Essay on Temperance and Allegory

Essay on Temperance and Allegory

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In The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser set out to create a work that could never be rivaled in breadth and complexity. His magnificent poem spans religious and literary movements, exalts and denounces rulers at the same time, honors traditional poetic forms and creates new ones, all while telling a fantastic story of romance, heroism, morality, and glory. In book two, Sir Guyon, the knight of temperance, is led into hell, and tempted by the creature known as Mammon, but remains faithful to his temperate values. In stanzas 44-46 of book two, Spenser utilizes techniques of romance poetry to create an allegory between Mammon’s daughter and the Catholic Church, reflecting Reformation ideals of temperance in the Protestant faith.
The Faerie Queene is a work that subtly blends aspects of traditional epic and romance poetry. In stanzas 44-46, techniques of romantic poetry are employed to create the initial image of Mammon’s deceptively beautiful daughter. This initial and yet superficial image of a strikingly beautiful woman is important as we begin to look more deeply into the themes and messages of the passage. Lines such as 393, 397, and 398 paint for the reader this illustration of beauty (2.7.44-45). This Prima Facia woman, like the Catholic Church of the time, advertises only positives, while hiding a less pristine reality. Moving from stanza 44 and the first lines of stanza 45, where Mammon’s daughter is described and exalted, to the latter portions of stanzas 45 and 46, the reader becomes aware that all is not as it appears with this alluring vision, “Yet was not that
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same [beauty] her owne native hew, but wrought by art and counterfetted shew” (2.7.400-401). In fact, her false beauty masks a dark motive: “...


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...tant Movement. It grew in response to the lavishness of the hierarchy of the old church and the trade of what were essentially get-out-of-jail-free cards. This important Reformation value is critically examined and commented on throughout book two of The Faerie Queene where Spenser’s use of techniques of romance poetry reflect Reformation ideals of temperance in the Protestant faith and create an allegory between Mammon’s daughter and the Catholic Church. Sir Guyon’s brave temperance against the temptations of Mammon
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exalt this value, while the allegory of Mammon’s daughter as the Catholic church furthers the idea of temperance in Protestantism and intemperance in Catholicism. However, considering the same images as representing Elizabeth and her court demonstrates that Spenser also critically examines temperance within Protestantism as well.

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