: he seeks to remove the objects of his desire from circulation in the general public. By treating his wife as he does his mone y, he devalues her precisely by depositing her, however involuntarily, into general circulation. Malbeccos blindness most certainly is a ma nifestation of his unwillingness to see beyond his own cupidity, which is in fact the dreme from which Malbecco, as his own servant, acknowledges he will not wake. The result for his object, then, is devaluation; however, the result for Malbecco himself is dehumanization. Because he is incapable of mediated sight and, by extension, reflection, he is unable to recognize his own self-servitude and the golden fetters so obvious to Paridell and the others (3.9.8). This means that the loss of his possessions will prove 10


not only devastating but incomprehensible; Malbecco is literally immobilized at the dual loss of his money and his wife (3.10.14-15). No longer possessed of the objec ts of his self-servitude, he undergoes a crisis of identity prefaced by Spensers description of him watching his money burning: he backward cast his ey e, / And saw the wicked fire so furiously / Consume his hart ( This is the only kind of introspection of which Malbecco is capable, and this is the only point at which Malbecco looks in a directio n that resembles reflect ion (he is, after all, watching his heart being consumed). It is also immediately after at this point that Spensers terms Malbeccos affection for his wife l oue (, and Hamilton notes that here Malbecco stands between beauty and money, the fo rces of Cupid and cupid ity (394). Prior to Hellenores ravishment, Malbecco contained hi s possessions within the walls of castles and needed only to look outward for the protection ther eof. The moment at which he was forced to make a choice between his two loves signifies a moment of transition for Malbecco, and the image of his loss becomes so transfixed in his mind that hereafter he will see only his wife. Thus he mistakes Trompart and Braggadoc chio for Paridell and Hellenore: Well weened he, that those the same mote bee, And as he better did their shape auize Him seemed more their manner did agree; For thone was armed all in warlike wize, Whom, to be Paridell he did deuize; And thother all ycla d in garments light, Discolourd like to womanish disguise, He did resemble to his Ladie bright; And euer his faint hart much earned at the sight. (3.10.21, emphasis added) Here Malbecco does not see Paridell and Hellenore, he projects them, and he continues to project Hellenore even after he vewd, / Whereas his lo uely wife emongst them lay, / Embraced of a Satyre rough and rude ( Even after [n]ine times he hear d him come aloft ere day (, Malbecco is still transf ixed on the image and the recove ry of his louely wife. 11


Thus he offers that she be receiud againe to bed and bord, / As if no trespasse euer had bene donne (, which Hell enore it all refused at one word (, emphasis added). Just as Malbecco consolidates his marriage into a single vision of his wife that does not allow for the sight he has just encountere d, Hellenore consolidates her rejection of the marriage into a single word. And, just as Malbeccos singul ar fixation was the catalyst for Hellenores devaluation, her singular reje ction of his pleas and bli nd forgiveness announces his dehumanization. Where before Malbecco [v]pon hi s hands and feete he crept full light, / And like a Gote emongst the Gotes did rush (, he is now butted...with hornes on euery syde, / And trode downe in the durt ( His descent has yet one further step, and Malbecco will soon find a caue with entrance sm all ( where he [f]orgot he was a man, and Gealosie is hight ( At this point, no longer human, Malbecco is the ocular equivalent of Hellenores rejection, and, like He llenore, succumbs to the predisposition with which Canto ix began. Of course, this book of Spensers poem is the tale of Britomart, and her role in these canti is to embody the standard of chastity by which we may measure the other characters deviations. When Spenser reveals Britomarts identity as a woman, he does so precisely in terms of vision: Then of them all she plainly was espyde / to be a woman wight, unwist to bee, / The fairest woman wight, that ever eye did see (, emphasis added). She bears a Gorgonian shield (, although her shield does not have the same de structive power as does Arthurs (Paridell and the others are amazed, not astonished), but it is Britomart herselfnot her shield who elicits the stupefied, synesthe tic response from the men at th e table, who [ w]ith wonder of her beauty fed their hungry vew ( Still, Britomart is chaste, an d Paridell and Satyrane will not be satisfied since they seeing still the more desird to see ( As such, the two 12


refuse to dine until they might haue the sight, / And company at meat ( of Malbeccos wife, and we might very well say that Paridell has Hellenore for his meat, seducing her with his tongue while she [u]pon his lips hong ( The problem for Hellenore, then, is that Paridell will feede his fill ( ) and subsequently dispose of her (3.10.25). Such treatment is unconscionable for Britomart, and Spenser gives us the appropriate response to Britomarts beauty when he describes the ast onishment that strikes Artegall: And as his hand he vp againe did reare, Thinking to worke on her his vtmost wracke, His powrelesse arme benumbd with secret feare From his reuengefull purpose shronke abacke, And cruell sword out of his fingers slacke Fell downe to ground, as if the steele had sence, And felt some ruth, or sence his hand did lacke, Or both of them did thinke, obedience To doe to so diuine a beauties excellence. (4.6.21) Artegalls response is one of subserviencehe subsequently falls to his knees ( kind of treatment with which Malbecco might have satisfied Hellenore. It is important to distinguish Artegalls reaction as one of astonishment and immobility rather than one of amazement, since the latter implies a wandering within ones mind (as Paridell and Satyrane wander, confusing sight with taste and lust with hunger). To this end Artegall asks Hellenores forgiveness for his errour frayle (, suggesting th at his wandering halted at the sight of her face. Such is not the case for the men at Malbeccos table, a nd we will witness Malbecco and Paridell, neither of whom knows how properly (chastely) to se rve a woman, meet late r in their continued wandering (3.10.35-38). Telling as the mens reaction to Britomart is, Hellenores reaction to Paridell is equally so, especially when contrasted with Br itomarts comport. After supper, when of meats and drinks they had their fill (, emphasis added)Paridell has not yet had his fill of 13


Hellenore, and none present will ever have their fill of BritomartHellenore asks the knights to tell / Of deeds of armes ( Her re quest follows closely the speaking lookes ( she has been exchanging with Paridell; how ever, it is important to note that we do not ever encounter any direct speech from Helle nore. Hellenore has right comely grace and shewd her selfe in all a gentle curteous Dame (, but sh e exists, it would seem, as an alternate object of desire grounded in sight. As Malbeccos alte rnative to gold and Paridells alternative to Britomart, it is only fitting that, as an object, she never take the subjective role of direct speaker, and Spenser takes care never to le t us hear Hellenores own voice. Thus, instead of a direct request th at the knights relate their adventur es, [p]urpose was moued (, as though in addition to making direct speech Hellenore is also incapable of making a direct request to the knight from whom she most wishes to hear. Instead, she speaks with her eyes that lewd lore ( which should be mediated by reciprocal speech if we are to deem it chaste. Britomart engages in chaste, reciprocal speech th at is, not coincidentally, direct speech that contemplates its subject: Then sighing soft awh ile, at last she thus: / O lamentable fall of famous towne ( Britomar t listens to Paride lls account of his lineage, digests its content, and, empassiond at that piteous act (3 .9.38.4), responds appropriat ely in conversation. What ensues is a jointly-narra ted history of the founding of London that would prove all but impossible if the conversation were between Hell enore and Paridell (or He llenore and Malbecco for that matter). Britomarts ability to conve rse on a subject matter without objectifying her conversational partnerand without permitting him to objectify herevinces her ability to rise above unmediated visions to engage in forms of mediation (conversation). At the end of the conversation between Britomart and Paridell comes, almost as an afterthought, albeit an important one, Hellenores response to Pa ridells tale. Unlike Britomart, 14


who understands and can engage intelligently the content of Paridells speech, Hellenore in her fraile wit hangs on Paridells lips, fashioning worlds of fancies euermore ( She is, like Paridell and Satyrane at the sight of Brito mart, amazed and confused, and Spenser tells us that her wit now her quite fo rlore ( While she sat [w] ith vigilant regard, and dew attent (, we cannot even be sure that sh e has understood a word that has been said, and there is no indication that she he ard Britomart speak at all. Grounded in sight, Hellenore can do little more in a conversation than to conjure fantasies about the speaker. She objectifies just as Malbecco objectifies, although Malbecco does so out of cupidity while Hellenore does so out of erotic desire, and in doing so relies solely on her eyes as her means of communication. Over dinner, her entire exchange with Paridell consists of glances and looks: With speaking lookes, that close embassage bore, / He roud at her, an d told his secret care, which she in his eye his meaning wisely red ( The two exchange belgardes and firie dart[s], whose hed / Empoisned was with priuy lust (, all the while one ey es watch escap[ing] ( If the fact of Hellenores marriage were not enough to establish this exchange as unchaste, the notion of her lust-poisoned darts certainly do so. She seeks to immobilize her object, who to the wound his w eake hart opened wyde ... nothi ng new to him was that same paine (, yet she is entirely incapable of the kind of immobilization that Britomart enacts upon Artegall. Such immobilization is re demptive in its power, enabling forgiveness for errour frayle, rather than perp etuating error. Rather, both He llenore and Paridell seek loue to entertain (, a fact further evinced by Hellenores request that the knights tell [o]f deeds of armes ( their wanderings. He llenore herself seeks to be entertained, to be amazed, fashioning her worlds of fancy as an alternative to the oppressive yoke of her marriage and allowing her wondring eye, / And greedy eares [to bear] her weake hart from her 15


16 ( Such fancies constitute her i nversion of her husbands obsession, and while Malbecco sought to objectify and to hoard her, by the time he finally sees his wife with the satyrs she will have been whored because she herself object ified first Paridell and then the satyrs. In both cases, then, the parties failed to engage in forms of mediation, instead projecting their unilateral desire toward an unreflective surface.


CHAPTER 3 BRITOMART AND ARTEGALL Where Malbecco and Hellenore each exhibit their own particular form of objectification, Britomart engages in the kind of reflective, medi ated sight that will lead to her successful marriage to Artegall. If we ar e to understand the relationship of Britomart and Artegall as one opposite to that of Malbecco and Hellenore, it follows that the very manner in which Spenser presents the former must be completely different from his presentation of the latter. Malbeccos marriage to Hellenore is one of immediacy, even at the narrative level: we are told only that Malbecco is lincked to a louely lasse, yet we are never given the particulars of their courtship (if there was any) or the arrangement of their ma rriage. The kind of narrative that opens Canto ix of Book III is one that does not allow for media tion or interpretation; the Squire projects to his listenersand to us, his readersa very clear image of Malbecco and his wife that needs no foregrounding or explanation. It is important to note that it is the Squire, and not Spenser, who presents this image, since it is uncharacteristi c of Spensers narrative: often we do not learn a characters name until long after he has made his first appearance. Such was the case with Arthur, who appears in Canto vi of Book I but does not reveal his identity until Canto ix, when it is actually Una who names Arthur after seeing him in combat with Orgoglio and subsequently engaging him in conversation. Consider also Britomart, whose identific ation, although not as delayed as Arthurs, is also me diated first by Spensers narrative of her combat with Guyon, then by Spensers direct address to Guyo nand not the readerin naming her: But weenedst thou what wight thee ouerthrew, Much greater griefe and shamefuller regret For thy hard fortune then thou wouldst renew, That of a single damzell thou wert met On equall plaine, and there so hard beset; Euen the famous Britomart it was, Whom straunge aduenture did from Britaine fet, To seeke her louer (loue farre sought alas,) 17


Whos image she had seene in Venus looking glas. ( Here Spenser provides layer after layer of narrative mediation: he tells us that Britomart is a knight bearing a shield That bore a Lion passa nt in a golden field (, to which Hamilton notes that the arms of Brutus (from whom Britomart is descended) was a lion passant gules in a field or (305). After narrating G uyons defeat, Spenser tells Guyon that Britomart is a single damzell ( we know she is accompanied by a squire, later revealed to be Glauceseeking a lover [w]hose image she had seene in Venus looking glas ( Here we must first acknowledge Britomarts historical identity signified by her shield, her physical identity signified by Spensers address to Guyon, and finally her human identity signified by her pursuit of a lover. We learn about Britomartwe see herby reading about he r, just as we first learn about Arthur by read ing about him (surely it is no coinci dence that Una requests Arthur to [a]read [] what has brought him to Fairy Land). Thus we understand simply by our initial medi ated encounter with Britomart that she is not implicated in the kind of immediacy that predicates Malbeccos and Hellenores respective regressions. Spenser complicates Britomart with the fact that Britomart sees Artegall in a looking glas, in a mirror in which she should in fact see herself. While the immediate (unmediated) reaction is to label Britomart a narc issist, the example of Malbecco and Hellenore suggests that we must do more than to project our own interpretation onto the hero ine. Indeed, Britomart falls in love with an image in a mirror, but she does not do so out of libidinous lust or cupidity. Spenser tells us that Br itomarts mirror vertue had, to shew in perfect sight / What euer thing was in the world contaynd ... So that it to the looke r appertaynd (, emphasis added). Because Britomart first sees Ar tegalls image in the mirror, and because the mirror shows things in perfect sight, his imag e cannot be tainted by Br itomart, as Hellenores 18


image is tainted (and ultimately transformed in to muckie pelfe) by Malbeccos objectifying gaze. Britomart cannot objectify Artegall because he is presented to her eye (, emphasis added) rather than projected from it, and while she did vew his personage, / And liked well, she does not yet recognize that she loves hi m: ne further fastned not, / But went her way ( Note that just thr ee stanzas earlier, Spenser tell s us that although Britomart does not lust after anyone, she wist her life at last must lincke in that same knot (, a knot which, upon the sight of her would-be husband, she ne further fastned not. For Britomart to lincke herself to Artegall at this point would be precisely to link to him, as Malbecco is lincked to a louely lasse in a stat e of bondage, rather to link with him in the knot of marriage. She is, after all, pure from blame of sinful blot (, and while sh e likes Artegalls image she does not yet love the man himself. Here I would like momentarily to jump ahead to Canto ix in Book III; when Britomart dofte her heauy haberieon ( so that Ma lbecco, Paridell, and Satyrane are able to see her face, Spenser tells us that none of all them her thereof amoued, / yet euery one her likte, and euery one her loued ( Hamilton glosses these lines: None questioned who she was even though they liked and loved her. Or, she was not moved inwardly to love any of them even though they liked and loved her (387). Regard less of which of Hamiltons interpretation we adopt, or even if we adopt both of them, the circ umstances of the mens sight of Britomart stand in direct opposition to her sight of Artegal in the mirror. At the moment when Britomart sees Artegal in her fathers mirror, the knight does not even know of her existence; he neither likes nor loves her enough to move her to identify herself. Likewise, although Britomart liked well the image of Artegal, she does not yet love him; she is, however, moved by him in a way that she is not moved by the men at Malbeccos supper: 19


Thenceforth the feather in her loftie crest, Ruffed of loue, gan lowly to auaile, And her proud portance, and her princely gest, With which she earst tryumphed, now did quaile: Sad, solemne, sowere, and fully of fancies fraile She woxe; yet wist she neither how, nor why, She wist not, silly Mayd, what she did aile, Yet wist, she was not well at ease perdy, Yet thought it was not loue, but some melancholy. (3.2.27) At this point Britomart is cr estfallen, and relying on none but herself to interpret the signs of her affliction, and just as Malbecco was una ble, acting as his own mediating servant, to emerge into a state of fully conscious realiza tion, Britomart is blinded by her own attempts at self-diagnosis. Hence she falls into the same ni ghtmare state from which Malbecco never wakes, and, like Malbecco (perhaps dangerously so), Britom art is unable to read herselfto mediate for herself. We see her condition rapidly deterior ate until she is literally moved by that faire visage, written in her heart ( so that Glauce must catch her, [f]eeling her leape out of her loathed nest ( Britomart believes herself to be afflicted by melancholy, and it will take the advice of the experienced nurse Glauce (from the Greek grey) to interpret co rrectly the signs of her affliction. And Glauce accurately reads these signs, as she tells Britomart: how much I feare, least loue it sure I read by knowen signes and passions, which I see (, emphasis added). Britomart is unable to read he rself or, by extension, th e things pertaining to herself, namely Artegall, and although, like Hellenore [f]ashioning worlds of fancies evermore, she is full of fancies fraile at th e sight of Artegall, Britomarts spatiotemporal distance from the optical image of Artegal exonerate s her from the willful lust that characterizes Hellenore. Britomart is human, therefore she is prone to misreading; unlike Hellenore or Malbecco, however, she enlists the aid of an interpreter to help her read what has been written 20


in her hart. Thus, unlike at Malbeccos table, when everyone both liked and loved her but none moved her, she first likes Artegalls image, is moved by it, and, once we learn he has been imprinted in her heart, Britomart learns in convers ation that she loves him. Consider in contrast the exchange between Paridell and Hellenore in Canto ix, when they read only each others glances and then the wine spilled on the table. Paridell and Hellenore read each other because they are like-mindedly lustful: thei rs is not an exchange but a co incidence of similar projection. Hellenore shoots her fieri e dart at Paridell in attempt to poison her object, who yields to her willingly, and neither is moved by the other, but rather by their own desire. Conversely Britomart does not even understand the cause, much less the extent, of the injury done to her by Artegalls image which, unlike the physical pres ence of Paridell and Malbeccos table, is only the shade and semblant of a knight ( Glauce does indeed read the signs of love in Britomart and although she agrees by wrong or right / To compasse [Britomarts] desi re, and find that loued knight, (, at church she said many an idle verse, / Out of her daughters hart fond fancies to reuerse ( Glauces mistake he re is in the idlenessthe idol nessof her prayers and subsequent pagan rituals: she seeks to re-ver se love with verse alone, failing to engage any form of sight that would aid in a revision (not a reversion) of Britomarts ailment. In describing Glauces pagan rites, Spenser omits all references to vision, in stead reiterating Glauce s use of speech and its ensuing reversions: Returned home, the royall Infant fell Into her former fit; for why, no powre Nor guidance of her selfe in her did dwell. But thaged Nurse her calling to the bowre, Had gathered Rew, and Sauine, and the flowre Of Camphora, and Calamint, and Dill, All which she in a ea rthen Pot did poure, And to the brim with Colt wood did it fill, 21


And many drops of milke a nd bloud through it did spill. Then taking thrise three ha ires from off her head, Them trebly breaded in a threefold lace, And round about the pots mouth, bound the thread, And after hauing whispered a space Certaine said words, with hollow voice and bace, She to the virgin said, thrise said she it; Come daughter come, come; spit vpon my face, Spit thrise vpon me, thrise vpon me spit; Thvneuen number for this business is most fit. That sayd her round about she from her turnd, She turned her contrarie to the Sunne, Thrise she her turned contrary, and returned, All contrary for she the right did shunne, And euer what she did, was streight vndonne So though she to vndoe her daugthers loue: But loue, that is in gentle brest begonne, No idle charmes so lightly may remoue, That well can witnesse, who by triall it does proue. (3.2.49-51, emphasis added) Glauces speech here is hollow and bace and her charms are idle (idol) because they objectify Britomart in an attempt to eradicate her l ove for Artegall rather than to revise it into a constructive force. As long as Britomart remains passive in these efforts, as long as she is the object and not the subject of her own vision, Glau ce is culpable insofar as she is facilitating Britomarts reversion. The able knight we w itnessed defeating Guyon is now reduced to an Infant in a fit with no pow re / Nor guidance of her selfe, and Glauces rites are finally incapable of eliciti ng anything more than further regression. At this point Glauce is in danger of misca rriage as her daughter shortly like a pyned ghost became (, and Spenser corrects Glauces contrary turning by telling us that old Glauce saw for feare least blame / Of her miscar riage should in her be fond (, emphasis added). The relationship between sight a nd fear is an important one, especially when a character is turned backward, as Glauce clearly is. Just after Arthur describes his dreaming 22


encounter with Gloriana, the Redcross Knight an d Una see Trevisan fleeing from Despair: his eye was backward cast, / As if his feare still followed him behind ( Likewise Arthur and Guyon first see Florimell: her eye she backward threw, / As fearing euill, that pursewd her fast ( Both Trevisans and Florimells fears are linked directly to their vision, and in both cases they see as if in fear. Although Glauce is not flee ing per se, nor is she in physical danger, she is nonetheless in dange r of becoming the agent of the miscarriage/mishandling/misappropriation of Britom arts self, as long as Britomart has no power over herself. Here Glauce refl ects on her own potential for the miscarriage of her daughter, who verges on becoming a shade herself in an ir onic misappropriation of her vision of Artegalls shade. When Glauce stops reci ting idle verses, when she stops idolizing, she begins to see not only the failure of her idle attempts, but also the need for an interpreter of Britomarts vision. Merlin, then, serves both as cr eator of the mirror and as mediat or to its visual content. Recall that the virtue attributed both to the glassie globe and to Merlin is sight: the mirror shew[s] in perfect sight ( while Merlin had in Magicke more insight, / Then euer him before or after liuing wight ( -9). It is important to note, however, that Merlins sight is not perfect; while he has insight in to magic and foresight of historic al events, we must infer that at the moment of his entombment by the Ladi e of the Lake, / Whom long he loud (, Merlin was blinded enough to be surprisd, and buried vnder beare ( by his love (Dallett 92). Thus the magician possessed of the most magica l insight of any ma n, the creator of the glassie globe with perfect sight suffers the same chthonic fate as the half-blind Malbecco. The sequence of events that led to Me rlins entombment is im portant: the Lady of the Lake sent for him and he came without, at least at the narrative level, he sitation. Spensers lines leave no room for Merlins reflection upon either th e Lady of the Lake or his love for her; his 23


reaction is one of immediacy, as Malbecco is immediately (narratively speaking) married to Hellenore. Therefore it is Merlins globe and not Merlin himself, that has perfect sight because it is the globe that reflects. Furthermore, the globes reflections are not immediate: Britomart [h]er selfe a while therein she vewd in vaine ( before she saw Artegall, whom she saw only after thinking againafter re flectingthat mote to her selfe pertaine ( Merlin, then, is merely an agent of sight, and not sight itself; hi s role is to extend Britomarts vision in order to en able her own reflection, not to chant idle verse[s] or work idle charmes as Glauce did. We learn the c onsequences of Merlins charmes as he writes strange characters in the ground, / With which the stubborn feends he to his seruice bound ( For him to perform magi c on Britomart would be to ensl ave her, if not to him then to his spell, and she would be no more autonomou s or capable of reciproc al love than she was during Glauces rituals. Thus, alt hough Glauce requests that Merlin read ...How shall she know, how shall she find the man? (, the magici an does not tell them how to find Artegall, but only that [t]he man whom heauens haue ordaynd to bee / The spouse of Britomart is Arthegall : / He wonneth in the land of Fayeree ( This precedes a vision of British rule in verses that are neither idle nor idol; th eir purpose is to move Britomart, as Artegalls image moved her, and to revise Britomarts spiritual state and the effects of her love from passive regression to active progr ession. Merlin does not tell Br itomart how to find Artegall; instead, he enables her to reflect upon her own image manifest in her offspring. Recall that Artegalls image is now written in her hart, so that any image of herself must include Artegall as well. For Merlin to tell Britomart how to find Artegall would be paramount to directing Britomarts projection; however, by reading her a vision by allowing her to see her selves (recall 24


that Malbecco is one-eyed/oneI d and consequently half-blind) through hi s vision, he dislodges her from her ghostly state and enables her autotr ansformation into the knight we first encounter in Book III. When Merlin stops speaking, Brito mart, no longer like a pyned ghost, was full deepe empassioned, / Both for his greife, and for her peoples sake, whereat she proceeds to speak to Merlin (3.3.43) and to engage him in c onversation just as she wi ll later engage Paridell at Malbeccos table. This, then, is th e beginning of Britomarts transformation. When Merlin initially finishes speaking, Br itomart has advanced from Infant to Damzell, but her transformation is not yet comp lete. She is full deepe empassioned, she is conversant, but she is not yet the mayd Martiall ( that will defeat Guyon. If we were to name the stages of Britomarts transforma tion (and I do so not to reduce her transformation nor to bind it with any sort of categorization, but rather to map it, so to speak, for ease of reference), they would be as follows: vision, regression, mediation/reflection, conversation/reflection, revision. Britomart has yet actively to revise her vision of Artegall which, since that vision is now written in her ha rt will also constitute a revision of herself. When she entreats Merlin to continue his vision, he concludes it with the image of Elizabeth, the royall virgin...which shall / Stretch her white rod ouer the Belgicke shore, / and the great Castle smite so sore with all, / That it shall make him shake, and shor tly learne to fall ( Recall that Spenser tells us regarding his third book that it contains mirrours more then one [Elizabeth] her selfe to see, and while he urges either Gloriana let her chuse, / Or in Belphbe fashioned to bee (3 proem 5), it is Britomart who reflects Elizabeth in this mirror. It is, finally, Elizabeths final reflection in Me rlins vision that instigates Br itomarts transformation, but not before Britomarts conversation with Glauce, who now sees what she did not before. Glauce, no longer on the verge of miscarriage, Conceiud a bold deuise and thus bespake (, 25


emphasis added), redeeming her from the blame she previously feared. Glauce conceives a vision, a devise that will enable Brito marts division into multiple, reflective I s, and speaks with her about it in mediated conversation, after which Britomart will don Angelas ( Angel -as, Angle-as) armor and begin her search for Artegall. Far from an immediate reaction, Britomarts transformation is one of absolute, reflective mediation. The key to Britomarts transformation was he r fathers mirror, and the mirror clearly becomes a means of defense against Britomarts own unmediated vision. Recall that Merlin gaue [the mirror] vnto king Ryence for his gard, / That neuer foes his kingdome might inuade, / But he it knew at home before he hard / Tydings thereof ( Unable to defend himself or his kingdom within the limits of his own vision, King Ryen ce wielded the mirror as his weapon, with the result that Ha ppie this Realme, had it remained euer since ( Note that the sequence of events here concurs with the seque nce of Britomarts transformation: vision precedes conversation, which precedes revision. Note Merlins disclosure to Britomart, however, that lends providential influen ce to Britomarts vision in the mirror: It was not Britomart thy wandring eye, Glauncing vnwares in charmed looking glas, But the streight course of heauenly destiny, Led with eternall prouidence, that has Guided thy glaunce, to bring his will to pas. ( Britomart was not in error (wandring) when she loved the image in the mirror, although she earlier compares herself to Narcissus (3.2.44), and Merlins extension of her initial vision will show her love, unlike Narcissus, of himsel fe the idle [idol] Paramoure (, to be generative and fruitful, redeeming her of any narc issistic error. Britomarts vision was [l]ed with eternall prouidence, but that providence also [g]uided thy [G]lau [n]ce: it guided Glauce to act as Britomarts mediator Moreover, Glauce, seeing in fear, acknowledged her limitations 26


and deferred to the mirrors creator, who likewis e deferred to Britomarts creator. The mirror itself, then, was not Britomarts sole defense, as it was for her father, but was a tool of the eternall prouidence that led her and guided Glau ce to it as well. King Ryence, as king, would have had counsel in the course of his rule, so he could utiliz e the mirror without the danger of immediacy. Britomart, however, using the mirror fo r personal rather than political use, would risk the dangers of immediacy without the help of Glauce and Merlin. If Britomarts first encounter with Artega lls image was mediated by both divine and earthly agents, it follows that her first physical encounter with Artegall will be mediated as well. And it is: Artegall is recogni zed neither by Britomart nor by the crowd at the three day tournament. Here Spenser complicates sight and vision by rending unrelia ble the signs by which Britomart might recognize Artegall. In Book Th ree she asks Redcross Knight to describe Artegall: Tell me some markes, by which he may appeare, If chaunce I him encounter perauaunt; For perdie one shall other slay, or daunt: What shape, what shield, what armes, what steed, what sted, And what so else his person most may vaunt? ( Redcross obliges, but Spenser is quick to tell us that Britom art yet him in euery part before she knew, / how euer list her now her knowledge faine (, and when we, through Britomart, first see Ar tegall, he is described pr ecisely in terms of signs: His crest was couered with a couchant Hound, And all his armour seemd of antique mould, But woundrous massie and assured sound, And round about yfretted all with gold, In which there written was with cyphers old, Achilles armes, which Arthegall did win. And on his shield enueloped seuenfold He bore a crowned litle Ermilin, That deckt the azure field with her faire pouldred skin. (3.2.25) 27


I rely here on Hamiltons gloss to the stanza: the couchant Hound, in a stance of attack, may herald the victory over the pagan hound who is Philip II of Spain. Likewise, the inscription signifies not only Artega lls identity as such, but also his connection to the greatest of the Greeks, and the crowned litle Ermilin will no doubt recall Queen Elizabeths Ermine portrait (321). Although Britomart has mediated the consequences of her love for Artegall, she has not yet negotiated Artegall himself, and when we consider Spensers caveat in the proem of Book Three: liuing art may not least part expresse (3 proem 2.10), we understand that any imitation will always misrepresent, however uni ntentionally, its origin al. Seen only in Britomarts mirror, Artegall is merely a framed image, a vision just as The Faerie Queene itself is Spensers page-framed vision which he acknowledges falls short of truly depi cting its original. The failure of these depictions is in their signs, which change from one portrait to the next, and when we next see Artegall he is neither re gal nor dignified, as in Britomarts vision, but savage: With woody mosse bedight, and all his steed With oaken leaues attrapt, that seemed fit For saluage wight, and thereto well agreed His word, which on his ragged shield was writ, Saluagesse sans finesse, shewing secret wit. ( Here his appearance decries any claim to gentil ity or nobility we might have inferred from his image in Britomarts mirror, and the secret wit of his shield re nounces the finessethe art fulnessthat would otherwise frame him within a mode of representation. The problem of misrepresentation by signs is nothing new: we ha ve seen Britomart repeatedly mistaken for a man because of the armour she wears. Thus, wh en she purports to recognize Artegall by signs alone, without conversation or any other form of mediation, she engages in the same kind of 28


misreading as the knights she deceives engage in, and as long as she seeks him merely by projecting the image written in her hart, she will prove unable to find him. We must remember, however, that Britomart has undergone a transformation, one guided both by her Glauce and by eternall prouidence, with the result that her auto-revision will ultimately enable her recognition of Artegall. As a mayd Martiall, as long as she wields her enchanted spear she is unconquerable, and her adventures will lead her to the Three-Day Tournament wherein she will defeat Artegall. He r previous vision will here be revised by her own encounter with him as the Savage Knight, a nd, more importantly, Artegalls own vision will be revised. After his defeat, Ar tegall much repyned, that both of victors meede, / And eke of honour she did him forestall (; however, his victory also would have been his entitlement to the snowy Florimell, a sign incarnat e, and his potential loss of Britomart. Artegall seeks to avenge himself, leaving the tourname nt and forfeiting the snowy Florimell a second time (4.5.21). Artegalls reflection on his honor result ing from his defeat is what will lead to his second encounter with Britomart where, after en gaging her in combat once more, he will see her image, framed with the subtile wire ( of her golden hair, resulting in his second reflective revision. Each lovers vision of the ot her is, in effect, mediated by their witness to each others prowess (reca ll that Satyrane and Paridell most meruailed at her cheualree, / And noble prowesse []), and their matched abilities on the battle field warrant their reflection in each other. Unlike th e snowy Florimell, Britomart is not Artegalls prize to be won: she is his equal, his likeness, his reflection. Were he to have seen her face and to love it for its image and artfulness, his love for her would be of no more value than Ma lbeccos objective love for Hellenore who, within the walls of Malbeccos castle, is also framed by gold. Instead of linking to his object, Artegall dares not make l oue so suddenly, / Ne thinke thaffection of her 29


30 hart to draw (, and engages in conversation with her, conversation that results in her consent / to be his loue, and take him for her Lor d, / Till they with mariage meet might finish that accord ( Far from a marriage of imme diacy in which they might be [v]nfitly yokt together in one teem (, Britomarts im pending marriage to Artegall has been one of mediation and revision, so that th e marriage will be one of peers rather than unequals. Without Britomarts reflection, without the mirror as her means of defense and Glauce as her mediating guide, Britomarts chastity would have amounted to one of narcissistic sterility. Instead, her marriage to Artegall will lead to a succession of British rule that wi ll end, at least in Spensers reflective vision, with Elizabeth.


CHAPTER 4 MALORY AND ARTHUR Any discussion that begins with Britomarts mi rror and the fact of its creation by Merlin must include, at some point, Arthurs shield, al so created by Merlin as a means of defense. Arthur, of course, is Spensers champion, and wh ile Spenser may draw on Malory as a source for Arthur, he has substantially revi sed Malorys Arthur so that none of the latters flaws, which ultimately led to the dest ruction of his kingdom, taint the hero in love with Gloriana. Thus while Malory, via Merlin, emphasizes the importa nce of Arthurs scabbard (in Latin, his vagina), Spenser focuses instead on his shield and its ability to destroy illusion (Hamilton 104). Spensers Prince Arthur is neither king nor husba nd, and while Malorys views on the importance of women in relation to a kingdom are of insurmountable importance in any study of Arthur, Arthurs rank in The Faerie Queene and the fact of a female ruler both in England and in Faery Land, render moot the Malorian mandate to value women and instead warrant a new means of defense: Arthurs shield. Spenser prefaces Arthur and his shield, once agai n, in terms of sight. After Una learns of Redcross Knights abduction by Or goglio, when her eyes she on the Dwarfe had set, / [She] saw the signes (, she laments her own vision: ye dreary instruments of dolefull sight, / That doe this deadly spectacle behold, / Why do ye lenger feed on loat hed light ( Thereafter she uses the language of love to describe her anguish: Now let the stony dart of senselesse cold / Perce to my hart (, emphasis added). Recall earlier when Glauce tried unsuccessfully to reverse Britomarts love with idle verse; here Una reverses love by revision, stating that Mine eyes no more on vaniti e shall feed, / But seel ed vp with death, shall haue their deadly meed ( and turning a love-stricken hear t into a grief-stricken one. However, Unas revision here is a hasty one, since she seeks to seal her eyes in death without 31


first reflecting on her vision. Thus after be ing reviud with busie paine (, she addresses the dwarf: Tell on ( quoth she) the wofull Tragedie, / The which these reliques sad present vnto mine eie ( Una understands the dangers of misreading and enlists the aid of the dwarf, who saw the Redcrosses fate firsthandnot framed by the signs thereof, to interpret the signs he bears. It is only after Dwarf tempers Un as vision and after Una reflects and, empassioned as Britomart is empassioned at both Paridells and Merlins histories, she revises her sorrow into action: She vp arose, resoluing him to find / A liue or dead ( This, then, is the exchange that precedes Arthur and it is a brief yet complete instantiation of mediated vision. Just as Brito mart saw Artegalls image in the mirror only after [h]er selfe a while therein she vewd in vaine (, Una w ill not meet Arthur until she revises herself in an autonomous resolve to action. When she does finally meet Arthur she does not see him per se, but merely his signs: his glitterand arm our, his bauldrick braue...[t]hat shynd, like twinkling stars, his yuory sheath, haughtie helmet, loftie cres t, and, finally, [h]is warlike shield all closely couerd (1.7.2933). This is Arthur framed, both to Una and to uswe dont even see Arthur, who [f]rom top to toe no place appeared bare ( his ultimate weapon is likewise framed: all of Diamond perfect pure and cleene / It fr amed was and [n]e might of mortall eye be euer seene ( Spensers desc ription is the only vision of Arthurs shield we might ev er experience, and although we do not see the actual shield, by reading it (recall Spenser of ten uses the word read in a sense that means see) in the poem, we are indeed seeing it through Spensers medi ating vision, through his revision. Note the fundamental difference between Spensers shie ld and Malorys scabbard: the shield is impenetrablepoint of speare it neuer percen could ( Malorys scabbard is penetrable by its very nature. 32


Malory clearly was convinced that Arthurs downfall originated in his failure to esteem his wifeto choose the scabbard ( vagina ) over the phallic sword (30); however, Spensers concern is that Arthur be able accurately to reflect on his visions so that if faced with a choice between the sword and the scabbard, as Malorys Arthur was, he would see beyond the physical properties of either in a reflection of their value to his person. Such reflec tion would be grounded not only in sight, but also in conversation, in mediation. Thus for Spenser, Arthur erred when, asked by Merlin in Malory [w]hether like ye bette r the sword or the sc abbard? the kings immediate response was, I like better the sword (30) This response did not allow for the kind of Spenserian reflection that woul d ultimately lead to Arthurs revised response, and although Merlin tells Arthur that the scabbard is wort h ten of the sword, Art hurs failure to engage further in conversation with Merlin in an attempt to understand the fault of his response will lead to the stagnation of Arthurs vision of the swor d and, finally, to Arthur s death. It seems, however, that even Malory anticipated revisi on when he wrote Arthur s epitaph, Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam rexque futurus (517), a fact Spenser appears to have understood. Spensers Arthur is, after all, Prince Arthur; he is, quite literally, the future king. Spenser takes up where Malory left off, re vising Arthur in a manner faithful both to Malorys and to Spensers visions Malorys Arthur was narcissistic: he loved his knights, his kingdom, and Lancelot to the exte nt that it rendered him sterile and, arguably, impotent. Valuing male prowess and political might over personal lo ve, gazing intently at his own image in his knights, Arthur ultimately drowne d himself, refusing to engage in a fruitful relationship. After all, his knights, although they did defend his ki ngdom, could only do so as long as there was a rightful king or heir. This is the kind of vision of which Malbecco is guilty: always fearing loss, he objectified his gold and his wifeas Malorys Arthur objec tifies his knights and his realm 33


instead of producing, via conjugal mediation with Guenevere, an heir. Moreover, Malorys Arthur deliberately overlooks the affair between Guenevere and Lancelot, and if we understand Le Morte Darthur as Spenser understood it, Ar thurs oversight reflects either his resignation to immediacy or his fear of public revision of his own image once the affair came to light, or both. My brief digression here is key to understand ing what Spenser thought he was doing in revising Malorys Arthur. If we have learned anything from the Malbecco-Hellenore episode, it is that Spenser understood the consequen ces of projection. Like Trevisan, Glauce, and Florimell, Spenser, with his eye cast backward to Ma lory, feared the blame he might incur if he miscarried a revision of Arthur. I return, then, to Glauces reaction to the failure of her pagan rituals to reverse Britomarts ailment: old Glauce saw, for feare least blame / Of her miscarriage should in her be fond. Likewise Spenser, attempti ng precisely to re-verse Malory, fears blame of miscarriage, for Malory left Arthur at the moment of rebirth. Spenser can indeed read the signs of Arthurs ailment, but he seems extraordinarily preoccupied with revisi ng him in a manner that does not project the earlier Arthur s failures onto his own text. So it is that Spenser grants exceptional pow ers neither to Arthurs sword nor to his scabbard (to do so would have been merely to re -verse Malory), but to his shield. Not only is Arthurs shield exceptional, it is projectively reflective, so that the narcissism in Malorys text becomes constructive rather than destructive for Arthur. That his shield has the ability to destroy all that was not such, as seemd in sight (, emphasis added) nods both to Spensers insistence on the unreliability of sight as well as to Malorys Arthurs inability to mediate his own vision. Spenser negates any sight-derived ineptitude in Ar thur by giving him armor that removes the possibility for Arthurs deceptions. Ju st as King Ryence, via his glassie globe, is able to protect his person and his kingdom agains t the trespasses it reflec ts, Arthur protects his 34


person by wielding his shield against his own fau lty vision. Thus it is Orgogliopride, one of Arthurs many flaws in Malorythat Arthur slays fi rst, and he does so only after in his fall his shield, that couered was, / Did loose his vele by chaun ce, and open flew ( Orgoglios debilitation is not the resu lt of any direct action on Arthurs part; rather, it is the result of the mediating force of the shield, which f undamentally protects Art hur while it magically blinds the giant. Thus revisi on has protective power as well. Before the shields unsheathing, Arthur smote off [Orgoglios] left arme (, inflicting a des perate deadly wound ( However, after hearing Duessa in dist ress the giant, now one-armed, redoubles in strength: The force, which wont in two to be disperst, / In one alone left hand he now vnites / Which is through rage more strong then both were erst ( Arthurs efforts without the shield are in vain, and we might well deem it Arthurs own pride that causes his fall, pride that deceptively redoubles his sense of strength as it redoubles Orgoglios physical strength. The shield renders such self-deception moot, however, insofar as it revises not Arthurs vision, but that of his opponent. Upon gazing at the shiel d, Orgoglio [b]ecame starke blind, / And all his senses dazd ( Moreover, Orgogli o, so blinded, begins to defend himself unsuccessfully: Againe his wonted angry weapon prooud: But all in vaine: for he has read his end In that bright shield, a nd all their forces spend Themselues in vaine: for since that glauncing sight, He hath no powre to hurt, nor to defend. (, emphasis added) The shields power lies not in its potential for Arthurs revisi on, as Malorys scabbard held potential, but in its inherent ability to revise Arthurs opponents vision a nd render him impotent. Thus we see that Spenser has read (seen) Arthurs flaws in Malory, has reflected upon them, and has revised them and not merely re-verse d them. Spensers vision for Arthur is one of 35


magnificence, one that will redeem his predecesso rs flaws, one worthy enough to love Gloriana. It is Arthurs love for Gloriana then, that is Spensers most important revision to Malory, and here I wish to look at two passages from Malo ry concerning Arthurs love for Guenevere. Malory first tells us that at Camelard had Arthur the first sight of Queen Guenivere, the kings daughter of the land of Camelard, and ever after he loved her; and after, they were wedded, as it telleth in the book (20, emphasis a dded). This is a description ak in to that of the marriage of Malbecco and Hellenore: it is im mediate and grounded in sight. Art hur sees, loves, and later is wedded, and this marriage bears none of the intricacy or mediation th at we see in the marriage of Britomart and Artegall. Later, Malory tells of a conversation between Arthur and Merlin: Now is there any, said Merlin, t hat ye love more than another? Yea, said King Arthur, I love Guenivere the kings daughter of Lodegreance, of the land of Camelard, the which holdeth in his hous e the Table Round that ye told me he had it of my father. And this damosel is the most valiant and fairest that I know living, or yet that ever I could find. Certes, said Merlin, a s of her beauty and fairness she is one of the fairest alive. But and ye loved her not so well as ye do, I should find you a damosel of beauty and of goodness that should like you and pl ease you, and your heart were not set. But there as mans heart is set, he wi ll be loath to return. That is truth, said King Arthur. But Merlin warned the King covertly that Guenivere was not wholesome for him to take to wife, for he warned him that Lancel ot should love her, and she him again. (50) Not only is Arthurs attraction to Guenivere restrained by the immediacy of his sight, but Arthurs mention of the Round Table in Gu eniveres household renders his attraction narcissistic, so that Gueniveres valiance is an extension of the values associated with Uther Pendragons gift. Thus King Lodegreance deliv ered his daughter Guenivere unto Merlin, and the Table Round with the hundred knights (51, emphasis added). Here, as with the conversation about the sword and the scabbard, Arthur rejects Merlins attempts to mediate his vision, and as Spenser well knew, the results were disa strous for Arthur and his kingdom. 36


In revising Arthur, then, Spenser must account for Malorys Arthurs failures in love, and Spenser counters his predecessor by inventing Arthurs love for Gloriana. He begins Canto ix of Book I with O Goodly golden chaine, wherewith yf ere / The vertues linked are in louely wize ( Hamilton tells us this chain symbolizes the linking of the virtues in Arthur whose virtue of magnificence is the perfec tion of all the rest, and conteine th in it them all (118), and this golden chaine is far di fferent from Malbeccos golden fette rs or from characters who are as lincked as they are blinck ed. Malorys Arthur erred in choosing Guenevere for a wifein linking her in an unfit yokedespite Merlins warning, and Arthurs immediate choice ultimately led to the destruction of his kingdom. Spenser attempts to redeem Ar thur by mediating his vision of Gloriana, who appears to Arthur in a dream. If Arthur cannot re vise himself by reflection, and instead must wiel d an illusion-destroying mirror as a means of protection from himself, it follows that Arthurs eyes are unreliable channels for hi s love, just as Hellenores eyes were. Arthur sees the Q ueene of Faeries ( with his eyes closed Her image is already mediated insofar as Arthurs instruments of sight cannot objectify her, as they will later objectify Florimell after Arthur gazed after her a while ( Arthurs dream is rapturous in its conversation: Was neuer hart so rauisht with delight, / Ne liuing man like words did euer heare, / As she to me deliuered all that night (, and Arthur is l iterally seized by his love for the queen in a way that Malorys Arthur never was. Spensers moment of revisionary triumph co mes upon Arthurs waking and the realization of the loss of his queen. Recall that in Malo ry, Arthur remarks about Gueniveres loss: And much more am I sorrier for my good knights loss than for the loss of my fair queen; for queens I might have enough, but such a fellowship of good knights shall never be together in no 37


38 company (481-2). Arthur dismisses his queen without a thought, instead lamenting the loss of his knights. Compare Arthurs reaction to the Fairy Queens absence when he awakes: When I awoke, and found her place deuoyd, And nought but pressed gras, where she had lyen, I sorrowed all so much, as earst I ioyd, And washed all her place with watry eyen. From that day forth I loud that face diuine; From that day forth I cast in carefull mind, To seeke her out with labour, and long tyne, And neuer vow to re st, till her I find, Nine monethes I seeke in vaine yet nill that vow vnbind. (1.9.15) When Arthur wakes, he sees the impression his Fairy Queen left and us es his eyes for more than just vision. Seeing with his heart (and mind) he washed all her pla ce with watry eyen. Arthur, at last, weeps for his queen.


CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION Thus Spenser takes us from antithesis to ex emplar of mediated vi sion, demonstrating along the way the consequences of both immediacy and narcissistic reflection. The crisis for both Malbecco and Hellenore was that neither had a mirro r with which they might protect themselves. Could either see in Britomarts mirrorwithout the blindness of their ow n desirethey would see that the objects of their desires have no real value at all. Conv ersely, if Malbecco had a shield such as Arthurs, his enemies would be truly asto nished, and he would have no need for the stone walls within which he hides. But in the course of the poem, as readers we benefit from Malbeccos stone walls, which simultaneously frame his objects a nd keep them from view. As with Artegall in Britomarts mirror, such fram ing constitutes an attempt to codify an image rather than to reflect upon and engage with it. Remember that astonishment (a-stone-ishment) rather than amazement (wanderi ng) is Artegalls a ppropriate response to Britomarts framed image. Such astonishment incapacitates the beholder and enables mediated reflection and, subsequently conversation. When we frame objects, when we seek to astonish the object itself rather than to be astonished, we lose all sight of the thing so framed. This was the miscarriage that Spenser so feared, and I return now to th e passage with which I began, when Arthur reads his history in the House of Temperan ce. He reads as far as Uther: After him Vther which Pendragon hight, Succeding There abruptly it did end, Without full point, or other Cesure right, As if the rest some wicked hand did rend, Or thAuthour self could not at least attend To finish it: that so vntimely breach The Prince him selfe halfe seemeth to offend, Yet secret pleasure did offence empeach, And wonder of antiquitie long stopt his speach. (2.10.68) 39


40 For Spenser to frame Arthur here in the pages of the book he reads would be to transfix himand usto that book and the deeds that ta int the rex quondam rexque futurus. Seeing Arthur already written, we would become Malb eccos in our reading, so that Arthur the magnificent would become Spensers mucky pelf e, stolen from Malory and stained with failure. Likewise, since readi ng is seeing, Arthurs existence in the history book would amount to a truly narcissistic vision of himself We already know that Art hurs shield protects him from himself and his narcissistic vision, and, it follows that Arthurs secre t pleasure upon seeing himselfand not just antiquitiewould be self-destructive. Spen ser will not enclose Arthur as Malbecco enclosed Hellenore, nor will he allow him to be astonished by his own image before he sees Gloriana. Instead, revising and re-versing the old Arthur, Spenser exemplifies the kind of readingreading that subjectiv ely reflectsthat he promotes in the remainder of the poem


WORKS CITED/CONSULTED Berger, Harry, Jr. The Allegorical Temper: Vision a nd Reality in Book II of Spensers Faerie Queene New Haven: Yale UP, 1957. Bernard, John A. Pastoral and Comedy in Book III of The Faerie Queene Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 23.1 (1983): 5-20. Craig, Joanne. The Image of Mortality: Myth and History in The Faerie Queene ELH 39.4 (1972): 520-544. Dallett, Joseph B. Ideas of Sight in the Faerie Queene. ELH 27.2 (1960): 87-121. Deneef, A. Leigh. Spensers Amor Fuggitivo and the Transfixed Heart. ELH 46.1 (1979): 120. Donno, Elizabeth Story. The Triumph of C upid: Spensers Legend of Chastity. The Yearbook of English Studies 4 (1979): 37-48. DuRocher, Richard J. Arthurs Gift, Aristo tles Magnificence, and Spensers Allegory: A Study of Faerie Queene 1.9.19. Modern Philology 82.2 (1984): 185-190. Eggert, Katherine. Spensers Ravishment: Rape and Rapture in The Faerie Queene Representations 70 (2000): 1-26. Gilde, Helen Cheney. Spensers Helle nore and Some Ovidian Associations. Comparative Literature 23.3 (1971): 233-239. Gregerson, Linda. Protestant Erotics: Id olatry and Interpretation in Spensers Faerie Queene. ELH 58.1 (1991): 1-34. Gross, Kenneth. Spenserian Politics: Idol atry, Iconoclasm, and Magic Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Hamilton, A. C. The Faerie Queene London: Longman, 1977. -----. The Structure of Allegory in The Faerie Queene Oxford: Clarendon, 1961. Krier, Theresa M. All suddeinly abas ht she chaunged hew: Abashedness in The Faerie Queene Modern Philology 84.2 (1986): 130-143. Malory, Sir Thomas. Le Morte Darthur Ed. Helen Cooper. New york: Oxford UP, 1998. OConnell, Michael. The Idolatrous Eye: Iconoclasm and Theater in Early-Modern England New York: Oxford, 2000. 41


42 Oram, William. Spenserian Paralysis. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 41.1 (2001): 49-70. Quilligan, Maureen. The Language of Allegory: Defining the Genre Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1979. Roche, Thomas P. The Kindly Flame: A Study of the Third and Fourth Books of Spensers Faerie Queene Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972. Siebers, Tobin. The Mirror of Medusa Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1983. Stewart, Garrett. Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext Berkeley: U. of California P., 1990. Waters, D. Douglas. Prince Arthur as Christian Magnanimity in Book One of The Faerie Queene Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 9.1 (1969): 53-62. Wiggins, Peter DeSa. Spensers Anxiety. MLN 103.1 (1988): 75-86.


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Kelly M. Dunn was born in 1978 in Edina, Minnes ota but spent most of her life in Stuart, Florida, where she worked as a legal assistant in Martin and Palm Beach counties for over seven years. After the birth of her daughter Peyton in 1999, Kelly enrolled in classes at Indian River Community College in Ft. Pierce. In 2004 sh e earned her A.A. degree and she and Peyton moved to Gainesville, Florida, wh ere Kelly attended the University of Florida. In 2006, she was recognized as an Outstanding Tw o-Year Scholar and graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in English. Shortly after graduation, Kelly ga ve birth to her sec ond child, son Cian, and thereafter began work on her M.A. at the University of Florida in August of 2006. Upon completion of her M.A. program, Kelly will remain at the University of Florida to pursue her Ph.D. in English, focusing on medieval and early modern liter ature. She currently lives in Minneola, Florida, with daug hter Peyton, age 9, and son Cian, age 1. 43