Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene

By Michael O'Connell | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

The Return
to Pastoral Vision

While amid the variety of book 6, the reader feels that a great deal has happened to The Faerie Queene since the opening lines of book 1. We do not really need to go back to the letter to Raleigh to realize that Spenser's plans, indeed something of his poetic vision, have changed since we set out with the Redcross Knight and Una. Things happen unexpectedly in book 6: the hero drops out of sight in the central six cantos; when he reappears, he promptly abandons the quest that the reader has been led to suppose is thematically central ; the hero returns to the quest only after the innocent shepherds, including the wise Melibœ, have been brutally slaughtered; and finally, when the quest has been completed and the monster captured, the Blatant Beast escapes—not only from its Faeryland chain but from Faeryland itself. The Beast suddenly turns into a real-life threat to the poet. It is evident, moreover, that the Ariostan technique of books 3 and 4 does not really explain the variety and unexpectedness in the narrative of the Legend of Courtesy.

Perhaps the most striking discontinuity in the entire poem is the difference in tone between books 5 and 6. What many readers have felt to be a grim determination in the narrative of book 5 gives way to an amplitude and ease in book 6. The differences between justice and courtesy account in large part for the tonal and structural differences between the two books. 1 The patrons of either virtue differ from one another like brothers of radically divergent temperaments, the elder taking after his father and the younger resembling the mother. There is something absolute and unswerving about Artegall; he does not need to concern himself with envy and

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Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Mirror and Veil - The Historical Dimension of Spenser's Faerie Queene *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Explanatory Note xiii
  • Mirror and Veil *
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 - The Method of the Poet His Torical 16
  • Chapter 2 - Holiness and Historical Fulfillment 38
  • Chapter 3 - History and the Poet's Golden World 69
  • Chapter 4 - Mirrors More Than One 99
  • Chapter 5 - Myth and History in the Legend of Justice 125
  • Chapter 6 - The Return to Pastoral Vision 161
  • Epilogue - Escape from Mutability 190
  • Notes 195
  • Works Cited 207
  • Index to the Faerie Queene 213
  • General Index 217
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