Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis

A context for The Faerie Queene

By Margaret Christian

Spenserian allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0783-1
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: October 2016
  • BIC Category: Religion, Early Modern Literature, Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, LITERARY CRITICISM / Renaissance, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Literature & literary studies / Poetry, Literature & literary studies / Literature: history & criticism
  • Series: The Manchester Spenser


Edmund Spenser famously conceded to his friend Walter Raleigh that his method in The Faerie Queene 'will seeme displeasaunt' to those who would 'rather have good discipline delivered plainly in way of precepts, or sermoned at large.' Spenser's allegory and Elizabethan biblical exegesis is the first book-length study to clarify Spenser's comparison by introducing readers to the biblical typologies of contemporary sermons and liturgies. The result demonstrates that 'precepts ... sermoned at large' from lecterns and pulpits were themselves often 'clowdily enwrapped in allegoricall devises'. In effect, routine churchgoing prepared Spenser's first readers to enjoy and interpret The Faerie Queene.

A wealth of relevant quotations invites readers to adopt an Elizabethan mindset and encounter the poem afresh. The 'chronicle history' cantos, Florimell's adventures, the Souldan episode, Mercilla's judgment on Duessa and even the two stanzas that close the Mutabilitie fragment, all come into sharper focus when juxtaposed with contemporary religious rhetoric.


Introduction: a context for The Faerie Queene
Part I: Backgrounds: allegorical reading in Spenser's England
1. Traditional scriptural interpretation and sixteenth-century allegoresis: old and new
2. Allegorical reading in occasional Elizabethan liturgies
3. Allegorical reading in sermon references to history and current events
Part II: The preachers' Bible and Spenser's Faerie Queene: alternate allegories
4. 'The ground of Storie': genealogy in biblical exegesis and the Legend of Temperance
5. 'Waues of weary wretchednesse': Florimell and the sea
6. Saracens, Assyrians and Spaniards: allegories of the Armada
7. 'a goodly amiable name for mildness': Mercilla and other Elizabethan types
8. Court and courtesy: sermon contexts for Spenser's Book VI
9. 'Now lettest thou thy servant depart': scriptural tradition and the close of The Faerie Queene


Margaret Christian is Associate Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University, Lehigh Valley Campus

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