Theme of Temperance in The Faeirie Queene

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Theme of Temperance in The Faeirie Queene

The themes of temperance, that being the employment of restraint, or at least moderation, especially in the yielding to personal appetites or desires, and of intemperance, the submitting to such desires, pervade Book Two of The Faeirie Queene. Prior to describing individual rooms within the Castle of Alma, it is useful to briefly discuss how the idea of the castle functions within the Book. Spenser compares the towers of the structure with towers at Thebes and Troy, which stand as monuments to individual According to Berger, Alma's Castle functions as an 'archetype of human temperance'; Spenser specifically describes the building in terms of the human body, relating it to Christian teachings; in the first canto, he states:

Of all Gods workes, which do this world adorn,

There is no one more faire and excellent,

Then is mans body both for powre and form,

Whiles it is kept in sobre government...

Spenser's statement borrows from the polemic of St. Augustine, which states 'there is no need... that in our sins and vices we accuse the nature of the flesh to the injury of the creator, for in its own kind and degree the flesh is good.' (Berger) Alma's castle represents this 'good flesh'. Throughout canto IX the reader is shown that the inordinate uses of the flesh, intemperance, that permeate all other cantos of book II, are not the only possible uses of the flesh, as represented by the actions of Guyo.

Concerning the interior of the castle, the Kitchen is described in detail, in terms which can be directly related ...

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...; ...some could not abide to toy, All pleasance was to them briefe and annoy: This fround, that faund, the third for shame did blush, Another seemed envious, or coy, Another in her teeth did gnaw a rush. (Stanza 35)

Throughout Book II Guyon is seen to exert his aversion to pleasure, as he crushes and smashes the illusions of intemperance in canto XII, and shrugs off temptations in canto VII. Here, in Alma's parlour, these temptations, the passions, are also present, however they are subdued, natural and not corrupting. Whilst still seen as flaws in man, they are accepted; as in all things, moderation is the key. As Berger comments, whereas Guyon rejects passions as 'unbefitting an excellent man, here they are not considered as a negative.
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