"The Faerie Queene"
As the author of a romantic epic in which, as Richard Hurd claimed in the "Letters on Chivalry and Romance", a complex design orders an even more complex action, Spenser depends heavily on two cardinal images for his prophetic structure: the temple and the labyrinth. These two archetypes organize the overall shaping of The Faerie Queene, and while other archetypal images play a part throughout the poem, the temple and the labyrinth, as "poetic universals," are sufficiently large and powerful images to organize an immense variety of secondary imagery, leading thereby to an equally varied narrative.
Temples and labyrinths have a singular advantage to the poet, in that they both imply special layout and a typical activity within that layout. Furthermore, while both images suggest man-made structures— men have built temples and labyrinths—they each have a set of natural equivalents. Temples may rise out of the earth in the form of sacred groves, while labyrinths may grow up as a tangle of vegetation. The cardinal dichotomy of the two archetypes will permit the typical Renaissance interplay of art and nature. For both images the idea of design is crucial, and their stress on pattern as such gives Spenser's intricate poem a certain stability.
Yet design itself may play an ambiguous role when the two great images are set in counterpoint against each other, because whereas the image of a temple is strictly formalized, to frame the highest degree of____________________