Imagining Death in Spenser and Milton by Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, Patrick Cheney, Michael Schoenfeldt

By Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, Patrick Cheney, Michael Schoenfeldt (eds.)

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15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. deaths of Spenser’s patrons and friends are, of course, at issue here – for example, Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, in The Ruines of Time and Virgils Gnat, and Sir Philip Sidney in Astrophel. The Analogy of ‘The Faerie Queene’ (1976). Of Amoret’s non-death, Harry Berger argues, ‘The erotic and sadistic fascination of the [Busyrane’s] game depends on her continuing existence and resistance; therefore she cannot be literally or finally killed’ (Revisionary Play: Studies in the Spenserian Dynamics [1988], 182).

Spenser appears to be suggesting that Duessa/Mary lives on after her death, which might help to explain James’s anger, as he is tarred with her brush in the poem. 25–6), and who are actually more dangerous when dead than alive, is poisonous and destructive. 30 Duessa/Mary, through her claim to the throne, does not expire when dead but lives on through her son, James, who, for Spenser, represents the same dangers as his mother. One of the recurrent motifs of the poem is that the failure to destroy evil completely will result in its eventual return, often in mutated form.

The spectre of her namesake, Mary I, who had allied herself with Spain through marriage to Philip II, signalled further undesirable associations. Mary’s attempt to claim the English throne in 1558 when Mary I died, on the grounds that her half-sister, Elizabeth, was illegitimate, created further reasons for hostility. 21 Once she had been imprisoned, Mary was the centre of a number of plots to overthrow Elizabeth and install her as monarch, actions Mary endorsed on a number of occasions despite her protestations of innocence.

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