I ardently agree with David Miller here. Spenser is experimenting with a
variety of amatory discourses and Renaissance neoplatonism (not, I think
platonism itself but the Renaissance neo kind), but he has other
discourses as well, and not least the Petrarchan. He also uses biblical
language (including that of the Song of Songs) in ways that tie his love
for his lady to the prayerbook and liturgy (see my essay excerpted in the
Norton Spenser, and of course I am not alone). More to the immediate
point, though, is that he is the first in England--not in Europe, where I
have found one precedent--to revise the Petrarchan tradition by managing
to fall in love with a woman he can *legitimately* desire sexually and
whom he actually gets--ties her up, in fact--and then marries not in the
sequence itself, for I think a number of reasons, but after we turn just
several pages in the 1595 volume. Petrarch, Ronsard, Sidney--none of them
could marry the girl, let alone love her without some sort of sin. Spenser
can. Far from being abstract, his love for Elizabeth is sensual
(intermittently, anyway), at times humorous, at times interestingly
ambiguous (what do most people do with a netted deer?), and eventually,
after several pages, results in the hope of babies. He's trying to
persuade her to *marry* him--to consent to being caged. And unlike
Petrarch he gets her (OK, at the end they are separated, for a bit, but
not because he's come to his Platonic senses). Spenser is among the
Renaissance poets *most* willing to marry soul and flesh in love.
As for Shakespeare, of course English professors nowadays associate
him with new forms of subjectivity. The main reason I feel a little
skeptical in this regard is that French professors say the same thing
about Montaigne (or Du Bellay) and I've seen it said about 12th c.
romance, too. So fine, but I'm still suspending my belief. Anne P.
> Regarding (a), I would urge you not to write Spenser off in these terms.
> He too contains multitudes, and in the Amoretti he is struggling with
> the tradition of love poetry differently, but no less gustily, than his
> precocious younger contemporary.
>>>> [log in to unmask] 6/5/2007 7:55 PM >>>
> I have been re-thinking my way through Spenser's Amoretti and
> Sonnets. My interest at this time is not with FQ. I wonder how
> scholars on
> the List react to issues like these:
> (a) Amoretti can be interpreted as a game played between Elizabeth
> and the persona of the poet; the sequence remains strictly within the
> of convention while promoting transcendence; it accepts a Platonist
> philosophy. Spenser is an abstractionist, an idealist, a Platonist.
> (b) Shakespeare's Sonnets promote an effect of reality
> materialism), are anti-convention, reject transcendence, and are
> anti-Platonist because Shakespeare likes the world as it is; he isn't
> idealist. His Sonnets do not demonstrate that he has any idea of
> (c) Is there any agreement that Shakespeare's Sonnets display a
> grasp of
> reality that we find in the mature dramas i.e. a sense of human drama,
> representation of the action of thought, feeling, the same concrete
> grasp of
> human complexity that many of the plays (soliloquies in particular)
> Does this make him more realistic than Spenser?
> I'd welcome your thoughts and specific references if you have them to
> I've been amazed at the in-depth knowledge you have about the FQ,
> and so on.
> Ian Lipke (University of Queensland, Australia)