Edmund Spenser: Protestant Poet
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The nature of this thesis, combining literary and historical study, means that the secondary sources used range from literary texts to parliamentary papers. Chapter Four follows the course of the negotiations and touches on how they were viewed internationally. It also touches on other literary expressions of opposition to the match as well as discussing how Leicester and the forward Protestants at court worked to oppose it and examines their motivations for doing so.
This chapter will focus on his use of classical forms and allusions in his work, a common pattern throughout Renaissance literature and art. These simple, allegorical stories were a form of popular entertainment used predominantly by the lower classes in ancient Greek society. Hales London, , p. Rothwell Jr. John Selby Watson, ed. Pastoral verse and The shepheardes calendar Like many other poets during the Renaissance and Reformation, Spenser drew inspiration from another Classical form, the verse pastoral.
In a literary context, pastoral is a form of writing that examines the complexities of life through an idealised, highly formulaic, view of shepherds and life in the countryside. Elizabeth Porges Watson London, , p. Virgil heavily influenced many Renaissance poets, including both Spenser and Philip Sidney, and his Aenaid would be referred to in propaganda against the Anjou match. Pastoral poems are often written as eclogues, dialogues between two shepherds. These may be a conversation between a shepherd and his shepherdess love, a contest to see which shepherd is the better poet or a sophisticated discussion of art, love or current events.
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Spenser drew from both the Classical and Renaissance pastoral traditions to write The shepheardes calendar, even using archaic spelling to associate himself with Geoffrey Chaucer. However, there is also a strong political subtext. Instead, the lowland shepherds, who are depicted as humble and hardworking, become the model pastors. However, it was Spenser who led the way at the end of the s, and his use of these literary traditions to express opposition to the Anjou match was to have a great influence on how late Elizabethan literature would portray both the Queen and Cecil.
This chapter will briefly examine the pre careers of, and the connections between, Spenser and the leading figures within the Cecil and Leicester camps at court. This information is necessary if we are to understand the intricacies of the final marriage negotiations that took place between and , and the views that Spenser himself would express about this marriage and the principal people involved in its negotiation. Although Walsingham, Leicester and Cecil were all fundamentally in agreement on the danger from Catholics both at home and abroad, they fundamentally disagreed on how to combat this, with Walsingham and Leicester lobbying for an alliance with continental Protestants, particularly the Huguenots in France and the Dutch rebels, while Cecil preferred a more cautious approach and refused to prioritise religion when considering potential allies.
As well as this, almost all the men involved in the marriage negotiations on the English side were related to each other and through the Dudleys and Greys, to the Queen by ties of blood and marriage. Wilson, The Elizabethans London, , p. Ambrose was made Master of the Ordinance while Robert was made Master of the Horse, subsequently being appointed to the Council in , and created earl of Leicester in After the Ridolfi plot, and throughout the s, their relationship was mostly one of co-operation interspersed with minor disagreements.
Elliott and L. Brockliss eds , The world of the favourite London, , p.
The Elizabethans, p. The same arguments that Throckmorton deployed at his trial would be used by Leicester and his clients in and He was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where his tutor, the poet Gabriel Harvey, encouraged his interest in the metrical reform of English verse. Like Cecil, Mildmay did not come from a noble family, but from minor country gentry: his father had made the family fortune during the dissolution of the monasteries, and Mildmay, like Cecil, was a career politician.
Elizabeth of glorious memory comprised in letters of negotiation of Sir Francis Walsingham, her resident in France : together with the answers of the Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Leicester, Sir Tho. He used his influence and his close friendship with Cecil to protect Puritans, patronise universities and promote the forward Protestant cause, particularly with regard to intervention in the Netherlands. They promoted English intervention in aid of Protestant rebels in France and the Low Countries, and they wanted to secure the removal of conservative, pseudo-Catholic elements from Anglican belief.
The Making of a Protestant Poet | SpringerLink
Marrying Elizabeth to a foreign Catholic prince was seen by the forward Protestants as dangerous, and inevitably leading to a Catholic restoration in England, so when Cecil suggested such a match they were prepared to oppose it with vigor. In he was created Baron Burghley styled Lord Burghley for his services and later that year he married his daughter to Edward de Vere, the seventeenth earl of Oxford, although the couple later became estranged.
The first political question he faced was the formation of a new Privy Council. Thus, many of the key players in the political 30 Alford, Burghley p. Oxford was not a councillor, but as the holder of the second-oldest earldom in England he had a good deal of influence, and he and Cecil supported each other. Cecil secured for the young earl military duties and a position at court, and had him cleared of a murder charge early in his career. Born in or , the young Lord Fitzwalter, as he was styled, was knighted by Henry VIII for his part in the French campaign and was married the following year.
He was sent back to Ireland as lord lieutenant, although he begged to be 35 Alford, Burghley pp These were the leading figures of the moderate, pragmatic group within the court and council. Although Cecil could generally count on the support of several of the forward Protestants, including Walsingham, Mildmay and even Leicester, those men and their followers were all bound to oppose the French match, as discussed in the previous section of this chapter. Edmund Spenser: Spenser entered Pembroke College, Cambridge on 20 May as a sizar, indicating that he came from a poor background.
Skills he would soon be putting to use. This would suggest that Spenser was already engaged in government work before he left university, possibly due to his linguistic abilities. By he was secretary to the bishop of Rochester and had become acquainted with Philip Sidney. The tangled web of relationships between these men would help to determine the divides over the marriage question, which will be examined in Chapter Four.
His analysis of the external danger was over-exaggerated as he assumed the Catholic powers were entirely united in opposition to England, when in fact there were serious disagreements between France, Spain and the Papacy, but it accurately reflected the fears of English Protestants. However, as the s progressed it became increasingly clear that Cecil was only interested in the immediate security of the English Crown and the Anglican Church, and had no real intention of advancing the cause of international Protestantism.
She married Prince Philip, heir to the Spanish throne, thus making the ruler of one of the most powerful Catholic kingdoms also king-consort of England. Indeed, Protestants had risen to defend her legitimacy against the supporters of Lady Jane Grey in While most people assumed Elizabeth would return the kingdom to Protestantism, her advisors urged great caution when doing so.
This gave the government a propaganda victory when the bishops of Winchester and Lincoln were sent to the Tower for contempt and obstruction. The issue of national acceptance of the religious settlement was complex. Inspectors were sent out on visitations to every parish in England to ensure the Acts were being obeyed, and they often overstepped their legal remits.
Although the Act of Uniformity had decreed that altars were not to be compulsorily removed, in many regions the inspectors took down altars and burned vestments, icons and other ornaments. There was also a marked increase in anticlericalism, notably in rural areas, although it was caused by the unpopularity of tithes as much as by confessional differences.
Catholic disaffection, particularly among nobles such as the earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, would find its figurehead when the deposed Mary Stuart entered the English political scene in During the parliamentary session, legislation was introduced to prevent people from bringing Papal Bulls into the realm without a licence from the Crown. Grindal permitted the printing of the Geneva Bible with its Calvinist glosses in English, but even this moderate reform startled Elizabeth and Cecil, who promptly replaced him with the conservative John Whitgift.
The domestic political situation: In Elizabeth appointed the thirty-eight-year-old William Cecil as her Secretary of State. Although Elizabeth had the law declaring her a bastard repealed with very few people openly questioning her right to rule, she still had to convince major European rulers such as Philip II and the Holy Roman Emperor of her legitimacy. The shadow of Mary Stuart would loom over many of the political and religious questions in England throughout the following decades.
In , during the reign of Mary Tudor, the Calvinist preacher John Knox had published a tract called The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women. This was a polemic against the concept of women rulers, written at a time when England, Scotland and France were all ruled by queens.
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However, these writers also tried to address the ideological problems with female rule. Hales London, pp Britomart, who is the ancestor of Gloriana, the titular fairy queen intended to represent Elizabeth , becomes queen and marries Artegall, but as soon as he has recovered from his ordeal she hands over the reins of power to him. She was the last Tudor with a reasonable claim to the throne so she needed to marry and produce an heir in order to secure the kingdom for future generations, particularly as if she died without issue the principal claimants would be Mary Stuart and the Infanta Isabel of Spain, both Catholic.
When Mary Tudor had married Philip II of Spain, the government had worked very hard, largely unsuccessfully, to ensure that Philip would remain a powerless consort in order to prevent England from being absorbed into the Habsburg Empire. Despite this, the issue of the English succession was so pressing that Parliament petitioned Elizabeth to marry on numerous occasions. In her response to a petition in , Elizabeth was so angered by what she perceived as unwarranted interference in her personal business that she gave the parliamentary delegation a dressing-down in her response: 'Was I not born in the realm?
As a boy Edmund had attended the then newly founded Merchant Taylor's school as a "poore scholler". There he received a superb grounding in classics and had also begun to write verse. In he went to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge as a sizar, which meant he earned his tuition and keep in exchange for doing manual jobs about the college.
The undergraduate Spenser studied rhetoric, logic and philosophy and later as a post-graduate would add astronomy and maths to his Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Spenser the man was as committed to material wealth as he was to glory as a poet. Perhaps his early poverty explains this. There is no concealing the facts that Spenser's role in Ireland is the least pleasant aspect of his career and that it overshadows his literary legacy.
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The poet had first come to Ireland in and on his return to England entered the service of the powerful Earl of Leicester and became friends with Leicester's nephew, fellow poet Philip Sidney, who would die aged 32 in and would later be honoured by Spenser in the elegy, Astrophell. In , Spenser married his first wife and rapidly became at home at court.
This confidence is evident in his political satire Mother Hubberds Tale. His rise seemed assured.