Pick one stanza to discuss from book 2, canto 12, stanzas 42–87 of The Faerie Queene. Close read the stanza and note any patterns, literary devices, ambiguities, how the stanza reflects on the episode as a whole, etc.

In book 2, canto 12, stanza 57, Spenser uses end rhyme, imagery, alliteration, consonance, antithesis, and ambiguity to attack the immorality of excess, which burdens the poor and corrupts the rich. All of this is presented allegorically. The stanza reflects the larger theme of needing to avoid the trap of impure sensual temptations.

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In book 2, canto 12, stanza 57, Spenser writes:

And them amongst, some were of burnish'd Gold,
So made by Art, to beautify the rest,
Which did themselves emongst the Leaves enfold,
As lurking from the view of covetous Guest,
That the weak Boughs, with so rich load oppress'd,
Did bow adown, as over-burdened.
Under that Porch a comely Dame did rest,
Clad in fair Weeds, but foul disordered,
And Garments loose, that seem'd unmeet for Womanhed.

In this stanza, as Guyon makes his way through the Bower of Bliss, he is tempted by Excess. The woman called Excess is foreshadowed by the lush description of the excessive number of sweet grapes that Guyon encounters at this juncture. All of this is presented allegorically.

The lush, descriptive imagery highlights both the allure and the wretched excess of the grapes surrounding Guyon. The deceptive quality of excess is introduced by the information that some of the grapes are made of "burnished gold:" they are not real. They are meant to entice and deceive, not nourish. They are made to "beautify the rest," establishing the falseness of this setting.

As for the real grapes, there are simply too many. They oppress the "weak Boughs" that have to carry this excess. These boughs, the wording suggests, are burdened like the wretched poor who have to support the excesses of the rich. Like the poor, they "bow adown, as overburdened."

But while the poor boughs are overburdened, Excess herself lounges beneath them idly: "a comely [beautiful] Dame did rest." Like this part of the bower itself, something seems wrong with her. Her clothes are "foul disordered." Her "garments" are "loose" and seem "unmeet for Womanhed." Excess is messy, slovenly, and impure.

What is depicted is ambiguous in the sense it is deceptive. For someone not looking closely or not morally attuned, such a bounty of sensual beauty seems alluring. But all of it represents the foul moral disorder of those who have too much. Excess is corrupted by idleness while at the same time she deforms those who carry the weight of her excesses.

Spencer uses an ABAB rhyme scheme for the first four lines of the stanza, but by the end of the stanza the rhyme has begun to disintegrate, reflecting Excess's disorder. Spenser also uses alliteration to emphasize certain words, such as "Leaves" and "lurking" in lines three and four. The moral importance of the burden of Excess is highlighted by the use of both alliteration (bow … burdened) and consonance ("bow adown) in line six. Likewise in line eight, Spenser uses both antithesis, which is the bringing together of opposites, and alliteration to emphasize the ambiguity of Excess, describing her as "Clad in fair Weeds, but foul disordered."

The stanza advances the moral theme of the episode, which is the need to avoid the trap of impure sensual temptations.

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