Spenser, Homer, and the mythography of strife*

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Author: Jessica Wolfe
Date: Winter 2005
From: Renaissance Quarterly(Vol. 58, Issue 4)
Publisher: The Renaissance Society of America
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 30,268 words

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This article examines a central narrative and ethical motif of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene--the golden chain--in the context of Spenser's broader debts to Homeric epic. While largely neglected in favor of more immediate sources, such as Virgil's Aeneid and Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, the influence of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey is profoundly felt in Spenser's mythography of strife. In its representation of the consequences of cosmological and spiritual strife, The Faerie Queene realizes the classical and late antique allegorical tradition of interpreting Homeric epic as illustrative of the doctrines of pre-Socratic philosophers such as Heraclitus and Empedocles. Its moral landscape structured according to the oppositional yet complementary forces of love and strife, Spenser's epic enacts the Homeric-Empedoclean epic of the allegorists so as to offer its own etiology of discord, one sympathetic with, but also distinct from, that of Homer.

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Preparing to narrate his "chronicle of Briton kings" at the beginning of book 2, canto 10 of The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser (1552?-99) asks his muse to assist him in launching an "[a]rgument worthy of Maeonian quill." Strange as it is that Spenser invokes Homer (ca. 800 BCE), and not Virgil (70-19 BCE), since the latter poet is the more logical patron of the dynastic epic Spenser is about to unfold, it is also a revealing moment for a poet praised by contemporaries as "the only Homer living," a writer "whose hart inharbours Homers soule." (1) What makes the chronicle a Maeonian, and not a Maronian, argument is that it presents an etiology of discord, a narrative whose aim, much like the one deliberately and pervasively cultivated by Spenser's own epic, is to explain the origins and nature of strife.

The Faerie Queene's complex mythography of strife reveals Spenser's efforts to construct an epic according to his understanding of what constitutes a Maeonian argument, namely, a "heavenly lay" that analyzes and justifies discord ( This is not to say that Spenser's most important influence was Homer; indeed, so much of his knowledge of Homeric epic is mediated by Virgil and Statius (45-95 CE), Torquato Tasso (1544-95) and Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1553), and works of philosophy from Plato (ca. 429-347 BCE) to Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) that it is often difficult to pry apart Spenser's debts to Homer from the influence of virtually every other writer at his disposal. Spenser almost certainly could and did read Homer in the original, first at the Merchant Taylors' School, which required Greek training in the upper forms from the school's inception in 1561, and then at Cambridge. Judging from fellow students at Mulcaster's school such as Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), Spenser would have arrived at Cambridge already proficient in Greek. (2) Henry Hutchinson, who attended the Merchant Taylors' school several years ahead of Spenser, left a probate inventory of his books in 1573 which includes two editions of Homer (one a Greek-only edition) as well as a "greake lexicon in two volumes" and several other dual-language Greek-Latin texts including works by Diogenes Laertius (fl. ca. 225 CE) and Lucian (b. ca. 120 CE). While Cambridge was no longer the center of Greek studies it had been during the late 1530s and 1540s under the influence of John Cheke and Roger Ascham, its curriculum nonetheless included the study of Greek poetry and drama. Described by one of his contemporaries as "perfect in the Greek tongue," Spenser would presumably have been able to avail himself of the 1488 editio princeps of Homer and of Lascaris's 1517 edition of the Homeric Scholia given earlier in the sixteenth century to Cambridge University Library by Cuthbert Tunstal (1474-1559), as well as manuscripts of Eustathius's and Tzetzes' Homeric commentaries also donated by Tunstal. (3) Both at Cambridge and afterwards, Spenser would also have had easy access to various Latin translations of Homer, including the 1573 abridged Latin Iliad translated by Eobanus Hessus and owned by Gabriel Harvey (1552-1631), Spenser's friend and fellow member of Pembroke Hall. (4)

None of this means that Spenser was, or even wished to be, an expert scholar of Greek after the manner of a Pierre de Ronsard (1524-85) or a Dorat, though he does share with these two members of the Pleaide the tendency to imitate not Homeric epic per se but rather those motifs and commonplaces which dominate the allegorical frameworks through which Homer was read. In the absence of an extant book collection or library catalogue such as we possess for Harvey, we cannot be certain that Spenser read any or all of the central texts of the Homeric commentary tradition, but his contemporaries certainly did. As early as 1531, a decade before the editio princeps of the Byzantine commentary was printed at Rome, Thomas Elyot is already quoting Eustathius, "the expositour of Homere," in his Boke of the Governour. In the 1591 preface to his translation of the Orlando Furioso, John Harington mentions the "treatise of the praise of Homers workes" attributed at the time to Plutarch and printed in several sixteenth-century editions of the Moralia as well as in editions of Homer. (5)

Spenser's reconstruction of Homeric epic is deeply indebted to these and to other non-Homeric and para-Homeric sources: to philosophical and literary accounts of events--the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the Judgment of Paris, and the contest between Ajax and Odysseus for Achilles' shield--that either precede or follow Homer's own narrative of the war at Troy. Yet Spenser's aim was nonetheless to fashion his own epic according to a Homeric model; that is, a Homeric model as interpreted by an allegorical exegetical tradition which spans from pre-Socratic, Platonic, and Neoplatonic philosophy to the mythographies, emblem books, and classical lexicons of his own century. Such an epic might not appear Homeric to our eyes, but it certainly did to Spenser, for whom a "Maeonian" argument signifies a strife-epos whose human narratives are inseparable from the cosmological and theological allegorical structures into which they are built. The result is a Homeric-Empedoclean epic, a poem whose principal task is to identify and explain the interplay between the oppositional yet complementary forces of philia (love) and eris (strife) that exert themselves on every level of The Faerie Queene, from its narrative and rhetorical structures to its treatment of psychological, social, and political discord and its representation of conflict in theology and cosmology.

Arguably, virtually every Renaissance text--or at least every Renaissance epic--takes up as a central motif the relationship between love and strife, and Spenser's thematic emphasis upon the dynamic interplay between philia and eris is neither unique nor exclusively Homeric in its origins. Yet while The Faerie Queene's allegorical superstructure is built up from the tensions between furor (fury) and pietas (pi[e]ty) that inform its more immediate epic models--namely, Virgil and Tasso--Spenser's comprehension of the strife-epos also owes much to the cosmic allegories that grow out of pre-Socratic, Platonic, and early Christian interpretations of Homer. Spenserian scholars from S. K. Heninger to Jon Quitslund have demonstrated that elemental strife is fundamental to Spenser's cosmological thought, that it "defin[es] the terms by which [he understood] harmony and conflict, stability and change." (6) These critics and others have observed that the elemental interplay between philia and eris which informs the cosmological design of both The Faerie Queene and Spenser's lyric poems also expresses itself on a human level, in the tetradic groupings of book 4, the triadic clusters of books 4 and 6, and the dyads of book 3. But it is only by acknowledging Spenser's recognition and reconstruction of the kinship between Homeric epic and Empedoclean philosophy that one may discern the nature and extent of the correspondences between the cosmological drama of The Faerie Queene and its ethical and literary preoccupations, where the dynamic tensions between love and strife give shape to the poem's representation of social and political interactions, its depiction of human passions, and the rhetorical and narrative structures that govern the work.

Spenser's renditions of Homeric episodes and motifs are often represented in the form of a krisis, a situation or event that requires judging or distinguishing between competing values such as harmony and discord, ease and toil, or contemplation and action. As Spenser's characters come into contact with Homeric objects and landscapes--the houses of Morpheus and Ate, Phaedria's Phaeacian dystopia, Mammon's Hephaestian forge, Acrasia's Circean bower, Florimell's Aphroditean girdle, Cambina's Nepenthe, Artegall's Achillean shield, and Meliboe's Idaean hermitage--they are forced to confront the questions and conflicting values embedded in an allegorized Homeric landscape animated persistently and variously by the forces of love and strife. As they duplicate Spenser's own task of sifting through the assets and liabilities of harmony and discord as represented in Homeric epic, his characters often learn that harmony is not the correct choice--or, that the very notion of a choice between harmony and discord is false, based as it is on an illusory distinction between the mutually interinanimating forces of love and strife.

This article explores in depth one key aspect of The Faerie Queene's Homeric mythography of strife: the golden chain. Spenser refashions Homer's golden chain throughout his epic as both a master metaphor for his own narrative--a narrative that links his titular virtues "in lovely wize" ( as a flexible conceit capable of embodying both correct and erroneous theological, cosmological, and ethical beliefs about the relationship between harmony and strife and between liberty and necessity. Perhaps reflecting his awareness that the golden chain has already been marshalled in the service of various philosophical and theological arguments by a dazzling array of classical, medieval, and sixteenth-century writers, Spenser repeats the Homeric conceit in bono et in malo, producing the kind of "bipolar" effect observed by Carol Kaske in her study of Spenser's biblical allusions; in both instances, the reader "cannot always assign the same meaning to every occurrence" of the image. (7) Spenser's villains, including Night, Despair, and Philotime, repeatedly misunderstand or misuse the concept of a golden chain to support theological, philosophical, or social doctrines that err either by overemphasizing the value of ease or tranquility or by overstressing the virtues of toil, rivalry, or strife. (8) Spenser is clearly alarmed that the metaphor can be deployed toward morally or theologically dangerous ends--toward the unabashed encouragement of rivalry in Philotime's court, or toward the contrary but equally perilous defense of tranquil inaction justified by Night's and Despair's misreadings of the chain. But the golden chain also allows Spenser to imagine how contention is both integral and subservient to a larger cosmic harmony, and thus offers a deeply attractive, conciliatory vision of a cosmic and theological order capable of embracing, and also controlling, strife. By demonstrating how the golden chain can encapsulate the two most dangerous extremes of contemporary theology--the belief in a fate so strict that it fetters even the will of God, and the contrary belief in the limitless potential of the human will--Spenser's applications of the Homeric conceit assist him in steering through the Scyllas and Charybdises of The Faerie Queene's theological and philosophical landscape.


Of the various incarnations of the golden chain in The Faerie Queene, the one which most eerily resembles its Homeric source is the "great gold chaine ylincked well" that Philotime dangles, Zeus-like, from her throne in book 2 ( Like most of Spenser's renditions of the Homeric conceit, as well as virtually all sixteenth-century allegorical interpretations of the golden chain, Philotime's aurea catena (golden chain) of ambition, its "upper end to highest heaven" knit and its lower part reaching "to lowest Hell" (, demonstrates what the early seventeenth-century French scholar Louis Quattrehomme calls "a certain correspondence and concatenation between elemental and celestial things." (9) While Mammon's regal daughter sits above the fray, her subjects struggle to heave themselves aloft while striving to keep their competitors from rising by the same means:

  all that preace did round about her swell,
  To catchen hold of that long chaine, thereby
  To clime aloft, and others to excell:
  That was Ambition, rash desire to sty,
  And every lincke thereof a step of dignity (

Tugged upon by rival courtiers each hoping to advance themselves through "unrighteous reward," "close shouldring," or "flatteree" (, Philotime's chain of ambition provides a stark contrast to the cooperative spirit embodied by the "goodly golden chaine" of book 1, canto 9, which knits together Arthur and the Redcrosse Knight in mutual friendship and assistance ( Though put to different uses, the two chains are the same: Philotime's chain testifies to the more ominous moral and spiritual consequences of Book 1's beneficent chain, demonstrating ambition and injurious rivalry to be the undesirable, but perhaps unavoidable, side effects of The Faerie Queene's encouragement of honor-seeking behavior.

In its endorsement of competition and factionalism, Philotime's chain closely approximates Homer's two accounts of the golden chain in the Iliad, the first of which describes Zeus's boast that the subaltern gods cannot pull him down from Olympus by means of his "golden chain," and the second of which depicts an equally omnipotent Zeus suspending Hera from heaven by a golden bond or chain that cannot be loosened by any of the other gods. (10) As with Homer's account in Iliad 8, where the resistance of the subaltern gods against Zeus's strength produces a stasis--a conflict marked not by turbulent dynamism but by stagnation between its adversaries--Philotime's chain ensures her continued authority by hindering the mobility of those who try to ascend it, for, as Mammon points out to Guyon, "[h]onour and dignitie" are awarded solely by her ( Whether or not Philotime should be interpreted as an indictment of what Wallace MacCaffrey has called the "frenetic atmosphere of pushing competition" in Queen Elizabeth's court--a court in which (according to Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia) the Queen "ruled much by faction and parties, which her self both made, upheld, and weakened"--the courtly rivalries she instigates inhibit, rather than encourage, the virtuous emulation fostered in competition between The Faerie Queene's more amicable rivals, such as Cambell and Triamond or Calidore and Coridon. (11) What is troubling about Philotime's courtiers is not that they compete for attention and favor, but rather that in so doing they improve only themselves and not each other. The moral insufficiency of this kind of zelos (rivalry) is even more pronounced in Phineas Fletcher's (1582-1650) imitation of Spenser's allegory of ambition in his 1633 Purple Island, where the "climbing minde" of Philotimus, one of Mammon's "children of the world," regards his milieu as a series of "rising ladders" to be climbed so that "with spite accurst / Down would he fling the steps by which he clamb'red first," thus preventing anyone from emulating his ascent in a manner similar to Fletcher's Zelos, the offspring of Eris who symbolizes the "spitefull emulation" that "[c]ould not endure a fellow in excelling." (12) Spenser's theogony of ambition and rivalry is more complex than Fletcher's, however, for while the latter poet is willing to dispense wholesale with emulous affections, Spenser regards zelos as potentially productive. The Faerie Queene thus labors to distinguish wholesome from spiteful emulation, a task made more difficult and more urgent by Homer's golden chain, capable as it is of representing virtuous and vicious rivalry alike.

Spenser's use of Homer's golden chain to condemn the political rivalry aroused by philotimia (love of honor) is perhaps unsurprising given that Natale Comes interprets both Homeric accounts of the golden chain as allegories of "ambition, which although it is very potent, and has drawn many from the true faith of God to false dogmas ... nevertheless will not be able to move a good man." (13) Both Comes and Spenser probably have their eye on Plutarch and Aristotle (384-322 BCE), each of whom associates philotimoi (ambitious men, or those stricken with an excessive love of honor) with envy as well as with kataphronesis (contempt), the ailment which afflicts Philotime's golden guard, Disdaine. (14) Yet, as Spenser surely knew given the many examples of virtuous love of honor in the 1590 Faerie Queene--Arthur, his squire Timias, the Castle of Alma's Prays-Desire--Aristotle regards philotimia not only as a vice but also as a positive, virtuous mean between excessive and defective ambition, and he uses the same term for the virtuous and unvirtuous manifestations of honor-seeking. (15) The subtlety of the difference poses a central problem for both Spenser and his characters in book 2, since it is not always clear how much unknightly railing, righteous indignation, and violence is fitting for Guyon as he combats the enemies of temperance. With its failure to inculcate the benevolent, friendly rivalry implicit in the "goodly golden chaine" that links Arthur and Redcrosse in book 1, Philotime's chain helps set into relief Spenser's vexations as he labors to distinguish one kind of philotimia from the other and to condemn some of the vehement passions aroused by the love of honor while still valorizing others. Read side by side, Philotime's and Arthur's versions of the golden chain reveal the profound ambivalence of the conceit inasmuch as it serves either as the enemy of virtuous emulation or as its instrument.

Like Ate--book 4's rendition of Homer's goddess of strife who "longs that great golden chaine quite to divide" ( in order to untie the bonds of Concord--Philotime is an agent of discord who suffers a similar fall from aloft. Formerly "[w]orthy of heaven," she is thrust down by the gods "for envy" (, a fate which calls into question the moral and political legitimacy of her power of concatenation between earthly and celestial realms, at least one which permits upward, as well as downward, movement. Given her misapplication of the golden chain, Philotime's effort to imitate the Zeus of the Iliad also sheds light on the ways in which her mythologies of political authority abuse the concept of a golden chain linking earth to heaven. We are never far in spirit from Philotime's chain in the genealogies spun by Spenser's demonic monarchs and giants--figures such as Orgoglio, Mutability, and Lucifera--whose accounts of their own theogonies reveal their rivalrous affections for the Homeric gods from whom they derive their authority. (16)

Not only can The Faerie Queene's golden chains breed (as they do in Philotime's court) a will-worshiping that grows out of the mistaken belief in an unlimited mobility across political and cosmic hierarchies; they can also encourage an excessively fixed view of fate that equates a concatenated cosmos with one governed by an adamantine chain of Necessity akin to the one described by Plato in book 10 of the Republic. (17) Philotime's chain of ambition highlights the ways in which a political and natural philosophy founded upon a belief in an interlocking chain that links celestial and terrestrial realms breeds rivalry and an excessive love of honor. Book 1's two master manipulators of the golden chain--Night and Despair--demonstrate that conceit to be equally dangerous when deployed in the service of a theology that overemphasizes the fixity of fate and regards such fatalism as a means to alleviate spiritual strife. While Ate yearns to break the golden chain in order to breed discord, Night and Despair misconstrue and misuse it. By using the golden chain to demonize and mitigate strife rather than arouse it, they demonstrate the chain to be a flexible tool capable of justifying discord, condemning it, or modifying the ways in which it is understood. Particularly in the first two books of The Faerie Queene, the temptation to flee contention is both more attractive for Spenser's heroes, and more dangerous, than the impulse to embrace it. The various applications of the golden chain alternately help and hinder the process by which Spenser's characters arrive at a proper understanding of the relative assets and liabilities of both harmony and strife, a process which mirrors Spenser's own negotiation of the conflicting values of Homeric epic. In other words, Spenser's recapitulation of the golden chain in bono et in malo constitutes the poet's "corrected" version of Homeric epic, an epic designed to clarify and emend Homer's complex, often conflicting attitudes towards strife and tranquility, towards competitive and cooperative values, and towards theological liberty and necessity.

The first incarnation of Homer's golden chain to appear in The Faerie Queene, Night's invocation of the "chayne of strong necessitee, / Which fast is tyde to Joves eternall seat" (, misconstrues the conceit as proof of the inextricability of fate, a belief which permits Night to abnegate responsibility for her sins and to advocate a philosophy of moral and spiritual indifference that perverts both Calvinistic and Stoic ideals of patience and apatheia (inurement to passion or pain). Night's gloss on the chain may constitute Spenser's condemnation of Homer's view of Fate, a reading supported by John Calvin's (1509-64) condemnation in his Institutes of Agamemnon's famous apology in order to counter the belief that divine Providence releases us from responsibility for our sins, an error Calvin discerns in Agamemnon's claim that "I am not the cause, but Zeus and Fate." (18) Unlike E. R. Dodds, who begins the first chapter of his classic study of causality in ancient Greek literature by citing the same Homeric passage, Calvin misunderstands Agamemnon's accusation against "Zeus and Fate [Moira] and Erinys ... [who] cast on my mind fierce blindness [aten]" as an evasion of responsibility, particularly since the claim accompanies Agamemnon's desire to "make amends voluntarily and to give countless ransom." (19) His misconstrual of the Homeric concept of Ate as an external, demonic agent rather than a state of mind besets Calvin's reading of the passage with a disabling irony, one all the more potent given that the Institutes also assails what it perceives to be a proto-Stoic attitude towards fate in Agamemnon's account of Ate, who "blinds [aatai]" men and "brings all things to their end," as well as in Hector's observation that "no man, whether good or bad, has ever escaped his fate [moiran]." (20)

By contrast, some Homeric allegorists, including the author of the Essay on the Life and Poetry of Homer (wrongly attributed to Plutarch during the Renaissance), argue that, far from endorsing the belief that everything comes about through fate, Homer demonstrates how "a certain amount falls under the control of men, who have freedom of will, though an element of necessity is somehow attached to this." (21) Interpreted in this context, Night's error duplicates the misreading of the golden chain perpetrated by the Stoics, who, according to Guillaume Salluste Du Bartas (1544-90),

  With Iron Chaines of strong Necessitie
  Th'Eternals hands, and his free feet enstocke
  In Destinies hard Diamantin Rocke. (22)

As a means of explaining why the gods have favored the "sonnes of Day" over her own children, Night's chain of necessity also fails to take into account a crucial aspect of Plato's explanation of the Fates in the myth of Er, whose adamantine "spindle of necessity" in no way cancels out either human will or responsibility for sin. (23) "The blame is his who chooses," Plato's prophet explains, and "God is blameless," an echo of Zeus's speech at the beginning of the Odyssey in which he justifies the fate suffered by "blameless [amymonos] Aegisthus," slain by Orestes: "It's astonishing how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they themselves, through their own blind folly [atasthaliesin], bring upon them sorrows beyond those which are ordained." (24) By depicting necessity as chained to Zeus's seat, Spenser's Night fails to grasp the subtleties of Homer's compatibilist theology as captured in the interpretations of Plato and pseudo-Plutarch. Although "Spenser's own thinking [is] not so bound by the 'chayne of strong necessitie,'" as Quitslund rightly points out, the poet's urgency in pointing out Night's error does not necessarily constitute an attack on Homeric notions of Providence in the manner of Calvin, but may instead signal his efforts to ensure a sounder interpretation of those notions by privileging a Platonic exegetical tradition over a Stoic one. (25)

Night's misconstrual of Homeric theology is all the more perilous given that several theological treatises of the 1590s invoke the golden chain as an allegory of divine Providence. Perhaps influenced by Thomas Aquinas's Catena Aurea, the title given to his Latin edition of the Gospels, late Elizabethan Calvinists such as William Perkins (1558-1602) make frequent recourse to the metaphor. Perkins's Golden Chaine, first printed in 1591, invokes the concept to illustrate the "frame of the doctrine of Providence," even providing an elaborate illustration on the final page which depicts the first link in the chain as "Gods eternall decree" and the final link as the "manifestation of Gods glorie." (26) While Spenser would not necessarily agree with Perkins's strictly Calvinist position (in his 1598 Reformed Catholike) that our theological condition is comparable to that of a prisoner so tightly bound by sin that he "cannot stirre though the keeper untie his bolts and chaines," both writers understand the golden chain as a metaphor for the Ordo Salutis, the method by which the individual believer charts his or her path towards salvation. (27) Hostile to the prevailing theology of book 1 of The Faerie Queene, Night's chain of necessity is emended by Arthur, who, while cast as a "preacher in the Reformed Ordo Salutis" during his conversations with Una and the Redcrosse Knight, offers a series of tutorials on how to interpret the chain correctly and how best to make use of it in the context of Arthur's repeated appeals to the doctrine of assurance. (28) These lessons are modeled in part on Boethius's (ca. 480-524) Lady Philosophy, who instructs her pupil that Providence binds the "acts and fortunes of men in an unbreakable chain of causes" but subsequently qualifies this assertion by arguing that such a "close-linked series of causes" does not negate the freedom of the will, since even this "fatal chain" does not bind men's minds. (29) While Night, like Boethius's narrator, errs in conceiving the golden chain as a manifestation of Stoic eimarmene (universal chain of causes) that fetters both God and man, Arthur intervenes twice in book 1 to correct Night's account of the relationship between Providence and human will, first to Una in canto 7, and then again to the Redcrosse Knight two cantos later. In the second lesson, Arthur explains how he who "most trustes in arme of fleshly might, / And boasts, in beauties chaine not to be bound, / Doth soonest fall," yet even those who admit their bondage to "beauties chaine" are not bound by absolute necessity since, according to Arthur, "Nothing is sure, that growes on earthly ground" (

Arthur's account of Providence stops short of harnessing its concatenatory imagery to the unambiguously inextricable view of Fate detected in the Homeric conceit by Abraham Fraunce (ca. 1558-1633), whose 1592 Third part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Ivychurch interprets Jupiter's binding of Juno with a "golden chayne" as an allegory of the "cohoerent concatenation and depending of things united so in order, as none but the almightly Jupiter can dissolve the same." (30) Rather than assert or refute the existence of a "fatal chain" binding men's minds and their actions, Arthur instead dwells upon on the human incapacity to understand that chain, a reading akin to the one offered by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), whose 1605 Advancement of Learning reflects upon Homer's golden chain as an allegory of the problem of accommodation: "That men and Gods were not able to draw Jupiter down to the Earth, but contrarywise, Jupiter was able to draw them up to Heaven. So as wee ought not to attempt to drawe downe or submitte the Mysteries of GOD to our REASON: but contrarywise, to raise and advance our REASON to the Divine Truthe." (31) Night's golden chain fetters God by positing a fate that circumscribes even his will, while Philotime's chain fetters God by inflating the capacity of human will such that it perceives itself capable of understanding things divine. Like Bacon, Arthur recognizes that, in order to support a theology that does not err towards either of these dangerous extremes, the golden chain must be interpreted as an allegory of accommodation. Tugging on the chain does not raise us up to God but instead pulls God down by reducing him to our own limited capacity, thus testifying to Spenser's assertion that "[i]f any strength we have, it is to ill, / But all the good is Gods, both power and eke will" (

In this respect, Spenser's use of the conceit of the golden chain is both subtler and more variegated than the interpretations dominating the late antique, Byzantine, and Renaissance allegorical traditions through which Homeric epic was filtered. Spenser is cautious about endorsing the Neoplatonic interpretation of the golden chain as a pagan Jacob's ladder testifying to the continuity between celestial and terrestrial worlds or to the human capacity to ascend and descend the scale of nature. Instead, he provides the kind of two-pronged interpretation also supplied by an emblem in Cesare Ripa's (fl. 1600) Iconologia: illustrating the "Conjunction of Human and Divine Things," it depicts a man grabbing hold of "a golden chain hanging from heaven." (32) There are, of course, a number of Spenserian characters who grasp the chain in the hopes of producing a shakedown in the heavens that might unseat Zeus from its highest link. These include Philotime, Argante--whose family of Titans "heaped hils on hight, / To scale the skyes, and put Jove from his right" ( "strove to match ... / Great Junoes golden chaire" ( finally Mutability, who wishes to "attempt the empire of the heavens hight, / And Jove himselfe to shoulder from his right" ( (33) But these will-worshiping aspirants to the top of Zeus's chain have neglected, Faustus-like, to read the second half of Ripa's emblem, which reminds its readers that the man who grasps the chain must do so "humbly" and warns us that "God may, whenever he pleases, draw the chain towards him and raise our minds up to Heaven, from whence all our own forces and all our own power will not allow us to leave." (34) Spenser offers up a similar tergiversation: the golden chain grabs us, and not the other way around, thus teaching us how heaven goes but not how to go to heaven.

This is perhaps why Palladine, the presumptive lady knight of wisdom whom Spenser may have planned to feature as the titular virtue of a later book, crops up briefly in book 3 as a suitable adversary for Argante. Her anticipated (but not actualized) defeat of the Titan suggests that right reason is the sole yet limited means through which fallen humanity can assist in raising its mind up to heaven. The ambition of Argante and her fellow Titans to heap mountain upon mountain in order to scale heaven evokes the similar aspirations of Otus and Ephialtes, two brothers encountered by Odysseus during his visit to Hades, who "yearned to pile Ossa on Olympus, and Pelion, with its waving forests, on Ossa, so that heaven might be scaled." (35) As with Francis Bacon, who interprets Virgil's rendition of the fate of Otus and Ephialtes to illustrate how how "true Stages of knowledge ... are to them that are depraved no better than the Gyants Hilles," Spenser allegorizes the fable to demonstrate the limitations of human knowledge, casting Palladine as the wisdom required to recognize and heed those limitations. By contrast, according to Bacon, those who "referre all thinges to the Glorie of GOD" arrive at a pious and true appreciation of the concatenatory power of God and the tripartite sanctity of nature's scale, "holy in the description or dilatation of his workes, holy in the connexion, or concatenation of them, and holy in the union of them as a perpetuall and uniforme lawe." (36)

While Zeus's boast in Iliad 8 might indeed be the "threat and surly speech" that Arthur Hall calls it in his 1581 translation of the first ten books of the Iliad, Spenser tolerates no whiff of the Lucianic subversion which questions whether Zeus's chain is really stronger than the combined force of all his adversaries. In Lucian's Dialogues of the Gods, Ares jokes to Hermes that they should attempt a coup on Mount Olympus, since while Zeus might be "more than a match and too strong for any one of us," the war god refuses to believe "that he's too much for all of us put together." (37) Yet while Homer himself admits that Otus and Ephialtes "would have accomplished [their goal], had they reached the measure of full manhood," confirming the vulnerability that also prompts Zeus to enlist the help of Briareus in putting down Poseidon's rebellion (in a tale recounted in Iliad 1), all attempts to scale heaven in The Faerie Queene are put down, leaving no doubt of God's omnipotence. (38) The failure of Spenser's Titans to raise themselves up to Zeus's seat reclaims Homer's catena aurea from both of the dangerous extremes to which that conceit can be applied. Like John Bridges, the 1572 English translator of Rudolf Gwalther's commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Spenser appreciates that a belief in the "certayne concatenation and connexion of causes" encourages will-worshiping as well as its equally perilous opposite, the "fatall necessity or destiny" that, according to Bridges, "pull[s] men from God." (39)

One of Spenser's principal challenges in employing the golden chain as a theological metaphor is to do so without falling into the error committed by Night and Despair, who conflate the omnipotence conveyed by the conceit with necessity and fatalism. As a result, Spenser must deviate from the standard Neoplatonic interpretation of the golden chain that glosses the conceit as an allegory of the secret liaison that exists among the elements and binds them to the sun, to which all things are drawn. In keeping with this hermeneutic tradition, the sixteenth-century German scholar Joachim Camerarius (1500-74) interprets the passage from Book 8 of the Iliad as representing the "[t]he regulated order of the universal world, and the joining and compacting of celestial bodies," a structure so firmly bound that "Zeus' agitation and pulling of that chain in no way impedes or retards that process." (40) By contrast, Spenser's conception of the chain appears to take its cue directly from Socrates' interpretation in Plato's Theaetetus, rather than from the many allegorical interpretations of the Homeric passage that derive directly or indirectly from it. Half mocking the habit of using Homeric texts to support any and all philosophical doctrines, Socrates argues that Homer's golden chain represents the sun "and means that so long as the heavens and the sun go round everything exists and is preserved, among both gods and men, but if the motion should stop, as if bound fast, everything would be destroyed." (41) Rather than gloss the golden chain simply as a symbol of cosmic fixity or coagmentatio, Socrates regards the metaphor as evidence of a stability produced out of, and not in opposition to, ceaseless motion and flux.

Particularly in book 4 of The Faerie Queene, where his cast of characters is drawn from the Homeric pantheon of discord, Spenser's own golden chains test out Socrates' hypothesis in the Theaetetus that "stillness causes decay and destruction and that the opposite brings preservation." (42) By developing a theory of concord that is forged out of, and depends upon, the continual agitations of Ate, Spenser both departs from and exposes the dangers or insufficiencies of more conventional uses of the golden chain. While Spenser's chains symbolize cosmic or social harmony, such harmony does not depend upon a total elimination of dynamic or adversarial relationships, whether between man and God, among the elements, or in the tensions created by human passions and humors. At least in their correct usage, Spenser's golden chains exhibit the subtle knot of meanings comprised by the Greek term stasis, a term which can signify civil war, agitation, and unrest, as well as permanence and rest. (43) Whether embodied by the cooperative rivalry between Arthur and Redcrosse, or used by book 4's Concord to bind Love and Hate, Spenser's golden chains create similar dyads between oppositional forces, yoking them together so as to neutralize and harmonize their effects.

By contrast, several of Spenser's contemporaries invoke the golden chain without acknowledging the complex interplay between contention and concord, dynamism and quiescence, that both Homer and Plato's Socrates express through the image. In Ben Jonson's (1572?-1637) 1606 Hymenaei, as the masquers complete a dance "in manner of a chaine," Reason compares their motions to "the Golden Chaine let downe from Heaven," since the "even" links created by the dancers eliminate "contention, envy, griefe, deceit" in favor of "peace, and love, and faith, and blisse." (44) In his 1628 Stratiotikon: or a Discourse of Military Discipline, Ralph Knevet (1600-71) advises his soldier-courtier readers to be "joyned all together" by a "Golden cord, of Unitie," one whose "well order'd linkes," forged out of friendship and mutual "respect," enable men to "banish all debate, and strife" and thus ensure the social concord integral to military strength. (45)

Despite the clearly negative implications of Philotime's chain of ambition and the endless series of petty rivalries it nurtures among its hangerson, Spenser in no way intends to banish all debate and strife from Faerie Land. Instead, he looks to the golden chain, as well as to Homeric epic more generally, to explore the extent to which contention is a necessary and productive social, theological, and cosmic force. In doing so, Spenser's applications of the Homeric conceit confirm the etymological connection also perceived by other Renaissance writers between Eris (strife) and eiro (to fasten or string together, to chain, as well as to speak or to narrate). In his Annotationes in primi libris Iliados Homeri, a British Library manuscript commentary written in about 1629, Christopher Cartwright glosses Athena's use of the word eridos (strife) at Iliad 1.210 by noting that the term is derived from the same root as eiro, eire (a place of assembly or agora), eirene (peace), and the Homeric phrase eirein symplexein (to twine or fasten together, but also to wrestle or be locked in a close fight or to wrangle with words). (46)

A number of classical scholars have noted that the most common Homeric metaphors for verbal and physical dispute--the equilibrium of war (homoiios polemos), the cords of mighty strife (erida krateren etanysse), and the rope-ends of war tugged this way and that (eridos ... epallaxantes amphoteroisi tanyssan)--imagine conflict as binding rather than as divisive. (47) Spenser takes up the Homeric concept of a knot, chain, or bond of conflict to convey the discomfiting intimacy of monomachia (single combat), as well as to characterize elemental strife as a concordia discors produced out of the equal and opposite pressures of binding (or chaining) and separation. In his "An Hymne in Honour of Love," in an image probably indebted to one or more poems by Pierre de Ronsard, Spenser describes how the elements once strove against each other "with contrary forces" until "Love relented their rebellious yre," and God, "tempering goodly well / Their contrary dislikes with loved means, / Did place them all in order," an order preserved by means of "Adamantine chaines." (48) James Hutton has called the passage an "untraditional" articulation of the Platonic bond of the elements--untraditional because, unlike Plato's account of the adamantine "spindle of necessity" in the Myth of Er, Spenser sidesteps the question of the relationship between necessity and human agency which is paramount to Plato's account and instead gives the Platonic-Homeric conceit an Empedoclean twist. (49) Moreover, unlike Plato's account in the Timaeus of God bringing the elements into order, which emphasizes the providentially inspired harmony of nature, the power and appeal of Spenser's adamantine chains reside largely in their capacity to embrace and contain paradox. The chains in his "An Hymne in Honour of Love" unite the "contrary forces" of love and strife, linking together the twofold creative process of separation and joining also described in paradoxical terms by Fraunce, whose 1592 mythography opens with Thirsis's account of Demogorgon's reduction of the confused mass of elements and "seedes of things disagreeing" into order. Fraunce's Demogorgon "ends these broyles" and "brings peace" by dividing and conquering: "Thus by a disioyning, Elements were mightily joined, / And by disunyting unyted fyrmely for ever." (50)

As the principal means by which divine truth is accommodated to the limitations of the human intellect, the golden chain also informs Spenser's understanding of rhetorical power. In Arthur's exchange with Una in book 1, canto 7--which casts him as glossator of the chain of Providence--he allays Una's grief by teaching her how to reconcile will and grace, faith and despair, and flesh and reason: "Despaire breedes not (quoth he) where faith is staid. / No faith so fast (quoth she) but flesh does paire. / Flesh may empaire (quoth he) but reason can repaire" ( While no chain is explicitly mentioned in Arthur's "well guided speach" ( it lurks rhetorically in the very structure of the exchange which, like the rhetorical patterns of many of Spenser's most persuasive speakers, relies on a device called concatenatio. Dubbed a "chain of corrections" by Kaske, the stichomythia between Arthur and Una is a golden chain, its interlacing structure creating ligatures that are cosmological and social as well as rhetorical. (51) As in books 5 and 6, where Spenser describes the chaining of Malfont's tongue and the muzzling of the Blatant Beast by means of a chain "made with many a lincke," Arthur's concatenatory eloquence may be inspired by the so-called Gallic Hercules, a figure depicted in several sixteenth-century emblem books as a paragon of rhetorical virtuosity, capable of drawing a crowd of people towards him by a golden chain attached to his tongue ( Paraphrasing Lucian, George Puttenham (d. 1590) describes a portrait of Hercules "with a long chayne tyed by one end at his tong, by the other end at the peoples eares, who stood a farre of and seemed to be drawen to him by the force of that chayne fastned to his tong, as who would say, by force of his perswasions." (52) Arthur's "well guided speach" draws Una in a similar fashion, and Spenser's characters tend to use similarly aurea catena-like rhetorical figures in passages concerning the nature of cosmic or social bonds or the conciliatory interlacement of opposites. In his description of the mutual yielding of victory between Cambell and Triamond (4.4.36), the account of Love and Hate bound together by Concord (4.10.32), and the intertwined triad of book 6's Graces ( postures create what Edgar Wind has called a "dialectic" that moves from concord to opposition and finally to "concord in opposition"--Spenser makes use of devices that enchain: synathrismus (the stringing together of related terms), anaphora (the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or lines), and epanalepsis (the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning and the end of a line or stanza). (53) Yet, since Spenser's demonic masters of persuasion such as Despair and Phaedria use similar rhetorical figures to devastating effect, The Faerie Queene demonstrates that the adamantis catenis of eloquent persuasion can be as dangerous as it is salutary, capable of exacerbating spiritual conflict and confounding the reason as well as soothing and edifying the hearer.

For Spenser, the greatest threat posed by Night's misconstrual of the golden chain is the melancholy fatalism which, according to both Quitslund and McCabe, she shares with Duessa, Sansjoy, and Despair. (54) Her belief in a "fatal chain" that binds the will in turn fuels a hopelessness that discourages both the active pursuit of virtue and the avowal of personal responsibility for sin. The Homeric origins of Night shed light on Spenser's use of her as a cautionary emblem for the dangers of such spiritual indifference. In addition to Hesiod's (fl. ca. 720-700 BCE) Theogony, where Night is the mother of "hateful Doom and black Fate and Death," of "Sleep and the tribe of Dreams," and of Woe, Blame, Deceit, and Strife, Spenser also models his goddess upon Night's appearance in Iliad 14, where "sweet Sleep"--implored by Hera to seduce Zeus into oblivion so that she might deceive him--recounts how she was once rescued by Night, a goddess so powerful that even Zeus himself fears her wrath. (55) Like Despair, who tempts Redcrosse into spiritual apathy with his offer of "[s]leepe after toyle, port after stormie seas" (, Spenser's Night and her kin expose as spiritually hazardous the tranquility that arises out of resignation, a line of argument that recapitulates the "fit false dreame" ( that the ersatz Una delivers to the Redcrosse Knight, in which she curses the "hard avenging destinie" of a "blind God" as an arbitrary tyrant who judges "my life or death indifferently" (, 4, 8-9). When Duessa, Night's granddaughter, descends to Hades to persuade AEsculapius to cure Sansjoy, her arguments prey upon his similarly mistaken belief that, already "[e]mprisoned ... in chaines remedilesse" ( and forever "in the powre of everlasting Night," AEsculapius "canst not hope for thing" (, 5) and might as well compound his former sins by lending his aid. AEsculapius would have been wise to remember that, in Hesiod's account of her genealogy, Night is the mother of the Destinies (Moiras) and the Fates (Keras) but also of Strife (Eris), a role assumed by Duessa in Spenser's revision of Hesiodic mythology and one that gives the lie to her promise of the calmness of mind supposedly produced by a resignation to fate.

Quitslund has observed that in "nearly all cases, the oblivion of sleep is dangerous" in The Faerie Queene. (56) Particularly in books 1 and 2, Spenser's concern that sleep is spiritually deadening is shaped by his interpretation of an episode in book 14 of the Iliad, in which Hera's trick to lull her husband to sleep exacerbates rather than assuages both marital and cosmic discord. Hera enlists Sleep, Night, and the cestus of Aphrodite--that discord-provoking girdle which makes an appearance in book 4 of The Faerie Queene--to entice Zeus into a postcoital stupor in order to distract him from her intended aim of rekindling the conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans. The sound or sweet sleep so often associated in Homeric epic with tranquility and mental release in fact produces the opposite effect when manipulated by Hera. Spenser is assiduous throughout book 1 in warning his readers of the strife-producing capabilities of sleep and torpor, from the dream through which Archimago stirs up discord between Redcrosse and Una under the pretense of "banish[ing] Care ... / Who oft is wont to trouble gentle Sleepe" ( to the allurements of the "eternall rest / And happie ease" offered by Despair ( Even as contemporary mythographers routinely gloss Homer's representation of sleep as "the giver of ease & quiet, & the mittigater and allaier of great and heavie labors," Spenser's faith in the moral and spiritual value of labor and adversity complicates his ability to endorse the Homeric epithets--"sweet sleep" ("nedymos hypnos"), "honey-hearted sleep" ("meliphron hypnos")--commonly invoked by his more villainous characters. (57) The "restlesse house of Care" ( may indeed disrupt sound sleep, as it certainly does for Scudamour in Book 4, canto 5, but carefree ease poses a much greater spiritual threat for Spenser than a bad night's rest, which is precisely what Scudamour himself concludes when, privy to the "second paradise" ( of happy lovers and easy friendships outside the Temple of Venus, he comforts himself in the knowledge that "[m]uch dearer be the things, which come through hard distresse" (

The first two books of The Faerie Queene repeatedly test their heroes by presenting them with a choice between ease and adversity or between tranquility and strife. The lessons taught by Belphoebe and the Palmer, or those learned by the Redcrosse Knight during his visits to Despair and Heavenly Contemplation, all reveal the correct choice to be the turbulent and "loathsome life" dismissed by Despair's orotund rhetoric as consisting of nothing but "[f]eare, sicknesse, age, losse, labour, sorrow, strife" (, 9). Yet the hortatory and often concatenatory rhetoric of characters such as Archimago, Despair, and Sansloy tempts Spenser's heroes with ominous fantasies of retreat, resignation, and the "carelesse Quiet" ( of sleep and death, presenting these twinned experiences as an opportunity for liberation from the "repining strife" that, in the words of Sansloy, permits us to pass "[i]n peace ... over Lethe lake" ( One of Spenser's most protracted and complex imitations of Homeric epic (albeit via Statius and Ovid [43 BCE-17 CE]), Archimago's descent to the house of Morpheus in the opening canto of book 1 directs its energies towards a skeptical and admonitory deconstruction of Penelope's opposition between the grief (penthos) of her waking hours and the relief she finds in "sweet sleep." (58) Changing Homer's twin gates of horn and ivory, the opaque and translucent filters for true and false dreams, to silver and ivory, Spenser's House of Sleep muddies the distinction between true and false dreams as well as between the turmoil of waking life and the restful escape afforded by sleep. Tossing and turning in a nightmare, Spenser's Morpheus is awakened only by a vigorous shake from Archimago, and despite his efforts to create a restful ambience with a "trickling streame," the soothing sound of "ever-drizling raine" (, and other sleep aids, Morpheus sleeps fitfully, "tost with troubled sights and fancies weake" ( The "murmuring winde" designed to "lulle him in his slumber soft" instead emits an annoying buzz that Spenser compares to "swarming Bees" ( The noisy agitation of these creatures suggests the unsatisfactory and fleeting nature of Morpheus's repose and also symbolizes the "idle thoughts and fantasies" ( represented in similar fashion by the flies which buzz around Phantastes' chamber at Depicting Mars in his postcoital slumber, Sandro Botticelli (1444/5-1536) paints a halo of bees (or wasps) around the head of the war god to suggest that his belligerence is only momentarily dormant. (59) Spenser's House of Sleep stages a similar scene, casting Morpheus as a dormant Mars so as to demonstrate that, far from constituting a "walled towne" cut off from the labors, concerns, and "troublous cryes" ( of waking life, sleep is a sieve which admits the very same forces of discord and guile that haunt Redcrosse by day, thus illustrating the porous, mutually constitutive relationship between strife and tranquility later taught to Redcrosse by Heavenly Contemplation.

Despite his efforts to point out that sleep, ease, and a fatalistic resignation to destiny do not deliver the tranquility they promise, Spenser is less concerned to lay down the true means of arriving at such tranquility than he is to expose as spiritually hazardous the blanket condemnation of strife issued by Night and her brood. The second malevolent invocation of the golden chain in book 1 of The Faerie Queene reveals Spenser's alarm at another possible interpretation of the metaphor, one which overemphasizes the chain's associations with stasis and immobility. Despair echoes Night's misuse of the golden chain when he calls into doubt the Redcrosse Knight's ability to "strive with strong necessitie, / That holds the world in his still chaunging state, / Or shunne the death ordayned by destinie" ( By contrast to Zeus's golden chain in Iliad 8, which embodies theomachia (war among the gods) and cosmic strife, Despair lobbies for cosmic fixity by means of a chain that links but also binds the "still-changing" cosmos, thus endorsing a natural philosophy that complements and supports his ethical defense of a life of pleasure and peaceful ease--precisely the kind of life that Arthur describes having followed and then rejected at the beginning of canto 9. Despair's most eloquent piece of verse, "Sleepe after toyle, port after stormie seas, / Ease after warre, death after life does greatly please," calls the Redcrosse Knight away from his Iliadic quest and towards the Odyssean, anti-epic model of homeward wandering in which he finds himself periodically entangled--almost always to ill effect--from his initial stumble into the wandering wood to his misdirected desire to "in peace remaine" in the New Jerusalem and take the "streight way on that last long voyage fare" ( Despair's refrain of sleep after toil is repeated by various inhabitants of book 2's Bower of Bliss. Each time it resurfaces, the sentiment grows more perilously close to a capsule summary of Homer's Odyssey as glossed by many late antique and Renaissance commentators, who regard the work as a quasi-Stoic, quasi-Christian counterepic or nostos that valorizes the pleasures of sleep, ease, and above all a return to the hero's Ithacan home, understood allegorically as the seat of celestial rest. (60)


Spenser configures his imitation of Homeric episodes and themes in books 1 and 2 of The Faerie Queene as a series of choices between competing Homeric values. In choosing between strife and tranquility, between toil and ease, between rivalry and cooperation, and between fame and obscurity, Spenser's heroes are obliged to sift through the moral landscape of Homeric epic and to separate values that are worth emulating from those that are not. As it develops throughout book 2, Spenser's mythography of strife reveals his complex and vexed engagement not only with the Odyssey--long acknowledged as a source, via Virgil and Tasso, for several key episodes--but also with the Iliad. Together and separately, the two poems inform book 2's allegorical landscape, a landscape which alternates between the devaluation and the overvaluation of the ethical and social uses of conflict. Particularly in the middle cantos of book 2, Guyon must negotiate between, on the one hand, the total repudiation of "[d]ebatefull strife" ( he encounters in Phaedria's bower and, on the other, the excessively eristic behavior exhibited by Philotime's courtiers and the (similarly vain) travail of Mammon's laborers. Spenser reaches a tentative compromise between these two extremes in "Stryfull Atin" (, the "light-foot Page" ( who, though he "breathe[s] strife and troublous enmitie" ( into Pyrochles and wreaks havoc by stirring "[c]oles of contention" ( also serves more constructive uses, rescuing Cymochles from his torpor and pricking various characters, Guyon included, with "spurs of shame and wrong" ( His soft step a nod to Homer's Eris--whose "head is fixed in the heavens while her feet tread on earth" (61)--Spenser's Atin also shares the neutrality and impartiality of his Homeric predecessor. Introducing himself as a servant to Pyrochles "in wrong and right" (, Atin reminds us that he is an instrument capable of being used wisely as well as rashly, a figure able to rouse virtue-seeking affections such as righteous indignation and shame as well as the less ennobling forms of irascible passion.

Like Atin and Philotime, Mammon's association with strife is expressed by way of his kinship with various Homeric deities of discord. In the Garden of Proserpina, which Guyon visits with Mammon in book 2, canto 7, the "famous golden Apple" thrown by "false Ate" ( and "For which th'Idaean ladies disagreed, / Till partiall Paris dempt it Venus dew" ( grows in the same orchard with fruit that produces (or symbolizes) concord--the apples of the Hesperides and the apples that Hippomenes and Acontius use, respectively, to woo Atalanta and Cydippe. Guyon's suspicion that Mammon's offer of money will yield nothing but "[s]trife, and debate" ( is confirmed by the figures flanking the gates of Pluto's kingdom, "infernall Payne" and "tumultuous Strife" (21.5-6), a pair whose complex literary genealogy turns Guyon's Nekyia into a tour of the history of the strife-epos itself. (62) As opposed to the inhabitants of the Bower of Bliss, who challenge Guyon's belief in the moral utility of trial and try to undermine his ability to reconcile temperance and virtuous strife, Mammon applies his skills as a virtuoso forger to counterfeit the values articulated in Belphoebe's earlier defense of toil. By contrast to the "darke obscuritee" and "oblivion" ( which buries those who pursue a life of ease, those who embrace "painfull toile" ( are rewarded, according to Belphoebe, with both earthly and heavenly honor: "Before her gate high God did sweat ordaine" ( Mammon's cave simulates this godly toil right down to the beads of sweat on its workers' foreheads. It is only when we finally penetrate the darkest recesses of Pluto's Dis that we fully appreciate the difference between the toil valorized by Belphoebe and the "labour vaine" ( of Pilate and Tantalus, which latter "vainely swinke[s]" ( for an apple he cannot reach in a scene that sums up, with almost parodic literalness, the fruitless toil epitomized by Mammon's cave.

Yet Guyon's task of distinguishing between wholesome and unwholesome strife in the middle cantos of book 2 is complicated by the fact that both the torpid ease induced by the Bower of Bliss and the sweaty toil valorized by Mammon's forge hide their perniciousness by masquerading as both the complement and the antidote to each other. The "swinke" and "sweat" of Mammon's Hephaestian laborers tempt Guyon by promising to counterbalance the artificial harmony of Phaedria's venal pleasures, and vice versa. By appearing as though they might have a tempering effect upon each other, both locations appeal to Guyon's quest for moderation and, both together and separately, they simulate Spenser's own master trope of concordia discors by pretending to reconcile the moral, aesthetic, and cosmic polarities--ugliness and beauty, labor and ease--symbolized by the mismatched couple of Vulcan and Venus ( Unlike Tasso's Armida, whose garden appeals to Rinaldo by promising, according to A. Bartlett Giamatti, to "soothe conflict and care," the Bower of Bliss is artfully designed so as to exert maximum appeal to a hero who, while "demure and temperate," is also "sterne and terrible" and inclined towards earnest competition: "Well could he turney and in lists debate" (, 7). (63) The first clue that the Bower of Bliss is designed to prey upon Guyon's love of wholesome strife is the rivalry it precipitates between art and nature. The arbor in canto 5 shows "art striving to compaire / With nature" (, a motif expanded through the "painted flowers" and the similar paragone in canto 12, which disguise themselves as models of virtuous emulation: "So striving each th'other to undermine, / Each did the others worke more beautifie" ( The pretense of a morally productive zelos in the Bower's landscape provides a fitting backdrop for the pagan deities worshipped there: "Olympicke Jove" and his son Hercules "whenas hee / Gaynd in Nemea goodly victoree" (, 5), both portrayed as successful contestants of an agon. Framed by a "sweet consort" of birds who produce a "chearefull harmonie," Jove and Hercules appeal to Guyon's conviction in the morally upright contestation already validated by Belphoebe's defense of toil as well as by the agonistic nature of Guyon's own temperance ( In this respect, the Bower of Bliss continues the work of Archimago, who though he appears to be Spenser's patron saint of discord in fact hampers the eristic inclinations of his adversaries, plotting to draw book 2's virtuous knights from "pursuit of praise and fame" by tempting them to "slug in slouth and sensuall delights" (

Quitslund observes that the "artfully contrived harmony of the elements, especially fire and water, is part of the fascination exercised by Acrasia in her Bower of Bliss." (64) By portraying harmony as natural and strife as the product of a human artifice which threatens the eirenic instincts of unadulterated nature, the Bower attempts to validate the former over the latter by enforcing a strict dichotomy between nature and art and between concord and discord. But these distinctions have already been challenged by Medina, whose oxymoronic condemnation of the "monstrous warre" of love, whose "peace is but continuall jarre" (, 8), and her equally oxymoronic praise of the "[b]rave ... warres" (31.5) of concord give the lie to the Bower's too-simple antithesis between harmony and strife (

Nature is neither as harmonious nor as certain a guide as it pretends to be in the Bower, a fact reflected in the errant meandering of Phaedria's pilotless boat, which, though it "both from rocks and flats it selfe could wisely save" (, does not protect its inhabitant from the extremities of immoderate mirth and uncontrollable laughter. Her name derived from the Greek phaidros (joyous, bright, jocund), Phaedria's inability to stem her "laughter vaine" ( even when "her breth was gone" ( is a peculiarly Greek (and, quite possibly, specifically Homeric) affliction to sixteenth-century eyes, evoking as it does the "unquenchable laughter" of the Olympian gods towards Hephaestus as well as the excessive giddiness of the Odyssey's suitors, whose indecorous mirth is made all the more grotesque by Pallas Athena in book 20 when she arouses in them an "unquenchable laughter" that fills their eyes with tears and bloodies their lips. (65) Her vulnerability to excessive mirth distinguishes Spenser's Phaedria from Homer's Phaeacians, the tranquil, pleasure-seeking civilization whose gardens and palaces are allegorized as an Epicurean locus amoenus by many Renaissance readers. Yet while she fails to fulfill Alcinous's maxim that "due measure is best in all things," Phaedria imitates (or at least attempts to imitate) the Phaeacians' reliance on nature as both an ethical and navigational guide, since they use "no pilots [kyberneteres] nor steering oars ... but understand the thoughts and minds of men [noemata kai phrenas andron]." (66) But Phaedria's boat is guided by neither natural law nor right reason; instead, it is impelled by a different sort of pneuma (air), the unruly wind so often often associated by Spenser with emotional turmoil, "stormy enmitie" (, or elemental strife. (67) Far from appeasing the "stormie wind / Of malice" ( with her feminine charms, Phaedria epitomizes elemental and humoral turbulence. Even her laughter, an immoderate and "scoffing" ( laughter, suggests internal conflict rather than harmony, particularly since sixteenth-century physiological theories of laughter often attribute it to the mixture of two contrary emotions which, in turn, yield alternating contractions and dilations of the diaphragm. The sixteenth-century French writer Laurent Joubert defines laughter as the "contrariety or battle of two feelings," usually joy and sadness or, in Phaedria's case, delight and scorn, a turbulent and conflicting temperament that reflects the ceaseless agitation inside her Aeolian breast. (68)

The Bower not only disguises discord as concord but also creates a false dichotomy between harmony and strife that lures its victims into the erroneous conviction that they must choose between the two. Like Phaedria's and Acrasia's promptings to "chuse" between "present pleasures" and "fruitlesse toile" (, Hercules' presence in the Bower sends to Guyon and Cymochles the misleading message that they stand at an analogous crossroads and must choose one over the other. Yet for Spenser, perhaps taking his cue from Marsilio Ficino's or Giordano Bruno's interpretations of the Judgment of Paris, the right choice is not to choose but instead to reconcile pleasure and heroic action, an argument further refined in the proem to book 4. Interpreting the Judgment in his 1585 Heroic Frenzies, Bruno argues that the only "correct" choice amongst the three goddesses is none (or all)--precisely the answer at which Redcrosse and Guyon are supposed to arrive when they are prompted by their adversaries to choose between action and contemplation or between virtue and pleasure. (69)

The Bower complicates the choice it urges, however, by creating the illusion that it embodies a healthy synthesis between harmonious pleasure and virtuous strife, a false promise of reconciliation nowhere more apparent than in that most seductively erotic agon staged by the Bower. This is the the competition of ladies who "strove ... to aggrate" ( Cymochles by staging a beauty contest in which each participant peels off her garments, boasting of her superior daintiness as she "all for tryall strips" ( It is presumably these same lovelies who "contend, / And wrestle wantonly" ( for Guyon's benefit in the final canto, appealing to his modesty as well as to his belief in the spiritual and moral utility of trial--a trial often represented in the Old and New Testaments as a wrestling match, from the agon of Job and Jacob wrestling with the angel to Satan's temptation of Christ. Yet the scriptures, the writings of church fathers such as Tertullian and Clement, and Elizabethan treatises on sport such as Mulcaster's Positions all attack wrestling as a particularly unseemly, un-Christian form of contestation, an attack implicit in Spenser's depiction of the wrestling maidens, whose vain contention mirrors that of Rachel's "excelle[n]t wrastlings" with her sister Leah, condemned in a marginal note of the Geneva Bible. (70)

When he returns to the Bower in canto 12, Guyon finds a pseudo-Odyssean landscape which abounds with warnings designed to help him reject the vain strife epitomized by book 2's exemplars of excessive passion in favor of the wholesome, righteous antagonism necessary to resist and destroy the Bower. Reaching the quicksand of Unthriftyhed, Guyon and the Palmer spy a merchant ship stuck in the mire, and "neither toyle nor travell" ( prove effective in extricating the vessel. The quicksand moralizes vain contention in a manner similar to the ill-fated Clarion in Spenser's Muiopotmos, who, when "entangled" in the net of Aragnoll, the malicious offspring of the hyper-agonistic Arachne, "strugled long ... but all in vaine. / For striving more, the more in laces strong / Himselfe he tide." (71) As Spenser's revision of Scylla--the creature who, as Homer's Circe advises Odysseus, "is not to be fought with" and whom Francis Bacon allegorizes as a symbol of "contentious learning" and "monstrous altercations" (72)--the quicksand implicitly criticizes Guyon's love of trial just as Homer's Circe chastises Odysseus's eagerness in combating Scylla by warning him that his heart is "set on the labor of war and toil." (73) Guyon's adversarial nature and his love of trial further link him to his Homeric model, since both Odysseus's metron (moderation) and Guyon's temperance are put to the test in the arena of experience. In this respect, Guyon confirms his status as an open-eared Odysseus figure, one capable of discerning between the Odyssey's wholesome values and its tempting but dangerous ones. In deviating from the common Renaissance misconception that Odysseus stopped his own ears as well as those of his crew while sailing by the Sirens, Spenser also reaffirms the virtue of "long experiment" ( as Guyon navigates the morally conflictive Homeric landscape of book 2. (74)

Homer's Circe does not intend for Odysseus to conclude from his experience with Scylla that one must, or even can, avoid all contention and adversity; instead, she teaches him to moderate, rather than eliminate, his impulse toward strife. By contrast, the inhabitants of Acrasia's bower demonize strife and trial--Spenser's Sirens are punished for striving with the muses, while their song moralizes that punishment by inviting Guyon to abandon his own "paine and wearisome turmoyle" ( Moreover, the absence of seasonal change in the Bower of Bliss offers a stark contrast to Homer's Circe, whose four handmaidens are often allegorized by sixteenth-century mythographies as symbols of the elements or the seasons, the dynamic and conflictive forces of nature which Circe brings into agreement by what Bruno terms a "secret harmony." (75) Abraham Fraunce explains that Circe's name denotes "mingling and tempering," while her handmaidens represent the elements that "must needs be tempered" by Circe through a process of "commixtion and composition." (76) In other words, Circe enacts and maintains the balance of opposites fundamental to the Empedoclean cosmos, a role assumed not by Acrasia--an anti-Circe whose name (derived from either akratos or akrates) means "badly mixed" or "incontinent"--but by Spenser's Palmer when, in a scene closely reminiscent of Hephaestus's entrapment of Aphrodite and Ares, he ensnares Acrasia and Verdant in his net. In so doing, the Palmer mends the rift created in the Bower between the oppositional yet complementary forces of Love and Strife, as the union of Aphrodite and Ares is often allegorized. In so doing, the Palmer helps Guyon to reassert the virtue of agon as both an ethical principle and a cosmic force. (77)

Although Despair and Acrasia lure Redcrosse and Guyon by appealing to the homely and harmonious life privileged (at least according to many of its Renaissance readers) by the Odyssey, the Odyssean topos of the homeward sea voyage, allegorized as the pilgrimage of the Christian soul, does, of course, enjoy more benevolent applications in the first two books of The Faerie Queene, particularly in the final lines of book 1, which imagine their readers as "jolly Mariners" who, having arrived at a "quiet rode," will discharge some of their passengers before continuing on the "long voyage" (, 8). But unlike the Odyssey, which achieves closure by allowing its hero to return home and enjoy the fruits of peace--Athena descends in the final lines of the poem to persuade the princes of Ithaca to "stop the strife of war, common to all" (78)--The Faerie Queene does not allow for a similarly peaceful resolution.

This is not simply because Spenser's poem is unfinished, but rather because The Faerie Queene repeatedly highlights the perils of extracting spiritual or narrative pleasure out of the sense of an ending. When the heroes of books 1 and 2 detect the promise of resolution, they are either forced "[b]acke to the world" (, as in the case of the "blessed end" ( glimpsed by Redcrosse in his fleeting vision of the New Jerusalem, or their perception of finality is as illusory as the nonexistent Telamond of book 4, a condition neatly summed up by Spenser's description of Redcrosse's and Una's predicament in Error's labyrinth, "[f]urthest from end then, when they neerest weene" ( The enchantresses and sirens of book 2 prey upon the Odyssean yearning for telos (ending; resolution) that Spenser, in contradistinction to Homer, refuses to satisfy in Guyon, either tempting their victim with extraordinary hospitality or otherwise alluring him with the promise of rest: "This is the Port of rest from troublous toyle," sing Spenser's sirens, "The worlds sweet In[n], from paine and wearisome turmoyle" ( Natale Comes explains that Homer's Sirens lure their victims by flattering their "deeds of arms," a ruse which entraps "ambitious leaders and those covetous of glory," but Spenser's sirens do precisely the opposite, perhaps because Guyon is not as vulnerable to Iliadic philotimia as he is to the contrary, Odyssean urge to reject philotimia in favor of the tranquility of the nostos. (79) When they finally arrive at Acrasia's bower, the Palmer puzzlingly tells Guyon that "here the end of all our travell is" ( But Guyon knows better: the choice faced by Odysseus--to remain on Circe's isle or return home to the smoke of Ithaca--is not open to him, nor is the option to make "lenger sojourne and abode" ( in the castle of Alma upon his departure from the Bower. If book 2 moves forward through both Homeric epics, its focus on the Achillean passions of wrath and philoneikia (love of strife) in the opening cantos giving way to an exploration of the Odyssean attraction and resistance to concupiscence in the latter half of the book, the opening lines of book 3 leave the heroes of the previous book permanently stranded somewhere in the middle books of the Odyssey, enduring still "more triall" and "travell long" (, 8) before reaching their New Ithaca.


Spenser's "correct" version of the golden chain is, of course, the "Goodly golden chaine" of the invocation to book 1, canto 9. The image celebrates neither divine Providence nor the correspondence between celestial and terrestrial worlds (as the passage is often interpreted), but rather the concatenation of virtue and, by extension, the triumph of cooperative over competitive values that Spenser identifies as the essence of true chivalry:

  O Goodly golden chaine, wherewith yfere
  The vertues linked are in lovely wize:
  And noble minds of yore allyed were,
  In brave poursuit of chevalrous emprize,
  That none did others safety despize,
  Nor aid envy to him, in need that stands,
  But friendly each did others prayse devize (1.9.1, 1-7)

As a device that connects not God and man but one knight to another, this golden chain should be read in the context of the argument to canto 9, which recounts how the "knights knit friendly bands" (1.9.argument) and thus put an end to the contention and envy which fuel feats of chivalric virtue elsewhere in The Faerie Queene. While on one level of Spenser's text Arthur appears to be the chief link in the chain uniting Spenser's titular virtues--inasmuch as each of their narratives is interlaced with his own--the Redcrosse Knight possesses a similar binding power, his role as the allegorical instantiation of faith confirming the idea (found in Clement's Stromateis, among other places) that all the virtues are connected to each other through faith. (80) It is Archimago's chief goal to destroy this chain of virtues: when he spies Redcrosse at the beginning of book 2, he plots to "stirre up enmitye / Of such, as vertues like mote unto him allye" (, thus dividing faith from temperance until their connection is reaffirmed by the arrival of the squadrons of "blessed Angels" ( who come to Guyon's assistance at the beginning of book 2, canto 8.

As if to underscore his careful revision of Homer's golden chain from a vision of internecine strife among the Olympian gods into a metaphor for social concord, Spenser unites Arthur and Redcrosse through a quintessentially Homeric scene of gift-giving. When the two knights exchange "goodly gifts" and join hands "fast friendship for to bynd" (, 8), they participate in but also emend a typically Homeric vehicle for social bonding. As Upton observes in a passage cited in the Variorum, "Our knights do not part without mutual presents, and this is agreeable to Homer: Diomed and Glaucus, Ajax and Hector, part not without gifts, though engaged in different interests." (81) Inasmuch as it both imitates and revises this Homeric topos, the exchange of gifts between Arthur and Redcrosse endorses cooperative values such as friendship and charity--values that Spenser labors to uphold throughout The Faerie Queene by distinguishing them from the contrasting impulses of rivalry and love of honor that govern the actions of the Homeric heroes upon whom Arthur's and Redcrosse's behavior is partially modeled. Both of the Homeric gift-exchanges mentioned by Upton--Diomedes' disingenuous gesture of friendship designed to persuade Glaucus to swap his own golden armor for the bronze weapons of his Greek adversary, and the subsequent exchange of arms between Hector and Ajax (82)--end badly according to the moralized interpretation of the two weapons exchanges popularized by Desiderius Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536) in his adage Hostium Munera non Munera ("The Gifts of Enemies are No Gifts"). According to Erasmus, both Hector and Ajax come "to grief thorugh the gift he had received," inasmuch as their objects of exchange produce, rather than allay, violence and discord. (83) Even though the exchange between Hector and Ajax is initially imagined by Homer as a means to soothe the "soul-devouring strife" between enemies, the tokens of friendship exchanged in the Iliad often become echthistos--hostile gifts that confirm Erasmus's adage and its later adaptations in sixteenth-century works such as Alciati's Emblemata, whose emblem In Dona Hostium depicts two ancient soldiers trading weapons. (84) Yet the objects exchanged between Arthur and the Redcrosse Knight do not backfire against their recipients, instead reconciling the two knights as well as their respective virtues of magnificence (or magnanimity) and faith. (85)

Interpreted in the context of the Homeric gift exchange between Arthur and Redcrosse, the golden chain of book 1, canto 9 participates in Spenser's larger effort to critique the limitations and failures of Homeric hospitality and gift-giving as a means to cement social bonds. Gifts should strengthen, not erode, the bonds of philia, and the golden chain that symbolizes those bonds should cultivate mutual trust and reciprocity rather than competition, rivalry, and mutual betrayal, a distinction that proves difficult to maintain in Spenser's combative, competitive world of "chevalrous emprize."

Spenser's scenes of gift-giving and their related expressions of hospitality often turn against the Homeric sources on which they are based, alerting the reader to Homer's overemphasis on the virtues of being a good host and a polite guest, qualities prized in the Odyssey yet repudiated by Guyon, the quasi-Odyssean protagonist of book 2. One of the lessons stressed in the legend of temperance is the importance of detecting and resisting the false gestures of hospitality offered by Mammon and the inhabitants of the Bower of Bliss, who adhere almost slavishly to the Homeric decorum of guest-host relations but whose gifts, like the weapons exchanged between Hector and Ajax, prove that the gifts of enemies are no gifts. In the Cave of Mammon, Guyon refuses to accept "[t]hing offred, till I know it well be got" (, turning down Mammon's offers of money, his daughter's hand in marriage, and an apple resembling the one tossed by "false Ate" at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the event which began the Trojan War. Guyon's refusal to accept Mammon's seemingly generous gestures helps to cast the money god as a Cyclops figure, particularly since sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century allegorists, following Eustathius (d. ca. 1194), commonly gloss the one-eyed giant as a symbol of "a fatal and pernicious courtesy" because the only gift he offers to Odysseus upon his arrival is the pledge that he will eat him last. (86)

Mammon also offers Guyon two quintessentially Homeric gifts of discord that disrupt, rather than cement, the bonds of philia: the apple tossed by "false Ate"--an allusion to the fruit tossed by Eris at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis--and a "silver stoole / To rest thy wearie person" ( (87) James Nohrnberg has speculated that the stool is an allusion to the magic chair--recalled memorably in Horace's Diffugere nives (Odes 4.7)--with which Hades traps Theseus and Pirithous, or to Iliad 14.239-42, where Hera, in her ruse to put Zeus to sleep, promises Sleep a "fair throne" and a "stool for the feet, on which you may rest your shining feet." (88) Yet Spenser may also have in mind another Homeric stool, this one explicitly silver. In Iliad 18, Charis welcomes "silver-footed Thetis" to Hephaestus's cave and displays the "hospitality" (xeinia) that befits her name by offering Achilles' mother a silver-studded chair and stool on which to rest while the god of the forge toils away at her son's shield. Particularly given Mammon's Hephaestian nature, the correspondence between the two silver stools is persuasive, even as it is also deceptive from Guyon's perspective, since he must discern whether the stool is a genuine offer of hospitality (as it is in Iliad 18) or a perilously lotus-like narcotic that induces oblivion (as it does in Iliad 14 and in Horace). Since no Charis attends upon Mammon--Spenser's money God is surely not inclined towards giving away his goods for free--the silver stool instead represents the disingenuous hospitality that abounds in Mammon's cave, a false charis redeemed by "th'exceeding grace / Of highest God" ( bestowed upon Guyon at the beginning of the following canto in order to rouse him from the lethean stupor into which he slips after emerging from Hades.

The episode indicts and corrects the Homeric ethos of philoxenia, the hospitality that, in contradistinction to Spenser's assessment of divine grace--which is granted "all for love, and nothing for reward" ( instead motivated by enlightened self-interest: gifts are given so that gifts will be received. But it also depicts Guyon's trial in the cave of Mammon as the hermeneutic dilemma faced by all Renaissance readers of Homer: whether to follow selectively or to abstain wholly from the virtuous precepts and behaviors upheld by Homeric epic. Despite the "impeccable politeness" detected in him by Werner Jaeger, Homer's Odysseus does not, of course, accept every gift offered to him, humbly refusing Calypso's offer of immortality in favor of "great suffering and toil" and the aging wife who awaits him in Ithaca. (89) Although Plato's account of the choice of lots in Book 10 of the Republic praises Odysseus's choice as a means of honoring his "former toils" ("proteron ponon") and rejecting philotimia in favor of the "life of an ordinary citizen who minded his own business," Guyon's refusals of the gifts proffered by his Homeric hosts does not simply duplicate Odysseus's rejection of immortality and fame in favor of mediocritas. (90) Because Guyon's temperance rests upon a love of "highest praise" ( and "honour vertues meed" (, Spenser's hero is strangely more vulnerable to philotimia and to the corresponding Homeric ethical sanctions of fame and shame than is his Homeric model, a fact evident in Guyon's awkward interaction with Shamefastnesse in the castle of Alma.

Guyon's strained analogical relationship to Odysseus also helps to define his temperance in terms of his reluctance to indebt himself to strangers, an indebtedness whose ethical pitfalls are explained by Arthur after he rescues Guyon from Pyrochles in canto 8. Declaring himself eternally bound to Arthur, Guyon is chastised by his fellow knight for misconstruing the golden chain of chivalric friendship as an endorsement of the tit-for-tat mentality similar to that which later binds Paridell and Blandamour (albeit temporarily) in book 4. Arthur asks Guyon "what need / Good turnes be counted, as a servile bond, / To bind their doers, to receive their meede?" ( Yet twice more in the Bower of Bliss Guyon is tested for his continued vulnerability to the Homeric custom of cementing reciprocal bonds between guest and host by means of gift exchanges. In both instances, Guyon passes the test by deviating from the politesse that defines Odysseus's behavior in similar circumstances: first he spurns Genius's "idle curtesie" ( by dashing his bowl of wine violently to the ground and then similarly rebuffs Excesse, overturning her cup of nectar despite its purported show of hospitality: "It was her guise, all Straungers goodly so to greet" ( Unlike Odysseus, who is able to partake safely of the contents of Circe's cup by protecting himself with Hermes' moly--an herb alternately interpreted by the allegorists as a symbol of temperance or of right reason--Guyon has no compunction about offending his hosts, instead using the Palmer's rod--Spenser's rendition of Hermes' rhabdomancy by means of the Caduceus--to beat them off.

By demonstrating that the decorum governing Odysseus's behavior does not apply to Guyon, Spenser prevents his readers from confusing the virtue of temperance with the superficial veneer of good manners. In doing so, book 2 does not so much excoriate Homeric philoxenia but rather alerts us to the cultural specificity of this Homeric value by following the lines of John Harington's 1591 argument that what was once "commendable in [Homer] to write in that age, the times being changed, would be thought otherwise now." (91) Spenser's deviation from the Odyssean canons of decorum not only preserves the historically specific meanings that accrue to both moderation and hospitality in the Odyssey, but it also preempts criticism of Guyon's destruction of the Bower of Bliss, an act which, much like Odysseus's slaughter of the suitors in Odyssey 22, is often misconstrued as excessively violent. As he tears down Acrasia's palace with "rigour pitilesse," Guyon does not so much abandon pietas for furor as he arrives at a brand of temperance akin to righteous indignation, or Nemesis: the goddess of distributive justice often associated with temperantia (temperance) by sixteenth-century emblem books. (92) While Nemesis moderates emotional excess and evens out cosmic or social imbalances, she accomplishes this moderation by dynamic, proactive, and often violent means, effecting what Simone Weil terms a "geometrically stringent chastisement" that "spontaneously punishes" its victims out of a sometimes uncontrollable sense of indignation. (93) In Homeric epic, nemesis manifests itself not as a goddess (such as Rhamnusia or Adrasteia) but rather as the spectrum of emotions comprised by the verb nemesao, a term used frequently to describe indignation or shame at someone else's bad fortune or evil actions, or a feeling of displeasure or shame at one's own actions. In brief, nemesao neatly circumscribes Guyon's emotional range: shamefastness, yearning for praise, and an indignation distinct from the wrath of Pyrochles, the excessive scorn of Disdaine, and the "foolish pitty" ( against which the Palmer cautions Guyon in the final canto of book 2.

But Spenser must be careful to distance Guyon's rigor from the ire of Pyrochles or Huddibras--book 2's answers to Achilles and Ajax--whose wrath is kindled by a rabble of Homeric deities including Atin, Furor, and the "fell Erinnys" (pl. Erinyes) whose "hellish brond" ( rouses the "strifull" ( minds of Medina's sisters and their suitors. Charles Lemmi has pointed out that Spenser deviates from the usual Homeric conception of the Erinyes as "ministers of retribution," which is how Phoenix invokes them (alongside Ate) in book 9 of the Iliad. Instead, Spenser invokes these furies as "spirits of discord or furious anger," externalizations of human passion and not instruments for carrying out a divinely ordained curse. (94) Given the complex anatomy of the irascible passions laid out in the first half of book 2, Spenser is compelled to do so in order to distinguish between the apparent excess of Guyon's measured, impartial feelings of nemesis and the passionate excess of the enemies he combats. Unlike anger, nemesis is both neutral and neutralizing: in his Homeric Allegories, the first-century CE allegorist Heraclitus of Ponticus depicts Nemesis as an umpire who adjudicates the balance of war, a force or pattern of cosmic retribution which allows the victor to become the vanquished and vice versa. Such power is demonstrated by the common Homeric epithet for the god of war, xynos Enyalios ("Alike [or just] to all is the warlike Ares"), as well as by the related term alloprosallos, which literally means "first on this side and then on that side." (95) His pity banished and his passions in check, Guyon assumes this role in the final stanzas of the book's final canto, playing referee in the tug-of-war that takes place across book 2's chain of passions.

If book 2 displaces the Odyssean values of hospitality in favor of the distributive justice exemplified by Nemesis, Spenser's revision of the gift exchange between Arthur and the Redcrosse Knight displaces the Homeric values that accrue to gift-giving and generosity in order to drive home their structural and functional difference from the Christian ideal of charis (Grace). Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-ca. 215) interprets Glaucus's offer of golden weapons in exchange for brass at Iliad 6.236 as an allegory of divine Grace--a gift for which there is no adequate recompense. (96) Both Arthur's gift to Redcrosse, a diamond-encrusted box containing a liquor of "wondrous worth, and vertue excellent" (, and Redcrosse's gift to Arthur, a copy of the New Testament which is a "worke of wondrous grace, and able soules to save" (, are symbols of divine Grace. As such, neither gift really belongs to either knight to give away, since, as Spenser is keen to remind us in the invocation to book 1, canto 10, whatever virtue or skill we possess derives from the gratuitous gift of God's Grace. As symbols of Grace whose bestowal is both without merit and incapable of reciprocation, the gifts exchanged by Arthur and Redcrosse complicate the Homeric ethos that gift-giving creates reciprocal bonds of philia by establishing debts that can be paid back in turn.

Interpreted in this context, one other sequence of weapons exchanges in The Faerie Queene--Calidore's downsizing from "steelehead speare" to "shepheards hooke" (, his subsequent decision to carry a concealed weapon while still dressed in "shepherds weeds" (, and his ultimate abandonment of his "sword of meanest sort" ( in favor of a "sword of better say" ( at the end of canto 11--confounds the Homeric motif of gift-exchange in several different ways. At first glance, Calidore's initial exchange of sword for shepherd's hook looks like a simple reversal of epic values for pastoral and Christian ones in which the brazen sword accrues greater worth than the golden one. Unlike Homer's Glaucus, who is tricked into swapping his weapon for a less valuable model, Calidore willingly swaps his epic instrument for a pastoral one, an exchange which Spenser represents not as foolish but rather as the visible sign of Calidore's courtesy and piety. (97) The lesson that courtesy resides in the gratuitous giving away of prizes and marks of honor is thrice repeated in the cantos that follow: first Calidore hands over to Coridon the "flowry garlond" ( given to him by Pastorella, and he then repeats the gesture with the "oaken crowne" given to him by "due right" ( for beating Coridon in a wrestling match. The nature of Calidore's "courteous inclination" ( is again reiterated in the vision of the three Graces who appear to him in the next canto; as Colin Clout explains, they "teach us, how to each degree and kynde / We should our selves demeane," their intertwined postures suggestive of the ways in which the "complements of curtesie" can nurture the "friendly offices that bynde" (

In order to achieve this delicate balance of humility and courtliness, Calidore, like Guyon, must unlearn the lessons of Homeric epic. When he is greeted by Meliboe with a warm welcome and a hearty supper, Calidore sounds like Odysseus upon his arrival in Phaeacia or Aeolia: he "thank[s] his host and his good wife" ( for their kind offer of "repose" from the "seas of troubles and of toylesome paine" (, 9) through which he has traveled, and he offers Meliboe "recompense" and "reward" ( for his troubles in the form of a cash gift. (98) But Meliboe's hospitality cannot be bought: he refuses the "mucky masse" ( and, with it, Calidore's superficial gesture of courtesy, instead reminding his guest that virtue has no quantifiable exchange value, a lesson repeated, parodically, by the Captain's refusal to sell the priceless Pastorella two cantos later (6.11.11-15). When Calidore decides to "chaunge the manner of his loftie looke" and "doff[s] his bright armes" a few stanzas later, we might be inclined to think that he has embraced Meliboe's model of the vita beata, but his change of costume and demeanor does not necessarily reflect a corresponding shift of internal values (

This is particularly apparent in the wrestling match between Calidore and Coridon at the end of canto 9. While the initial aggressor is Coridon, a seasoned wrestler who is "sure t'avenge his grudge, and worke his foe great shame" (, Calidore shows no compunction about trouncing him and nearly breaking his neck, a humiliation only partly mitigated by Calidore's gift of the victor's garland to his adversary, since it is Calidore who makes away with the real prize, Pastorella. Although his generous gesture wins Calidore favor with the "rusticke rout," Spenser's knight of courtesy does not adhere to the decorum of competition laid out by sixteenth-century courtesy treatises such as Baldassare Castiglione's (1478-1529) Book of the Courtier, which advises that, when competing against inferiors or "men of the countrey," courtiers ought to prove themselves only "for courtesie, not to try maistry with them." (99) Calidore only partly succeeds in realizing the "pastoral evasion" that Whigham defines as a combination of "self-trivialization with the virtuous desert of total humility," and his unwillingness to lose the wrestling match--not exactly a courtly mode of fighting, according to most sixteenth-century discussions of palestra--does not quite fit with the assessement offered by Humphrey Tonkin, who argues that the knight of courtesy "goes out of his way to preserve the shepherds' harmony, even as Coridon disrupts it." (100)

If Calidore cannot fully embrace the pastoral existence that Meliboe defines as a way of life "without debate or bitter strife" (, it is because that life does not, in fact, exist in book 6 of The Faerie Queene. Unlike Tasso's Erminia--whose similar pastoral experiment affords her a glimpse of a world undisturbed by "Mars' raucous call," a place where "arms are not so common" and there is nothing worth stealing by the "marauding privates who love prey" (101)--human relationships in Meliboe's rustic demesne are quite a bit more agonistic, and there are valuable prizes to be won and lost. Striving to match his rival with "strong contention" (, Coridon's hypercompetitive and emulous nature ensures that Calidore remains an ever-ready participant in a gladiatorial arena complete with the fierce tiger he defeats in canto 10. Given the numerous hostilities that beset Calidore during his pastoral interlude, it should come as no surprise that he takes up arms again so easily in the following canto, first procuring for himself a shoddy weapon to rescue Pastorella, and then trading up for a better model to complete the job and reclaim the damsel as his "victors meed" ( Playing Diomedes to his own Glaucus, Calidore departs with a justifiably skeptical attitude towards the humble tranquility advocated by the shepherd who falls victim to a band of thieves, an event which--like Spenser's earlier, ominous comparison between Calidore and the Trojan shepherd Paris at the "time the golden apple was unto him brought" ( the "inevitability of strife as an agent in the advancement of mankind." (102) Although Stanley Stewart argues that the comparison between Calidore and Paris is intended to highlight the opposition between them, since "Paris exchanges his shepherd's weeds for a warrior's armor [and] Spenser's version reverses the procedure," Calidore's second exchange of weapons challenges the view that the knight of courtesy ever really "rejects the claims of epic" while in his shepherd's disguise. (103) Instead, it reveals how Diomedean prudence and Odyssean metis are necessary even in Arcadia, sending him back to the world of epos with a renewed faith in the ethical and social value of strife.


At first glance, the golden chain described in book 1, canto 9 appears to repudiate the spirit of rivalry and strife that shapes the social and cosmic superstructures of its Homeric source. Yet a mere ten stanzas after Spenser introduces the Homeric conceit of a chain linking the two knights and their respective virtues in a palpably un-Homeric bond of envy-free friendship and mutual praise, Arthur confesses his own youthful predilection towards contention, relating how he once scorned the "idle name of love, and lovers life" and instead "joyd to stirre up strife" ( While Arthur's contentious spirit is soothed, to a degree, by Gloriana's nighttime visitation--a dream which produces the opposite effect of the one that arouses Agamemnon's thymos (heart; seat of anger) and provokes him into military action at the beginning of book 2 of the Iliad--the remainder of book 1, canto 9 corrects and delimits the Redcrosse Knight's similar struggle to cast off what he perceives to be an excessive love of contention. In the cave of Despair Redcrosse demonstrates himself to be perilously vulnerable to the faulty logic that, like Arthur, he too will repent and transcend "[a]ll those great battels, which thou boasts to win, / Through strife, and bloud-shed, and avengement" ( In what is perhaps his most difficult set of trials in book 1, Redcrosse must resist the tempting fantasy, aroused first by Despair and then again by his interaction with Heavenly Contemplation, that the perpetuation of his virtue depends upon relinquishing a life of strife and martial conflict in favor of tranquil contemplation. As if to underscore the potentially confusing similarity between a virtuous impulse towards harmony and the impious desire to enjoy what Despair falsely advertises as "eternall rest / And happie ease" (, Heavenly Contemplation reiterates in bono the arguments of his demonic counterpart in the previous canto, prompting Redcrosse into yet another fit of contemptu mundi by instructing him that, once he has won his "famous victorie" (, the knight must "wash thy hands from guilt of bloudy field: / For bloud can nought but sin, & wars but sorrowes yield" (

The Redcrosse Knight's understandable reluctance to turn back to the fruitless joys of the world after receiving his command from Heavenly Contemplation makes for a rather bittersweet victory over the dragon, one which mirrors Spenser's own, equally half-hearted acceptance of the "unfitter taske" of writing epic as he reluctantly trades in his "Oaten reeds" for "trumpets sterne" in the proem to book 1. One of the commendatory verses to The Faerie Queene, written by "W. I.," grants an explicitly Homeric origin to Spenser's initial unwillingness to enter into the world of heroic poetry. Like Achilles, who disguises himself in "womans weedes" in the hope that he might "by sleight the fatall warres to scape"--a ruse which works only until Odysseus discovers it and shames him into joining the Greek forces--Spenser had to be coaxed by Sidney into the role of epic poet. Just as Odysseus

  brought faire Thetis sonne
  From his retyred life to menage armes:
  So Spencer was by Sidneys speaches wonne,
  To blaze her fame not fearing future harmes. (104)

Yet unlike Achilles--who must choose between saving his hide by returning home or remaining and pursuing a heroic death in war that will earn him a kleos (glory) he would otherwise forfeit--Spenser's heroic task earns him fame without the accompanying threat of bodily harm.

Throughout book 1 Spenser represents his decision to follow the poetic cursus laid out in Donatus's cancelled opening lines of Virgil's Aeneid as a choice fraught with the trade-offs and perils also faced by Homer's Achilles, who casts off his female disguise for armor with similar reluctance. By depicting his transformation from pastoral to epic poet not as the positive evolution traced by the Virgilian rota (career path) but as the sincere dilemma of choosing between a long, serene, but obscure life and a brief life marred by conflict but memorialized by fame, Spenser aligns the vexations of his own poetic career with a series of Homeric episodes that concern the difficulty of choosing between strife, fame, and immortality on the one hand and the tranquil pleasures of rustic obscurity on the other. At times it looks as though Spenser will choose the antiheroic, homeward route of Odysseus, the "long wandring Greeke, / That for his love refused deitie" (, but more frequently, Spenser labors to demonstrate that the choice faced by Achilles does not apply to his own process of composing an epic romance, a mixed genre which does not oblige either its heroes or its author to choose between strife and love or between martial conflict and pastoral ease ( In the proem to book 1 Spenser invokes a triple muse to illustrate how The Faerie Queene will reconcile the love and strife, or the tranquility and heroic fame, which are mutually exclusive for Homer's Achilles. Invoking Venus, the disarmed Cupid, and "triumphant Mart, / In loves and gentle jollities arrayd, / After his murdrous spoiles and bloudy rage allayd" (1.Proem.2.6-8), Spenser represents himself as inspired not by an epic muse but by a postepic muse. Like a Mars recuperating from his battles in Venus's arms, Spenser's muse enjoys the renown gained from former triumphs but basks in an enervating serenity that (disturbingly) resembles the lethargy of Cymochles and Verdant, figures each cast as a disarmed Mars to Acrasia's Venus (;

By invoking Mars, Venus, and Cupid as his poetic trinity, Spenser draws upon the commonplace interpretation of the union of the two gods, a myth first recounted by the bard Demodocus in book 8 of the Odyssey and glossed by classical and late antique allegorists as evidence of the Homeric foundations of an Empedoclean natural philosophy grounded upon the oppositional yet complementary forces of love and strife. As Pseudo-Plutarch explains in his Essay on the Life and Poetry of Homer, a work available to Spenser in several Latin translations, Empedocles (ca. 492-432 BCE) posits a cosmos governed by the unifying and separating powers of Philia and Neikos in which the elements "come together into one through love / and at another are polarized by the hostility of strife." These forces, Pseudo-Plutarch's Essay explains, are represented respectively by Aphrodite and Ares: "she has the same force as what Empedocles calls 'love' and Ares, what the philosopher calls 'strife.' This is why they sometimes come together and are sometimes separated." (105) Pseudo-Plutarch's assertion that Homer invented the Empedoclean doctrine of "love and strife" is echoed in a number of testimonials and fragments that comprise the extant writings of the pre-Socratic philosopher. (106) Diogenes Laertius recounts how Zeno called Empedocles "Homeric" in his diction and style, while Stobaeus finds Empedoclean doctrines cryptically expressed in several episodes from Homeric epic, including Hera's deception of Zeus in Iliad 14, Demodocus's song about the union of Ares and Aphrodite in Odyssey 8, and the battle among the Olympian gods in Iliad 20. (107)

An anecdote about Empedocles which appears both in Hierocles' commentary on the Pythagorean Carmen Aureum and in Proclus's Commentary on Plato's Republic confirms his debt to Homer. According to the anecdote, Empedocles curses Strife in the manner of Achilles, lamenting how mortals have fallen from a "happy place" and, exiled from the realm of the gods, have come to trust too much in "mad strife" and "wander in darkness in the meadow of Ate." (108) Elizabethan scholars and mythographers also approve the connection between Homer and Empedocles, often by interpreting the golden chain in terms of Empedoclean cosmology. Stephen Batman (d. 1584) notes that Concordia is often represented "like a comlye Matrone holdynge a Chayne," while Richard Linche explains that the marital strife between Hera and Zeus, which reaches a climax when Zeus dangles his wife from Olympus by a chain, symbolizes the "distemperature and strugling contention of the elements." (109) While Spenser may not have been directly familiar with the writings of Empedocles--Henri Estienne (1531-98) brought out an edition of the Fragmenta in 1573, though the likelier source for Spenser's knowledge of Empedoclean philosophy is book 8 of Diogenes Laertius's De Vita et Moribus Philosophorum, available in several sixteenth-century Latin translations--Spenser's muse in the proem to book 1 effects a distinctly Empedoclean synthesis between love and strife. (110) Like the union between Ares and Aphrodite as parsed by the Homeric allegorists, the discordia concors of Spenser's muse yields Harmony, the offspring of love and strife who possesses, and reconciles, the characteristics of each. (111)

With its capacity to synthesize the oaten reeds of love with the stern trumpets of strife, the muse of the proem produces a union of opposites by a binding power similar to the chains or nets employed by Vulcan to trap--but also, on an allegorical level, to unite--Mars and Venus. Unlike the pseudo-Virgilian epigraph regularly printed at the beginning of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century editions of The Aeneid--which announces the poet's turn to epic by proclaiming that it is now the time for the horrors of Mars (112)--Spenser's postepic muse announces that the time for war has already past, and that it is now time for the "jollity" and serenity enjoyed by Mars after his military triumphs. As Anne Lake Prescott has argued, Spenser's literary career reveals his recognition that the Virgilian rota was "not the only way to invent a generic wheel." Moreover, the "generic backsliding" discerned by Prescott towards the end of that career also informs Spenser's depictions of his muse in The Faerie Queene, where one finds a similar set of "affiliations and tensions between epic and Eros, fierce wars and faithful loves." (113) In his famously ambivalent invocation at the beginning of book 1, canto 11, Spenser imagines his muse as animated by a similar spirit of discordia concors--but this time, the muse is a pre-epic muse who proclaims that the time for war has not yet arrived. Beseeching his muse to "gently come into my feeble brest," Spenser declares his desire to temper his heroic wrath and postpone its full expression until a later date:

  Come gently, but not with that mighty rage,
  Wherewith the martiall troupes thou doest infest,
  And harts of great Heroes doest enrage,
  That nought their kindled courage may aswage,
  Soone as thy dreadfull trompe begins to sownd (

Reserving the "furious fit" of his epic muse "[t]ill I of warres and bloudy Mars do sing" ( event which presumably would have taken place in the twenty-fourth and final book planned for The Faerie Queene--Spenser banishes the thymos-rousing trumpet associated throughout Homer's Iliad with both Ares, the god of war, and his sister Eris, the goddess of strife. (114) At the beginning of Iliad 11, Eris utters a "shrill cry [mega ... orthi] of war, and in the heart of each Achaean she roused strength to war and to ceaseless battle [polemizein ede machesthai]. And to them at once war became sweeter [polemos glykion genet] than to return in their hollow ships to their dear native land [philen es patrida gaian]." (115) If Homer's Eris helps to clarify the choice between a heroic death in battle and an ignoble homeward retreat--the choice that Spenser himself faces according to "W. I."'s commendatory verse--Spenser's invocation delays and questions the urgency of making such a choice, instead seeking out a via media, a "second tenor" that both moderates and reserves his more "haughtie string" (

Spenser's plea for a muse gentler than the one imagined as necessary to the poem's final, spectacular battle scene is often interpreted as an instance of his antiwar sentiment, one which captures the poet in a moment of self-doubt about his epic project and the ethical dilemmas which it entails. (116) However, like the epic convention of the "non-encounter" between two adversaries--such as the combat between Aeneas and Achilles that is cut short by a blinding mist sent from Zeus--Spenser's "second tenor" is designed not to banish the warring spirit of epic but rather to perfect it. Many critics have remarked that Spenser's invocation alludes to the discussion of music in book 3 of The Republic, in which Plato distinguishes among the Phrygian, Dorian, Lydian, and Ionian modes of music and notes the various situations and affective states for which each is appropriate. By depicting his muse as inspired by Dorian, rather than Phrygian, melodies, Spenser reveals his understanding that it was not the warlike Phrygian mode but, rather, the somewhat softer Dorian mode that was commonly regarded by the ancients as fittest for soldiers entering battle. (117) In his Lycurgus, Plutarch describes the Spartans as great warriors who march to calm music, while Philostratus explains how the Laecedemonians, the most "warlike" of all the Greeks, enter battle not by sounding trumpets or horns but rather "a sweet harmony of flutes," a melody that renders them "more settled and moderate." (118) In keeping with the principle that military valor is best kindled by the touches of sweet harmony, Spenser tempers the more turbulent aspects of his muse not to prevent or discourage martial conflict but rather better to inspire it, a task fitter for the softer strains of the Dorian poet than the "mighty rage" of the Phrygian one.

While the invocation to book 1, canto 11 has been interpreted as evidence of The Faerie Queene's Virgilian (and counter-Homeric) design in that it anticipates the turn from Odyssean romance to the heights of Iliadic epic made by the Aeneid, Spenser's invocation also makes the appeal that epic poetry participates in a concordant discord between two competing modes--a union of Venus and Mars, so to speak, in which the poet's "second tenor" calms and tempers heroic wrath. Unlike Cuddie in the Shepheardes Calendar, who debates whether he should stash away his "Oten reedes" in order to "sing of bloody Mars, of wars, of giusts," Spenser's final invocation in book 1 demonstrates how Cuddie's "slender pipes" might in fact be fit instruments to accompany an epic subject. (119) Moreover, in his oscillation from a postepic to a pre-epic muse, Spenser deviates both from the Virgilian poetic cursus that posits epic as the apex and endpoint of a poetic career and from the Orphic model as analyzed by Patrick Cheney, in which, according to Spenser's own account of the Greek hymnist in book 4 of The Faerie Queene, the poet's "silver Harpe" defuses "strife" and knits friendship between the victims of "wicked discord" (, 7-9). Adhering neither to an Orphic, counterepic model nor to Donatus's Virgilian model, which imagines heroic poetry as a bourne from which no poet returns, Spenser's poetic career instead conforms to a Homeric model, one in which the counterepic genres of hymn and mock epic--genres in which Homer was believed to have written after, not before, the composition of his two epics--neither precede nor displace heroic poetry, but rather follow and critique it. (120)

Spenser's invocations to his muse in book 1 present two of his many configurations of the union of Venus and Mars that serve as iconographic shorthand for one of the poem's dominant poetic, moral, political, and cosmic principles: the coincidentia oppositorum of love and strife. As might be expected, this motif dominates in books 3 and 4, in which various dyads--Venus and Diana, Amoret and Belphoebe, Concord and Ate, Love and Hate--act out the oppositional-yet-complementary relationship between the building blocks of an Empedoclean-Platonic natural philosophy regarded as derived from Homeric epic by many of Homer's allegorists. At times, the forces of love and strife manifest themselves as internal tensions within a single character, such as Cupid, the god of love who is also the "enimy of peace, and author of all strife" (, or Britomart, whose combination of "manly terrour" and "amiable grace" ( marks her both as a Venus victrix and as a descendant of Athena, the goddess who favors peace yet sports a shield adorned with images of Phobos, Eris, Alke, and Ioke--terror, strife, valor, and assault. (121) At other times, Spenser's adaptation of the Homeric-Empedoclean interplay between Philia and Eris manifests itself in the cosmic principles of self-contrariety that animate locales such as the Garden of Adonis and the Temple of Venus, both of which refract upon the emblematic landscape of The Faerie Queene the concordia discors sought by the poet's Martial-Venerean muse.

In his recent study of Spenser's debts to Platonic natural philosophy, Quitslund likewise discerns The Faerie Queene's frequent recourse to the Empedoclean doctrine that cosmic order depends upon two antipathetic but equally necessary forces, the firm grasp of love and the divisive power of strife. But Quitslund regards Spenser's Empedoclean impulses as demanding a rather reluctant acceptance of the latter of these forces, remarking that while Spenser "devalues strife" and does not "glorify heroic striving per se," he is nonetheless "obliged to admit that [strife] is intrinsic to the dynamics of its antithesis, love." (122) Such a reading perpetuates Aristotle's misconstrual of Empedoclean doctrine in both the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics, both of which draw a false and artificial contrast between Heraclitus (fl. ca. 500 BCE) and Empedocles. According to Aristotle, the former posits that opposites attract, that "all things are produced through strife," and that Love will never triumph over the equally generative power of Eris; the latter posits a kind of elemental apocalypse in which opposites will repel each other and the forces of philia will emerge victorious. (123) While it is entirely possible that this is Spenser's received understanding of Empedocles--and there are certainly a number of places in The Faerie Queene which appear to yearn for or to anticipate Aristotle's rendition of the Empedoclean triumph of love--it does not necessarily follow that the architectonics of Spenser's cosmos has "little use ... for striving" (as Quitslund suggests) until that final moment arrives. On the contrary, whenever the forces of philia in The Faerie Queene threaten wholly to dominate the forces of strife--as they do in the Bower of Bliss--we are right to be alarmed that such a triumph inhibits creative energy and virtuous action.

Indeed, one of the poem's most persuasive advocates of the priority of love over strife is Phaedria. While Spenser's Idle Lake is clearly built up from details of Tasso's Asphalt Lake, Virgil's Cocytus, and the biblical Dead Sea, Phaedria's tranquility, her detachment from obligation, her capriciousness, and perhaps also her name, all reveal her kinship with the Odyssey's Phaeacians, the people with whom Odysseus enjoys an innocuously restful stay but whose philosophy of Epicurean tranquility is exposed as pernicious by Spenser's revision of the Homeric episode. (124) Much like Homer's Phaeacia, which enjoys eternal spring and whose queen, Arete, "settles quarrels" with her "good understanding," Phaedria cultivates an oasis of pleasurable calm. But Spenser's version of Phaeacia lacks the healthy ethos of rivalry and active virtue instilled by the athletic competitions that take place at the palace of Homer's Alcinous. (125) Intervening in the conflict between Cymochles and Guyon, Phaedria persuades them to put off their "[d]ebatefull strife, and cruell enmitie" in favor of "lovely peace, and gentle amitie" (, 3). Phaedria makes her case by appealing to the union of Venus and Mars, the very myth recounted by Demodocus in book 8 of the Odyssey: "Mars is Cupidoes frend, / And is for Venus loves renowmed more, / Then all his wars and spoiles, the which he did of yore" ( Yet the lesson that Phaedria extracts from the myth deviates sharply from the meanings commonly attributed by the allegorists to Homer's version of the account. While Heraclitus of Ponticus's Homeric Allegories, to cite but one example, interprets Demodocus's song as an allegory of the antipathetic, Empedoclean cosmic forces of Philia and Neikos, Phaedria errs by banishing strife--and Guyon--completely from her realm rather than establish the happy coexistence of love and strife necessary for the preservation and perpetuation of the cosmos as according to both Heraclitus and Empedocles. (126) So while Homer's Demodocus follows his description of the enchaining of Ares and Aphrodite with a stirring account of Odysseus's heroics during the fall of Troy, Phaedria's claim that "Mars is Cupidoes frend" effects a divorce, rather than a marriage, between the forces of love and strife, one which reflects her own inability to tolerate the "terrour and unquiet jarre" of those guests, such as Guyon, who delight in "armes and cruell warre" (, 8).

Taking its cue from Virgil's Carthage and the garden of Armida in Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, Phaedria's Idle Lake offers up a heuristic interpretation of Homer's account of Alcinous's kingdom that is critical of the Epicurean leanings discerned in the Odyssey's locus amoenus. It is unclear, however, whether Spenser's incarnation of Phaedria is dangerous because she deviates from the philosophical outlook of Homer's Phaeacia or because she duplicates it. Eustathius and Pseudo-Plutarch both argue that Homer was an advocate of the Epicurean ataraxia practiced by the Phaeacians, while Heraclitus's Homeric Allegories argues that Epicurus stole his philosophy of pleasure from this episode in the Odyssey. Paraphrasing Eustathius, the early seventeenth-century French author of a commentary on the Odyssey calls the Phaeacians "lax and unused to war, because they were brought up in soft pleasures." (127) Such a reading certainly fits with Phaedria's intolerance for martial conflict and verbal debate, which "her sweet peace and pleasures did annoy" (

The perception that Homer was a closet Epicurean, also supported by Achilles' oft-quoted condemnation of strife--"May strife [eris] perish from among gods and men" (128)--is difficult to reconcile with the contrary, but equally common, belief that Homer espoused and gave birth to an Empedoclean philosophy of strife, an argument that often rests upon the claim, commonly attributed to Homer by sixteenth-century writers, that "he who curses contention blames nature." (129) The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus assails Homer for being "wrong when he said, 'Would that Conflict [Eris] might vanish from among gods and men!' For there would be no attunement [harmonia] without high and low notes nor any animals without male and female, both of which are opposites." (130) In spite of Heraclitus's perception that Homer's condemnation of strife contradicts his own natural philosophy, a number of classical and Renaissance writers detect enormous sympathies between Homer and Heraclitus--as well as between Homer and Empedocles--by virtue of their shared defense of strife as an essential and productive cosmic force. Explaining the philosophical doctrine that all things in the universe are "tempered and conserved by contraries," the late sixteenth-century French writer Louis Leroy compares Heraclitus's doctrine that "war and peace are the father and mother of all things" to Homer's observation that "he who curses contention blames nature." (131) That nature includes and even depends upon discord is a central cosmological principle of The Faerie Queene, a text in which every authentic locus amoenus, far from being free of strife, must accommodate and make peace with its own discordant aspects. The Garden of Adonis suffers seasonal change, decay, and death, the Temple of Venus must cope with the persistent, if controlled, presence of Hate, and Spenser's Dame Nature must grant Mutability her day in court and then concede to her enormous power over the sublunary world.


In book 4 of The Faerie Queene Ate and Concord are the protagonists in Spenser's Empedoclean dance of opposites. While Spenser's goddess of strife in no way intends to cooperate with her creator's master plan to achieve the "stedfast rest" anticipated by the final stanza of the "Mutability Cantos," Ate does participate in a creative act of disunion when she tries to "divide" the bonds which "Concord hath together tide" ( Although Spenser does not celebrate Ate's delight in disorder, he does guarantee (and also limit) her influence by making her an unknowing contributor to the paradoxical process by which union is forged out of disunion and concord out of discord.

In "Colin Clouts Come Home Againe" (1595), Spenser offers another account of how orderly nature is produced out of elemental strife. In it, Colin describes how the four elements, though "great enemies," are "drawne together into one, / And taught in such accordance to agree" until "they wexed friends, / And gan by litle learne to love each other." (132) Such a process is duplicated by book 4's Temple of Venus as well as by the emulous affection between Cambell and Triamond. Like the push and pull of Ate's contrarious hands, book 4's heroes are yoked together through rivalry, creating a tug-of-war along the golden chain of concord which cements both social and cosmic bonds. In canto 10 Scudamour finally learns that true friendship resides in twin "spirits kindling zealous fire," entwined by their mutual aspiration towards "[b]rave thoughts and noble deedes" ( But Spenser urges this synthesis of the mutually animating affections of philia and zelos much earlier in book 4. Condemning Braggadochio's refusal to do battle in a contest that offers Ate as second prize, Spenser's narrator remarks that "in base mind nor friendship dwels nor enmity" (, suggesting that the bands of amicitia are tied not only by friendship but also by the controlled and productive "enmity" of rivalry.

As his name suggests, Cambell is the spokesperson for decorous contestation in book 4. (133) When a group of knights and ladies provokes Braggadochio in canto 4, he tells them that they "doe wrong / To stirre up strife, when most us needeth rest" ( for the Tournament of Maidenhead, but when the time comes, "who so list to fight, may fight his fill" (6), a deferral reminiscent of Spenser's own postponement of the "furious fit" of his epic muse. When Cambell later assumes Triamond's armor so as to "purchase honour in his friends behalve" (, he must subsequently be rescued by Triamond, who is dressed, in turn, like Cambell. The scene culminates in a preposterous staging of Alciati's emblem Concordia Insuperabilis, whose motto, "One can do nothing, two can do much," is based on Diomedes' observation at Iliad 10.221 that "when two go together ... profit may be had; alone, if one perceives [noese] anything, his perception is less sharp, and his cunning [metis] weaker." (134) After Cambell and Triamond manage doublehandedly to fight off a hundred knights, the audience issues the unanimous verdict that the two knights have both won the field, a fitting conclusion, yet, puzzlingly, one that satisfies neither of them. When the prize is awarded to both men,

  Triamond to Cambell it relest.
  And Cambell it to Triamond transferd;
  Each labouring t'advance the others gest,
  And make his praise before his owne preferd:
  So that the doome was to another day differd (

While a tie might appear the perfect solution to a competition instigated by Spenser's divine and human agents of discord, neither knight of friendship is content with an even draw. Instead, they begin competing against each other in a contest where victory is guaranteed only by ceding it and honor gained by paying it to one's competitor. Cambell and Triamond's mutual refusal of victory certainly supplies a corrective to the vainglorious Braggadochio's earlier refusal to fight in a tournament whose stakes include the dubious prize of Spenser's goddess of strife herself. Yet the friends' refusal to accept their shared reward also challenges the Erasmian adages that "friendship is equality" (amicitia aequalitas) and that "friends hold all things in common" (amicorum communia omnia), sentiments which many critics detect at the heart of Spenser's theory of friendship.

Instead, this battle whose "doome" is deferred is one of a number of places in book 4 where characters bond through conflict, a motif that conforms to the Homeric concept of homoiios polemos (the likeness, or the harmony, of war). An epithet used repeatedly in both the Iliad and the Odyssey to denote the equalizing, joining, or assimilatory effects of war or strife, the phrase is glossed at length in Nicolaus Prustus's 1594 Homeri Epitheta--an encyclopedia of Homeric epithets--under the heading "Bellum." (135) Citing the phrase from Odyssey 18.264, where Eurymachus discusses with Penelope the still-uncertain fate of Odysseus, concluding that he may have perished in the "great strife of equal war," Prustus explains that when Homer describes war as homoiios, he does not mean that war is "evil, serious, difficult" but rather means "a fight which because of the similitude and equality of warlike exploits on both sides, ends with uncertainty." (136) In the marginal notes of his copy of Eustathius, the early seventeenth-century scholar Isaac Casaubon marks a similar phrase in Iliad 4, where Eris is described as creating "neikos homoiion," literally, "harmony-in-strife." Casaubon crossreferences this phrase with a similar image in Iliad 13.358-59, where Zeus and Poseidon, intervening on opposing sides of the Trojan war, are described as "knotting the ends of the cords of mighty strife and equal war," thus pulling the two sets of adversaries together in a tight knot that "none might break or undo." (137) It is not clear whether the chains and knots that bind adversaries in the Iliad's depictions of battle are, in fact, the same chains with which Zeus suspends Hera or threatens to suspend the rest of the Olympian gods. Yet Spenser seems to regard them as made of the same stuff, for his own spectrum of concatenatory imagery enacts the full range of definitions that accrues to the term stasis, from the agitation of Philotime's chain of ambition, to the stagnation of Night's fatalism, and to the friendly harmony cultivated between Arthur and the Redcrosse Knight.

That Homer often describes war as homoiios does not necessarily suggest that war (in the Iliad or the Odyssey) is always, or even often, a means of establishing harmony or similarity. Since homoiios also means "shared, or common," the phrase often conveys the idea that war is an evil distributed evenly among all mortals by the impartial influence of Nemesis or of Zeus's scales. The concept of homoiios polemos can also describe how the balanced conflict achieved between well-matched factions (or through the intervention of well-matched deities) produces an inextricable stasis (knot) such as the "doubtfull ballance" that hangs over the weary heads of Cambell and Triamond, an impasse only resolved by the intervention of Cambina ( Homer's last use of the phrase neikos homoiiou polemoio appears a mere five lines before the end of the Odyssey, in a passage perhaps familiar to Spenser from Ausonius's interpretation of it in his Periochae Homeri Iliadis et Odyssiae. In the passage, Athena descends from the heavens and directs Odysseus to "stop the strife of war, common to all," at which point the warring factions swear an oath and both the fighting and the Odyssey end. (138) Yet Spenser's subtle handling in book 4 of the Homeric concept of homoiios polemos launches a more optimistic interpretation of the concept by yoking it to the concordia discors produced by the union of oppositional forces such as Love and Hate, brothers "of contrarie natures to each other" ( who are suspended in equipoise by Concord, who "them forced hand to joyne in hand" ( (139)

Though perhaps most directly indebted to Giovanni Boccaccio's (1313-75) Teseida, Spenser's Temple of Concord is also the manifestation of the poet's commitment to an allegorical epic model associated with Empedoclean and Platonic cosmology and mediated, in large part, by classical and late antique allegorical interpretations of Homer's and Hesiod's theogonies of strife, in which eris is almost invariably seen as "older" but also as giving birth to philia (love). (140) Spenser's understanding of these ideas was no doubt influenced by his reading of medieval philosophers such as Alain de Lille (d. 1202), whose Complaint of Nature argues that "Love is peace joined with hatred," or Boethius, whose Lady Philosophy describes how Concordia holds the "striving seeds" (pugnantia semina) of matter in balance with the assistance of natural law and of Amor. (141) Whether or not his account of the binding of Love and Hate is indebted directly to Estienne's edition of Empedocles' fragments, Spenser's Temple of Venus demonstrates both parts of the "double tale" told in Empedocles' account of the "cosmic process," a process in which the elements "come together by love into one" but are also separated by the "hostility of strife," which holds them asunder (dicha). (142)

Spenser's Temple of Venus also duplicates the ambivalence and uncertainty of Empedocles' vision of the triumph of Love in which--although philotes, or love, strives to gather everything into Oneness--much remains "unmixed" on account of "strife," the force that holds some elements "suspended aloft." (143) Such antagonism is manifested in Hate's "despight" ( for Concord and Love, yet Spenser subverts Hate's lack of cooperation by demonstrating how his contempt for the "lovely band" ( with which Concord restrains him nonetheless makes him a reluctant participant in cosmic harmony. As he "turn[s] his face away" from the rest of the party, Hate inadvertently recreates that master Spenserian trope of tripartite concordia discors, namely the three Graces, two of whom, according to E. K.'s own gloss on the subject in The Shepheardes Calendar, turn towards the viewer while the third turns "fromwarde." (144) The tug-of-war that results is both Homeric and Empedoclean in spirit, and it recapitulates the oppositional Homeric dyads--Ares and Aphrodite, Achilles' twofold fate--whose tensions help generate the twinned, dynamic quality of Spenser's own forward-and-fromward muse.

Book 4 posits a more vexed relationship between war (polemos) and the making of a truce or oath (horkos) than that represented in Athena's closing lines of the Odyssey, an episode which, along with Aristophanes' Eirene and the various reworkings of its Pax ex machina by Ronsard and other sixteenth-century French poets, undoubtedly influenced Spenser's depiction of Cambina's Athena-like descent from the heavens in canto 3. Far from putting an end to the strife of common war, the oaths sworn by characters in book 4 perpetuate strife, an idea Spenser may have got from Hesiod's Theogony, which identifies Horkos as a personified child of Eris--alongside quarrels (neikia), lies (pseudeas), verbal disputes (logous amphillogias), lawlessness (dysnomia), and ruin (Ate)--because he "troubles men upon earth when anyone willfully swears a false oath." (145) While Spenser would presumably have heeded Paul's godly advice in Hebrews that "an oath is an ending of all strife" if it is a sincere oath to God, he nonetheless stages the Hesiodic genealogy of strife begetting (and begotten by) oath in the on-again, off-again friendship between Paridell and Blandamour. (146) The two knights swear an oath of friendship in the opening canto--"my selfe will for you fight, / As ye have done for me: the left hand rubs the right" ( proceed to break it in the next, at which point Paridell chastises Blandamour for ignoring the fact that "when we friendship first did sweare, / The covenant was, that every spoyle or pray, / Should equally be shared betwixt us tway" ( Their oath perverts the spirit of cooperation and likeness exemplified by Cambell and Triamond, reducing the concept of homoiios polemos to the equal distribution of the material spoils of war.

When Cambell and Triamond are knit together by Cambina's dose of Nepenthe in the following canto--an episode that permits Spenser to distinguish further between demonic and productive manifestations of Homeric homonoia (harmony; attunement)--they are bound by heart and hand, not by word. As if forewarned by the sad relics of "sworne friends, that did their faith forgoe" ( which decorate the walls of Ate's house, Cambell and Triamond do not stake their friendship upon the tenuous bonds of a horkos. After their Nepenthe-induced reconciliation, Cambell and Triamond do not simply turn away from strife but rather turn away from one form of strife in favor of another, namely emulation. Book 4's paired heroes do not seek concord by shunning competition but by pursuing it towards worthy ends. They form one of a number of emulous partnerships in The Faerie Queene--such as that of Britomart and Artegall, and of Calidore and Coridon--that are bound together through competition. The civilized and civilizing quality of these rivalries is symbolized by the golden chains that govern the interactions among Spenser's characters. Confirming Quitslund's argument that "the connection between elemental discord and discord among (and within) human beings" pervades The Faerie Queene but "remains largely implicit," Spenser's Empedoclean accounts of the cosmos both within book 4 and outside of it mirror the rivalries between Spenser's titular virtues, conflicts eventually resolved into friendships. (147) At the beginning of book 3, Guyon and Britomart engage in a strenuous combat before "reconcilement was betweene them knit, / Through goodly temperance, and affection chaste" (, a resolution which Spenser compares to the ligatures of a "golden chaine of concord" ( That the golden chain binding Guyon to Britomart must be actively forged out of their primal instinct for discord suggests that temperance and chastity, while ultimately reconcilable, must engage in some ethical wrestling before the two virtues achieve full cooperation. This is in part because, concocted out of a mixture of equal parts "terrour" and "grace" (, Britomart's chastity, like that of Belphoebe, whose "two vertues strove to find / The higher place in her Heroick mind" (, consists of two competing aspects that alternately attract and repel each other like half of an elemental tetrad. But unlike Belphoebe, whose well-tempered grace and modesty are resolved into a "perfect complement," Britomart's unstable makeup is not brought into "accordaunce" until she is united with Artegall in book 5, at which point the pair forms a balanced tetrad made up of merciful and rigorous justice and of grace and terror. That her emotional state is so frequently represented in terms of the "confused strife" ( of the elements might explain Britomart's conflicted and bittersweet reaction to the hermaphroditic embrace between Amoret and Scudamour at the end of the 1590 text. As she gazes at them, "halfe envying their blesse" (3.12.46a.6), Britomart reveals her resistance to the poem's narrative and ethical reliance upon the concatenation of virtue. Spenser's text appeals over and over again to the idea that the virtues are "knit together and depend one of another," a moral principle he may have encountered in Pierre de la Primaudaye's (b.ca. 1545) French Academie, which was translated into English one year before the publication of the first three books of The Faerie Queene. (148) Yet Britomart stands apart, at least initially, from the "sweet countervayle" (3.12.47a.1) that interlaces Spenser's other characters or their virtues, each one interlocked or enchained with another so as to balance or compensate for the weakness of their partner.

A similarly Empedoclean structure dominates the initial encounters between Britomart and several other knights, including her future husband. At the beginning of book 4, the armed Britomart is mistaken for Bellona--the traditional companion of Eris, Fama, and Discord in Homer, Virgil, and Boccaccio, respectively--after jousting with a fellow knight over Amoret. After she defeats her competitor, however, their "former strife" is turned into "accord" (4.1.14-15), a fitting prelude to the book in which debates stirred up by Ate are quieted by the forceful bands of Concord. Throughout book 4 in particular, the bonds of friendship are described in terms of chains or links. Though we later learn that they began as adversaries, Cambell and Triamond first appear as "[t]wo knights, that lincked rode in lovely wise" (, echoing Spenser's earlier account of the chain that unites Arthur and Redcrosse in book 1; their respective ladies, Cambina and Canacee, are likewise "linckt in lovely bond" (31.9), the four figures constituting a perfect elemental tetrad yoked together by adamantine chains.

Yet book 4's specimens of discord and self-serving friendship--Paridell and Blandamour, Ate and Duessa--are alarmingly good at falsifying these golden chains of philia. Spenser must thus interrupt his description of the insincere and temporary reconciliation between his two "faire weather" ( friends in order to remind us that "vertue is the band, that bindeth harts most sure" (, an argument indebted not only to Aristotle and Plato but also to Clement of Alexandria's (or La Primaudaye's) conceptual chain of virtue. Nonetheless, one of Spenser's ethical obstacles in book 4 is that, far from simply breaking the golden chain, Ate manipulates it to her advantage. If Spenser's virtues are capable of concatenation, so, too, are his vices, who put on a persuasive show of unity during their orderly procession in Lucifera's palace, in Busirane's masque, and at Duessa's trial, scenes in which the kinship and cooperation among Spenser's villains confirms Du Bartas's observation that Adam's transgression

  'twas a chaine where all the greatest sinnes
  Were one in other linked fast, as Twinnes:
  Ingratitude, pride, treason, gluttonie,
  Too-curious skill-thrift, envie, flatterie,
  Too-light, too-late beliefe. (149)

Similarly, the antimasque of Ben Jonson's 1609 Masque of Queenes is led by Ate, the Homeric personification of ruin or blindness who acts as the chief link in an enchained procession of vices. Half-mocking his own use of the golden chain as a metaphor for concord in earlier masques such as Hymenaei, Jonson explains in a marginal note that the "chayning of these vices" should be staged and understood "as if one lincke produc'd another, and the Dame were borne out of them all." (150) Quitslund observes of book 4's Concord that she "only manages discord, with no hope of eliminating it." (151) This is not simply because book 4 of The Faerie Queene, like Jonson's Masque of Queenes, depicts concord as the product of discord as well as its antagonist, but also because both poets depict Ate as capable of simulating the "inviolable bands" ( wrought by the "blessed hands" ( of concord, forming bonds and chains of conflict that rival and mimic the "faire workmanship" of her adversary (

The power of Spenser's golden chains to harness discordant forces and moral incongruities also gives shape to the moral and narrative structure of The Faerie Queene. Yet the concatenation of virtue is not a foregone conclusion, as Spenser reveals in his discussion of his epic predecessors in the prefatory letter to Raleigh. While two of Spenser's models, Virgil and Ariosto, have "comprised" the "good governour" and the "vertuous man" in one sole hero apiece, Homer and Tasso "dissevered" public and private virtue by representing "the ethical or private man" in Odysseus and Rinaldo and the "Political" man in Agamemnon and Goffredo. (152) Although some of the virtues personified in Spenser's first six books, particularly Justice, appear more public than private, the letter to Raleigh suggests that Spenser planned to take his cue from Homer and Tasso, postponing his Iliadic treatment of public virtue until the latter twelve books of the poem. That public and private virtue might not reside comfortably in the same epic hero informs many of the disputes and conflicts that arise among Spenser's titular virtues; it also explains the eventual alliances and unions achieved between them. Regardless of what he implies in the 1590 dedication, the extant portion of The Faerie Queene shows Spenser negotiating between the two contrary models of epic virtue identified in his prefatory letter, at times depicting the allegiances between, and the interal coherence within, his titular virtues, and at other times highlighting the conflicts between those virtues or the tensions that thrive within the discordant aspects of each. While it is tempting to imagine that the concluding canto of The Faerie Queene would have looked something like the final chorus of one of Mozart's comic operas, with multiple couplings of titular virtues singing in harmony around a united Arthur and Gloriana, the process by which Spenser's titular virtues might achieve such a conclusion is fraught with conflict. This is in large measure because Spenser recognizes the vexed relationship between the means and the ends of particular virtues. The Redcrosse Knight and Artegall must commit acts of bloodshed to uphold faith and justice, while Britomart, Calidore, and Guyon are obliged by their experiences and trials to modify their own understanding of how best to use the virtues they embody. It is also because the strife between (or within) virtues often takes the form of a mutually fortifying emulation. The "striving" between Belphoebe's grace and her modesty "each did other more augment" ( So too do the altercations between Cambell and Triamond, Britomart and Guyon, and Artegall and Britomart; in the latter two instances, Spenser's knight of chastity is aptly cast as an Anteros pitted against two knights intermittently vulnerable to the stirrings of Eros.

The golden chain supplies a master metaphor for the conflicts within and among Spenser's titular virtues as well as for the concatenatory rhetoric capable of alluring both his heroes and his readers to virtue but also of tempting them to vice. The chain also operates as a double motif for narrative control, one which reconciles and soothes the underlying tensions between the competing modes of epic and romance. As a narrative trope, Spenser's golden chain operates on both sides of the generic boundary that The Faerie Queene so persistently tests and complicates. The chain can convey an element of chance associated with the interlocking, episodic narratives of Ariostan romance, but it can also suggest the deliberately and carefully enchained epic structure of multiple unity exemplified (and theorized) by Tasso. Thrown together in the House of Lust in book 4, Amoret and Aemylia each understand their situation as "haplesse" (, governed by apparently random forces beyond their control, but also ordered by those forces in the manner of a chain. Upon hearing Aemylia's tale, so similar to her own, Amoret asks her, "But what are you, whom like unlucky lot / Hath linckt with me in the same chaine attone?"--implying that Spenser's chain might at times constitute a shorthand justification of his own impulse (particulary prevalent in book 4) towards the the narrative variety and multiplicity of Ariostan romance ( In a 1596 work entitled Della Poesia romanzesca, Gioseppe Malatesta defends the Orlando furioso as a poem whose narrative is "well disposed and ordered" by comparing Ariosto's poem to a suspiciously Homeric-sounding catena: "I also think that by virtue of the chain which attaches all human things to each other, it is almost impossible to separate any one of them from the others enough so that it would be, as it were, divided and sundered from them or so that it would have no involvement or mixture with any nearby or contiguous action separate from itself." (153)

Yet while Spenser's narrative conforms to, and defines itself in terms of, Malatesta's Ariostan chain of romance, it also exemplifies the multiple unity of epic as defined by Tasso's Discorsi del Poema Heroico and by contemporary defenders of Tasso's epic. One such writer, Orazio Lombardelli, praises the dilatory yet unified and teleological narrative of Tasso's Gerusalemme by comparing it to a "marvelous chain" capable of reattaching all the apparently disparate actions of the poem. In his 1586 Discorso Intorno a i contrasti che si fanno sopra la Gerusalemme Liberata, Lombardelli writes of Tasso that "all the parts of his poem have been so well knotted and tied together ... his promise to sing of the glorious reconquest, and then to delay it, to put so many blocks in its way, to interrupt it and bring it almost to the point of desperation ... and with so much ... interweaving and correspondence between one part and another that there is never any doubt that every part is important nor such disturbance to the memory that it would fail to reattach quickly one part to another, until finally all the obstacles are eliminated." (154) Even as they also refract the knotty entanglements of episodic romance, the ties, chains, and bonds that give shape to the allegorical landscape of The Faerie Queene appear to gesture towards a similar "interweaving and correspondence," a process in which Arthur plays a starring role. Nohrnberg and Heninger both note that Arthur is Spenser's emblem of "multiple unity," both by virtue of his cameo appearances in all six books of the poem and by virtue of his status as the allegorical instantiation of the poem's drive towards synthesis and resolution. (155) Arthur's unrealized capacity to tie together the poem's various subplots and characters suggests that he may have developed fully into a personification of the goodly golden chain that Spenser invokes in his presence in the opening book. The chain celebrates Arthur's powers of e pluribus unum, and it also exalts his capacity for reconciling the tensions intrinsic to Spenserian epic, in which "brave poursuit," love of strife, and love of honor so often come into conflict with the cooperative values of friendship, loyalty, and the consolation and protection of those in need.



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*This article is part of a larger book project entitled Homer and the Problem of Strife in Renaissance Culture. Thanks are due to Jon Quitslund and my other, still-anonymous reader at Renaissance Quarterly for their incisive and generous criticism.

(1) Spenser, 1992, book 2, canto 10, stanza 3, line 1. All subsequent references to The Faerie Queene are cited parenthetically from this edition. I. O. [John Ogle?], sig. B2r, line 145, calls Spenser the "only Homer living"; on Spenser's inheritance of "Homers soule," see Fitz-Geffrey, sig. B5r.

(2) The 1561 statutes of the Merchant Taylors School, modeled on those of St. Paul's, stipulate the teaching of Homer in the upper forms; while no particular text is dictated in these statutes, a 1611 statute alludes to the preparation of an anthology of Greek texts that includes books 1 through 4 of the Iliad. See Baldwin, 1:417-19; 2:660; on Spenser's Greek studies at Merchant Taylors School and at Cambridge, see Judson, 14, 27, 106-07. For a discussion of the availability of Greek (especially patristic) texts to Spenser and his contemporaries, see Weatherby, 4-8.

(3) On Henry Hutchinson's book inventory, see Fehrenbach and Leedham-Green, 4: 133-39 (PLRE 103). On Spenser's "perfect" Greek, see Bryskett, 21. On Tunstal's gifts to Cambridge University Library, including manuscripts of Eustathius's Commentary on Homer [Kk.6.29] and Johannes Tzetzes' Chiliades [Ee.6.35], see Oates, 1:64-66.

(4) On Harvey's edition of the Iliad, see Stern, 221. Given their availability as well as the religious outlook of the translators, likely candidates for Spenser's Latin Homer include the editions of Henri Estienne and Jean de Sponde.

(5) Elyot, vol. 2, bk. 3, chap. 23, 360, citing Eustathius, 1960, 10.7-10, on Iliad 1, line 1; Harington, 198. On Spenser's use of classical dictionaries and lexicons, especially Charles Estienne's Dictionarium Historicum, Geographicum, & Poeticum and Thomas Cooper's Thesaurus, see Starnes, 62-97, 108-09.

(6) Quitslund, 162-63; see also Heninger, 160-63.

(7) Kaske, 23.

(8) For a comprehensive treatment of Spenser's sources and analogues for the golden chain, see Wolff; also see Hutton, 1966. Other possible sources for Spenser's depiction of the golden chain not discussed at further length include Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, bk. 3, l. 1744; Boece, bk. 2, l. 8; "The Knight's Tale," bk. 5, ll. 2987-89; Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose, bk. 16, ll. 786-87; and other works discussed by Hutton.

(9) Quattrehomme, 57: "une certaine correspondence & concatenation des choses elementaires aux celestes."

(10) Homer, 1999, Iliad bk. 8, ll. 19-27: "seiren chryseien"; 15.18-28: "desmon ... chryseon." All further citations from Homer 1998 and 1999 will be to the title of the work, followed by book and line numbers.

(11) MacCaffrey, 108; Naunton, 16.

(12) Fletcher, 113, 97. On zelos, compare Wright, 62-63, which places "Zeale (that is, envy, emulation, or indignation)" under the category of "vehement" passions, or those which proceed from "an high, proud, and ambitious minde."

(13) Comes, 45: "modo ambitionem, esse auream cathenam cie diderim; quae & si potentissima est, multosq[ue]; a vera, Dei religione ad falsa dogmata retraxit, multasq[ue] ... t[a]n viru[m] bonum suo loco dimovere non poterit, neq[ue]." On this passage, see Nohrnberg, 51, 307; Spenser, 1932-49, 2:261.

(14) On the relationship between philotimia and envy, see Aristotle, 1982a, (Rhetoric 1387b); on the difference between zelos and phthonos (envy), see ibid., 242-45 (Rhetoric 1388b) and Plutarch, 1962-76, 7:292-301 (486b-488a). On the relationship between philotimia and envy in ancient Greece, see Walcot, 16-18.

(15) Aristotle, 1982b, 100-01 (Nicomachean Ethics 1107b30); 218-19 (1124a5-20); 226-29 (1125b1-25); see also Nohrnberg, 46-47, 51.

(16) See, for instance, the description of Lucifera at FQ 1.4.11-17, where she first proclaims herself equal to Jove and is then described as striving "to match ... / Great Junoes golden chaire."

(17) On the adamantine spindle of necessity, see Plato, 1946, 2:500-01 (Republic 616c).

(18) Calvin, 1:214, citing Iliad 19.86.

(19) Dodds, 2-5; Iliad 19.87-88; 138: "ethelo aresai, domenai t'apereisi apoina."

(20) Iliad 19.90: "theos dia panta teleuta"; 6.488-89.

(21) [Pseudo-Plutarch], 190-91.

(22) Du Bartas, 132. Augustine, 90, follows Cicero in noting that Odyssey 18.136-37 is also used by the Stoics to testify to the inextricability of fate, since they imagine Jupiter as the "supreme god" from whom "hangs the whole chain of fates."

(23) Plato, 1946, 2:500-01 (Republic 616c).

(24) Odyssey 1.32-34.

(25) Quitslund, 144-45.

(26) Perkins, 1597, 199. Other contemporary theological works whose titles include references to the golden chain include Radford Mavericke, Saint Peters Chaine: consisting of eight golden Linckes (London: John Windet, 1596); Hermann Rennechero, Aurea Salutis Catena (Lichae: Nicolas Erbenius, 1597); and Johann Gerhard, A Golden Chaine of Divine Aphorismes, trans. Ralph Winterton (Cambridge: Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel, 1632).

(27) Perkins, 1608-13, 1:559; this passage, as well as Spenser's understanding of the concept of the Ordo Salutis, are discussed by Mallette, 1-2.

(28) Mallette, 17-19.

(29) Boethius, 362-63: "indissolubili causarum conexione constringit"; 390-91: "fatalis catena."

(30) Fraunce, 15.

(31) Bacon, 79.

(32) Ripa, 72-73: "Congiuntione delle Cose Humane con le Divine"; "una catena d'oro pendente dal Cielo."

(33) This last quotation is from the "Mutability Cantos."

(34) Ripa, 72-73: "il quale Iddio quando gli piace ci tira a se, & leva le menti nostre al Cielo dove noi con le proprie forze, & tutto il poter nostro non potemo salire."

(35) Odyssey 11.311-13.

(36) Bacon, 85, citing Virgil, 1967, 1:100-01 (Georgics bk. 1, ll. 281-82): "Three times did they labor to pile Ossa on Pelion, and to roll leafy Olympus over Ossa" ("ter sunt conati imponere Pelio Ossam / scilicet, atque Ossae frondosum involvere Olympum").

(37) Homer, 1581, 135; Lucian, 7:241.

(38) In pt. 3 of Charon, or the Inspectors (Lucian, 2:405) Hermes recounts the story of Otius and Ephialtes to Charon, first proposing that they try something similar so as to overthrow Zeus but then pointing out that Homer "has made it possible for us to scale heaven in a jiffy with a pair of verses." The story of Otus and Ephialtes is also told by Ovid, 2001, 36 (Metamorphoses bk. 1, ll. 171-81) and by Virgil, 1967, 1:100-01 (Georgics 1:281-82).

(39) Gwalther, Homily 116, "When Paul wayted for them at Athens ... Certaine Philosophers of the Epicures and of the Stoikes disputed with him." Contrast Plutarch, 1603, 816, which argues that the Stoics have a compatibilist and Platonic view of Necessity, holding Destiny to be "a connexion of causes interlaced & linked orderly: in which concatenation or chaine is therein comprised also that cause which proceedeth from us, in such sort as some events are destined, and others not."

(40) For Neoplatonic interpretations of the catena aurea see Eustathius, 1960, 2:183-84 [694.60-695.30], commenting on Iliad 8.10-19; Proclus, 2:171-74; Camerarius, 123-24: "Diakosmos universi mundi, & coagmentatio atque compactio coelestium"; "ut Jovis agitatio & ductus neutiquam impediatur aut retardetur."

(41) Plato, 1952a, 46-47 (Theaetetus 153c-d).

(42) Ibid. (Theaetetus 153c).

(43) Loraux, 97-98, 104-05, proposes as its synonym the dyad "agitation/rest."

(44) Jonson, 7:221, ll. 317, 320-26.

(45) Knevet, 126, 129, ll. 401, 419, 458-60, 490.

(46) Cartwright (BL MS Add. 4927 [4]), fol. 58v: "Etym. ab eira dico, et exp[onit] ... logos philoneikian, quod hui loco ... antibioisi machesamenai epeeasi." Another etymology, found in Hesychius and frequently noted in the sixteenth century, links eirein (to speak) to Iris, because, according to Plato, 1926, 87 (Cratylus 408b): "she is the messenger god." Camerarius, 96, gives this etymology.

(47) On Homeric images of the bond of conflict, see Clark, 113-14; Loraux, 111-18.

(48) Spenser, 1999, 439 ("An Hymne in Honour of Love," ll. 80, 84-89); all subsequent citations of Spenser's shorter poems are from this edition. For possible sources, see Ronsard, 3:6, the Ode de la Paix au Roi, ll. 43-50, where, after Chaos gives birth to the "great all" ("grand Tout"), God divides the world into the four elements and "links them with adamantine nails" ("Les lia de clous d'aimant"), forcing them to love each other with a "peaceful constraint" ("paisible contrainte"); compare ibid., 7:149, the Hymne du Ciel, l. 115, and ibid., 153, the Hymne des Astres, ll. 83-84, both of which also depict the universe as bound together by an adamantine (or loving) chain ("un lien aimantin").

(49) Hutton, 1966, 573-74; on Ronsard's use of similar images, see also Hutton, 1984, 106-07, 209-10. Plato, 1946, 2:500-01 (Republic 616c): "anagkes atrakton."

(50) Fraunce, sig. A2v. For Plato's account of the elements, see Plato, 1952b, 59-65 (Timaeus 32b-34b). Compare Ebreo, 110, who decribes how the first creature to emerge out of chaos is "Litigio"--strife, or "the division of things" ("la divisione de le cose"), and explains that this force "is called Litigio because it consists in contrariety [consiste in contrarieta], as exists among the four elements, one contrary to another, and its face is said to be ugly because division is, in effect, contrariety and defect, while concord is union and perfection."

(51) Kaske, 143.

(52) Puttenham, 147. For sources and analogues of the Gallic Hercules and the use of the golden chain as a metaphor for eloquence, see Nohrnberg, 696; P. Cheney, 142-43, who cites Alciati's Emblemata, "Eloquentia fortitudine praestantior"; Valeriano, "Lingua," in his Hieroglyphica, 39; Sidney, Astrophel and Stella, sonnet 58.

(53) Wind, 119; On Spenser's use of these rhetorical devices in book 6, see Spenser, 1932-49, 6:189.

(54) Quitslund, 142-46; McCabe, 158-61.

(55) Hesiod, 95.

(56) Quitslund, 175.

(57) Linche, sig. R1v.

(58) Odyssey 19.511: "hypnos ... glykeros." Other accounts of the House of Sleep which probably influenced Spenser's depiction include Statius, 326-27 (Thebaid bk. 10, ll. 84-98), which describes the "sluggish oblivion" ("pigra Oblivio") of sleep; Ovid, 2001, 341 (Metamorphoses 11:687-757), particularly Iris's apostrophe to "sweet Sleep" at 723-25.

(59) On Botticelli's Venus and Mars, see Wind, 90-91, who argues that the wasps are a reminder of Mars's "pugnaciousness." On the murmuring wind in Spenser's House of Morpheus, compare Quitslund, 171: "[l]ight breezes are characteristic of the poem's moments of repose, but there is usually something dangerous in the relaxation that they encourage."

(60) For this reading of the Odyssey, see Rutherford, 144, who argues that the Odyssey's "ideals of peace, home, [and] domestic and political harmony" make it "almost an opposite kind of epic to the Iliad."

(61) Iliad 4.442-43.

(62) On Mammon's relationship to Strife, see Heninger, 170-75; Hughes, 378; Nohrnberg, 336. Spenser's sources for Eris's (or Ate's) intrusion into the wedding of Peleus and Thetis may have included Hyginus, Fabulae 92; Virgil, Aeneid 6.280; Statius, Thebaid 7.50; and Chaucer, "The Knight's Tale," 1. 2005.

(63) Giamatti, 196-97.

(64) Quitslund, 170.

(65) Odyssey 8.326: "asbestos ... gelos"; 20.346-49: "asbeston gelo."

(66) Ibid., 7.310: "ameino d'aisima panta"; 8.557-59.

(67) For Spenser's representation of wind as unruliness or strife, see, where the skirmish among four knights is compared to when "Dan Aeolus ... Sends forth the winds out of his hidden threasure" as well as to the "rude unruliment" of elemental discord; see also, where Florimell, adrift in a boat, is helped by "Dan Aeolus" when he keeps his winds from "stirring up their stormy enmitie." Spenser may have been influenced by Lille, 20, who describes the Peace of Nature as achieved when Aeolus's "winds and tempests ... no longer raise civil wars" but are bound in their cells. Another possible source for Spenser's depiction of wind is Anglicus, bk. 11, chap. 2, who explains how winds create "stuffing & strife" when they emerge from the earth, since when wind is "gendred" it is "movable, and not resting, but shufting in the aire, and maketh therin moving and shufting."

(68) Joubert, 44. While Joubert notes in the same place that while most laughter "is far from extremes, [since] nature likes the middle way," he also identifies (85) an "immodest, excessive, insolent" kind of laughter known as cachinnation; the Greeks call this laughter "synchrousian" because it "tumbles and shakes intensely."

(69) Ficino, 1:919-20, a letter to Lorenzo de'Medici commending him for having pursued the active, contemplative, and voluptuous lives equally and "in proportion to their merits"; Bruno, 168. On the affinities between Hercules' choice of life and the Judgment of Paris, see Tonkin, 275-76.

(70) Mulcaster, 84. Jacob wrestles with the angel in Genesis 32.34; Satan's wrestling match with Christ is described in Luke 4.9-13 and in Matthew 4.1. Rachel wrestles with Leah in Genesis 30.8 (The Geneva Bible, sig. d1v). On wrestling as a theological motif in book 2 of The Faerie Queene, see Nohrnberg, 300. On the motifs of agon and wrestling in scripture, see Pfitzner, 16-44, 76-139.

(71) Spenser, 1999, 266 (Muiopotmos, ll. 425-28).

(72) Odyssey 12.119; Bacon, 25.

(73) Odyssey 12.116-17: "polemeia erga ... kai ponos."

(74) On the motif of the deaf Odysseus in English Renaissance literature, see Vredeveld; for an example, see Ovid, 2001, 29 ("To the Reader," ll. 217-18), Arthur Golding's advice in the preface to his 1567 translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, where he cautions that those readers unwilling or unable to cull "wholesome hests and precepts" from Ovid's text should instead "abstain until he be more strong, / And for to use Ulysses' feat against the mermaids' song."

(75) On Circe as a symbol of the elements or seasons, see Moralis Interpretatio Errorum Ulyssis Homerici, error 11, fol. 14r; Ovid, 1632, bk. 14, l. 480, explains that Circe--the daughter of Sol and Persis (daughter of Oceanus)--"is so called of mixing, because the mixture of the elements is necessary in generation which cannot be performed but by the motion of the Sun." Bruno, 75, argues that Circe represents the "generative matter of all things" and she transforms all things by means of a "secret harmony."

(76) Fraunce, fol. 47v.

(77) For a similar reading see Giamatti, 280.

(78) Odyssey 24.543: "neikos homoiiou polemoio."

(79) Comes, 225: "res eorum gestas" and "captandos ambitiosos & gloriae cupidos."

(80) Clement, 1954, 2:66-69; on the influence of Clement's Stromateis on Spenser, see Weatherby, 105-06.

(81) Spenser, 1932-49, 1:268.

(82) Iliad 6.232-36; 7.299-302.

(83) Erasmus, 31:263.

(84) Iliad 7.301: "eridos peri thymoboroio"; Alciati, 181.

(85) On reciprocity and gift-giving in the Iliad, see Blundell, 28, 87. On Arthur's association with the Aristotelian virtues of magnanimity (megalopsychia) and magnificence (megaloprepeia), see the entry "magnanimity, magnificence" in The Spenser Encyclopedia, 448.

(86) On the proverbial "gift of the cyclops," see Odyssey 9.368-70; Eustathius, 1825, 2:282 [1927.30-40]; the summary of Eustathius in the seventeenth-century ms. commentary in Marcassus, fol. 149r: "une courtoisie fatalle et pernicieuse." In Ovid, 1632, bk. 14, 477, Sandys also alludes to Polyphemus as notoriously "inhumane to strangers." On Homeric notions of hospitality and on the Cyclops as a negative example of that hospitality, see Rutherford, 107-11.

(87) On Eris's apple and other gifts of discord, see Vernant, 12. In addition to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Vernant also cites the marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, an event to which Eriphylus ("lover of strife") brings a necklace that sparks discord.

(88) Nohrnberg, 342; Horace, 312-13; Iliad 14.239-42: "kalon thronon" and "chryseon ... hypo de threnyn posin esei." Giamatti, 233-34, also expresses confusion at Mammon's silver stool, asking why a stool, and "Why a silver stool?"

(89) Jaeger, 1:20; Odyssey 5.220-24: "polla pathon kai polla mogesa."

(90) Plato, 1946, 2:514-15 (Republic 620c). On Plato's reading of Odysseus, see Deneen, 82, 108-11.

(91) Harington, 2:215.

(92) On the iconographic relationship between temperance and Nemesis in emblems by Valeriano, Alciati, and Geoffrey Whitney, see Greene.

(93) Weil, 54.

(94) Spenser, 1932-49, 2:200; Phoenix's discussion of the Erinyes, Ate, and the Litae appears at Iliad 9.454-571.

(95) Heraclitus of Ponticus, 36-37. The text of the Homeric Allegories was first printed (along with Aesop's Fables and Cornutus's De Natura Deorum) by Aldus Manutius in 1505; later sixteenth-century editions include Heraclidis Pontici, qui Aristotelis aetate vixit, Allegoriae in Homeri fabulas de diis, ed. Konrad Gesner (Basel, 1544), the text and translation of which were reprinted in Homeri Odyssea (Geneva, 1586). For the term alloprosallos, see Iliad 18.309.

(96) Clement of Alexandria, 1962, 245.

(97) Compare D. Cheney, 223, which argues that Calidore's "change from bright armor to shepherd's weeds, from spear to crook, suggests not simply a humbler condition but a more vulnerable one as well."

(98) Observing at that "In vaine ... doe men / The heavens of their fortunes fault accuse," Spenser's Meliboe paraphrases a famous passage from Odyssey 1.32-35, though similar sentiments appear elsewhere in classical literature, most notably at the end of Juvenal, Satire 10, ll. 347-49.

(99) Castiglione, 1994, 111: "farlo in modo di provarsi e, come si suol dir, per gentilezza, non per contender con loro"; compare Whigham, 81, 127.

(100) Whigham, 127; Tonkin, 123.

(101) Tasso, 135.

(102) D. Cheney, 227.

(103) Stewart, 180, 188.

(104) Spenser, 1992, 740, ll. 3-4, 13-16. The episode is related by Apollodorus 73-75, and alluded to by Achilles at Iliad 9.410-15, where he explains his "twofold fates."

(105) [Pseudo-Plutarch], 164-65. The text quotes a fragment (Diels-Krantz B17.7-8) cited in Empedocles, 217, fragment 25; a similar argument is found in Heraclitus of Ponticus, 74, pts. 69.7-9. On the applications of the allegory of Ares and Aphrodite to Renaissance philosophy and literature, see Wind, 86-89. Spenser could have read a Latin translation of Pseudo-Plutarch in a number of sixteenth-century texts including Sebastian Castellio's Homeri Opera graeco-latina (Basel, 1561), which includes the "Homeri vita ex Plutarcho"; Henri Estienne's Poetae Graeci principes heroici carminis (Geneva, 1566), which includes his "Annotationes in libellos Herodoti, Plutarchi, Porphyrii de Homero scriptos"; and Wilhelm Xylander's Plutarchi Duo Commentarii (Basel, 1566), an edition of two essays from the Moralia including "De Homeri poesi," reprinted in Xylander's 1570, 1572, and 1574 editions of the Moralia, the edition of choice before the appearance of Philemon Holland's 1603 English translation. D. Cheney, 236, observes of Spenser's invocation of Mars and Venus that "his ethic derives from linking these two antithetical elements as the basis of the dialectic working throughout the poem."

(106) [Pseudo-Plutarch], 164-65: "philian kai to neikos."

(107) Diogenes Laertius, 1979, 2:373; Stobaeus, Eclogae 1.10.11b, both cited in Empedocles, 147 (Testimonia A1); 165-66 (A33b).

(108) Empedocles, 134-35 (95a-95b).

(109) Batman, 17, who also explains that the chain represents "the accord that Nature yeldeth to her owne kynde"; Linche, sig. Mr.

(110) Diogenes Laertius's vitae of Empedocles and Heraclitus may also have helped Spenser discern the affinities between Homeric epic and these pre-Socratic philosophers. Diogenes repeats Aristotle's comparison between Empedocles and Homer, explains Empedocles' theory of the four elements by way of an allegory of the pagan gods, and notes the influence of both Homer and Hesiod upon Heraclitus's philosophical doctrine, a doctrine which holds that the world is generated and preserved by "war and contention" and by "concord and peace." See Diogenes Laertius, 1546, 363, 373.

(111) This is a commonplace interpretation of the union of Venus and Mars during the period: see, for example, Ricchieri, bk. 18, chap. 6, 972e, who explains that Venus represents the Empedoclean force of philia (friendship), while Mars represents strife: "Venus, quod apud Empedoclem philia, id est amicitia, Mars vero est neikos" ("Venus, who according to Empedocles is philia, that is friendship, while Mars is truly strife"); their offspring is Harmony.

(112) Virgil, 1583, 22: "nunc horrentia Martis."

(113) Prescott, 65, 69.

(114) Eris is named as Ares' sister at Iliad 4.441.

(115) Iliad 11.11-14.

(116) See, for instance, West, 1973. West, 1988, 655, argues that Spenser demonstrates "considerable moral ambivalence about the activity of warfare."

(117) Plato, 1946, 1:247-49 (Republic 398e-399c); compare Milton, 225 (Paradise Lost, bk. 1, ll. 549-55), where the rebel angels "move / In perfect Phalanx to the Dorian mood / Of Flutes and soft Recorders ... and instead of rage / Deliberate valor breath'd." On Spenser's use of the epic convention of the "non-encounter," see Nohrnberg, 9-10. Spenser may have known Elyot's treatment of Plato's and Homer's attitudes towards music; Elyot, 1:39-40, notes that Homer's Greek princes (especially Achilles) use music to "recreate their spirites" after a "sharpe and vehement contention."

(118) Philostratus, fol. 226b.

(119) Spenser, 1999, 129-30, ll. 8, 39.

(120) Spenser's invocations contribute to the sixteenth-century debate over whether peace is an acceptable subject for epic poetry; on the outlines of this debate, see West, 1973, 1016.

(121) Iliad 5.739-40. In a similar vein, Quitslund, 172, notes that Spenser uses "the imagery of elemental strife" in order to "dramatize [Britomart's] emotions." Another sympathetic reading of the Temple of Venus as a reflection of Spenser's poetics of discordia concors can be found in Berger, 19-36.

(122) Quitslund, 157.

(123) Aristotle, 1982b, 454-55 (Nicomachean Ethics 1155a): "Heracleitus says, 'Opposition unites [antixoun sympheron],' and 'The fairest harmony springs from difference,' and "Tis strife [erin] that makes the world go on.' Others maintain the opposite view, notably Empedocles, who declares that 'Like seeks after like [homoion tou homoiou ephiesthai].'" Compare Aristotle, 1981, 362-63 (Eudemian Ethics 1235a25-30).

(124) For the Asphalt Lake, see Tasso, 209, 284-85; for Cocytus, see Aeneid 6:132, 323, 438-39; for the Dead Sea, see Genesis 14.3. Given her attempt to tempt Guyon away from virtuous action and towards false pleasures, Spenser's Phaedria may also allude to Plato's Phaedrus or even to Phaedra who poses a similarly sinister sexual threat to a chaste young man, Hippolytus.

(125) Odyssey 7.117-21: "neikea"; 74: "phroneesi."

(126) Quitslund, 156; Heraclitus of Ponticus, 74.

(127) Marcassus, fol. 48v: "lasches et Inhabiles a la guerre, pour ce qu'ilz estoient nourris dans les molles voluptez," commenting on Odyssey 6.9-10 and paraphrasing Eustathius, 1825, 1:235 [1549. 18-22].

(128) Iliad 18.107.

(129) On the accusation that Epicurus stole his philosophy of pleasure from Homer's Phaeacians, see Heraclitus of Ponticus, 86; Athenaeus, 5:306-07 (513a-b), which interprets Odyssey 9.5-11 as a defense of hedone; the A scholia to Odyssey 9.28, cited in Pepin, 135.

(130) Heraclitus, 66-67, fragment 81.

(131) Leroy, bk. 1, 32: "It is thus not without cause that nature relishes contraries so much.... This is why Heraclitus says that war and concord are the father and mother of all things ... and [why] Homer says that he who curses contention blames nature" ("Ce n'est donc sans cause que nature appete tant les contraires.... Parquoy Heraclite disoit, la guerre et la concorde estre pere et mere des choses ... et Homere, que qui mesdit de contention il blasme nature"). Compare Quattrehomme, 9: "Our Homer wisely says that he who blames contention blames nature, which possesses in every thing, big and small, two spirits which are continually in conflict with each other" ("Nostre Homere dit donc sagement que celuy qui blasme la contention, blasme la Nature, chaque chose si gra[n]de & petite qu'elle soit aya[n]t deux genies qui co[n]tinuelleme[n]t l'entourrent co[n]trarians ensemble").

(132) Spenser, 1999, 368 (ll. 844-46, 851-52).

(133) While the suffix (bellum, "war") is self-explanatory, the prefix is not. Spenser may be adapting the Greek prefix kam-, which, like kata-, can mean either "toward" or "against." A more probable reading is that Cambell shares his prefix with Cambina, whose name suggests change, transformation, or combination; together, the pair thus symbolizes either the transformation of war into peace, or the synthesis of peace and strife. See the entry "Cambell, Canacee, Cambina" in The Spenser Encyclopedia, 129-30, where Judith Anderson writes that Cambina's name derives from the "Italian cambiare (to change, exchange, transform) and by analogy suggest[s] English combine, indicat[ing] a nature both different from and complementary to Cambell's belligerence" (130). On the relationship between competition and friendship in book 4, see Mallette, chap. 4, esp. 126-27.

(134) Alciati, 48: "Unum nihil, duos plurimum posse."

(135) Prustus, "Bellum," 30. For Homer's other uses of "neikos omoiion polemoio" (the strife of equal war) and related phrases, see Iliad 4.444; 9.440; 13.358, 635; 15.670; 18.242; 21.294; Odyssey 24.543.

(136) Odyssey 18.264: "mega neikos homoiiou polemoio": Prustus, 30: "propter similitudinem & aequalitatem pugnantium in re strenue gerenda, exitusque incertitudinem."

(137) Iliad 13:358-59: "eridos krateres kai homoiiou ptolemoio." Eustathius, 1560, 1:377, commenting on Iliad 4.47-50, where Casaubon crossreferences the passage by writing "Vide Iliad u pag. 529, ln.29." On the passage in Iliad 13 as exemplifying the Homeric "bond of conflict," see Loraux, 113-14.

(138) Odyssey 24.543; Ausonius, 2:286, paraphrases this passage, where Zeus orders Athena to descend to Ithaca and conciliate the conflict by "effacing the past."

(139) Compare Quitslund, 156, on Hate and Love as bound by Concord: "that the younger is always victorious in debate does not deprive the elder of legitimacy," since "Hate is evident in the natural strife among the elements."

(140) Boccaccio's Temple of Venus (Teseida, bk. 7, 51-66) is commonly cited as a source for Spenser's temple; in Spenser, 1932-49, 4:226, Henry Gibbons Lotspeich argues that the episode is original but intended to illustrate the Empedoclean doctrine of love and strife, and Upton argues that Spenser's temple alludes to the philosophical doctrine that "universal concord is established by particular disagreements and opposite principles."

(141) Lille, 46; Boethius, 226-27.

(142) Empedocles, 214-17, fragment 25 (Diels-Krantz 17), ll. 1, 7-8, 19: "allote men philoteti synerchomen' eis en apanta"; "neikeos echthei." Much of Spenser's knowledge of Empedoclean cosmology is probably derived from other classical sources, many of which are reproduced in Empedocles, 136, 145-53, 159-60, 167-68, under the headings "Fragments in Context" and "Testimonia." These sources include Diogenes Laertius, 1979, 2:367-91 (Life of Empedocles); Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, bk. 1, 714-33; Plutarch, Moralia, 370e, 474b-c; Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, 1235a10-12; Metaphysics, 985a21-b3; and various passages in De Caelo.

(143) Empedocles, 232-33, fragment 61, ll. 5-9 (Diels-Krantz 35): "neikos eryke metarsion."

(144) Paraphrasing Boccaccio, Genealogia deorum gentilium, bk, 5, chap. 35, 198, E. K. writes, "Bocace saith, that they be painted naked ... the one having her backe towarde us, and her face fromwarde, as proceeding from us: the other two toward us, noting double thane to be due to us for the benefit, we have done" (Spenser, 1999, 69, gloss to l. 109). On Spenser's reliance upon the twinned impulses of "forward" and "fromward" (or "froward") movement, see Quitslund, 156, citing and paraphrasing Nelson, 182-85. Both argue that Spenser's notion of Temperance is based on affective "conflicts between innate 'forward' and 'froward' tendencies."

(145) Hesiod, 97, ll. 231-32. Aristophanes' Eirene depicts the goddess of Peace drawn down to earth by golden chains. On allusions to this scene by the poets of the Pleaide, see Hutton, 1984, 174-78.

(146) The Geneva Bible, sig. CCc3v: Hebrews 6.16.

(147) Quitslund, 156; Quitslund also notes that book 2's motif of elemental strife is reiterated in the psychological and physiological domain, since each manifestation of humoral excess corresponds to an element: Pyrochles' wrath as fire, Cymochles' irresolution as water, and so on.

(148) La Primaudaye, chap. 67, 704.

(149) Du Bartas, 319.

(150) Jonson, 7:287, marginal note "o."

(151) Quitslund, 155.

(152) Spenser, 1992, 737 (Appendix 1: "A Letter of the Authors").

(153) Malatesta, 247; 243: "credo ancora che per la catena che hanno insieme tutte le cose humane d'attacarsi l'una con l'altra, e quasi impossibile a segregare una di loro talmente dall'altre, che stia come divisa & ritirata da tutte, ne habbia interesse o miscuglio con qualche sua vicina, o contigua attione diversa da lei."

(154) Lombardelli, 68-70: "tutte le parti di questa sua poesia cosi ben habbia saputo annodare, e legare ... il prometter di cantar' il glorioso raquisto, e poi tanto sospenderlo, attraversarlo, interomperlo, e condurlo quasi in disperazione ... e con tal ... intrecciatura, e rispondenza dell' una con l'altra parte; che non mai vi rimangon dubbi, che importino, o perturbata la memoria, ch[e] non rattacchi subbito l'una cosa con l'altra: finche al fine tutti gli ostacoli cedono."

(155) Nohrnberg, 36. On the importance of "multiple unity," or e pluribus unum, as a cosmological and narrative concept in Spenser, see Heninger, 147.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A141260392