Homework Help

Explain how Spenser, in Epithalamion, celebrates not just his wedding but the...

user profile pic

swatisameer | Elementary School Teacher | eNoter

Posted April 7, 2010 at 1:41 AM via web

dislike 1 like

Explain how Spenser, in Epithalamion, celebrates not just his wedding but the aspirations of an entirely new class of people.


1 Answer | Add Yours

Top Answer

user profile pic

K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 8, 2010 at 5:45 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 3 like

While there is no mention of, reference to nor allusion to a class of people in Spenser's Epithalamion, Spenser himself represented the new class of individuals who had new opportunity--within the outlines of traditional opportunity--to rise through the arts of English poetry to transition to a higher social class, the transition being spurred by exploration and colonization.

Additionally, Spenser and his friend, Philip Sydney, embraced the dream of building a new class of prestigious English poets, as English poetry had not produced much in the way of excellence, in Sidney's estimation, since Chaucer. Sidney and Spenser, part of a group called the Areopagus--who were sidetracked for a while by trying to make English poetry fit the very dissimilar prosody of Latin--aspired to create great English language poetry  founded on classical genre models that had not yet been attempted in English.

As was true even in Chaucer's time, poets rose socially and economically by means of preferments, patronage and favor at Court. This was quite true for Spenser, as well as for Sidney. For example, Spenser was given a yearly fifty pound pension by Queen Elizabeth I because she was so pleased with The Faerie Queene, which Spenser hand-delivered to her through the patronage of Sir Walter Raleigh. This longstanding tradition merged with new worldwide conditions and helped to create a new class of people.

Exploration was taking place on a worldwide scope and colonization was central to harvesting the resources of newly discovered lands. Because of colonization, a mercantile class rose up to import and sell the new goods, like tobacco and tomatoes, from lands like the Americas. Colonization also opened up many more opportunities for preferment through the Protestant Court of Queen Elizabeth I, and Spenser was one who benefited, being given significant government posts in the then Catholic colony of Ireland. There he acquired many landholdings, some taken from confiscated Catholic Abbey holdings. These landholdings allowed him to rise to the social class of gentleman along with others who found the same social mobility resulting from colonization.

Elizabeth Boyle was the daughter of a landed gentleman of a long established and important family in Hertfordshire. After the love trials described in Amoretti, Elizabeth finally agreed to become Spenser's second wife (first wife, Machabyas Chylde, 1579). Spenser's father was a cloth weaver in London but of "An house of ancient fame" ("Prothalamion"). Since there is no evidence that his father John Spenser could provide Spenser with a claim to being a landed gentleman, it is clear that without colonial-based land acquisitions, Spenser could never have joined this exploration and colonization based new class of people and, thus, could never have entertained marrying Elizabeth, and, thus, Epithalamion would never have been written, nor Amoretti.

[See Edmund Spenser, Poetry Foundation for more information.]

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes