Epithalamion Questions and Answers
by Edmund Spenser

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What are possible readers' views about the theme of Love and Marriage after reading Spenser's poem Epithalamion? Our teacher says, one should love with heart not just with the intention of lust. One should marry for the purpose to live with each other, not for sexual pleasure only.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Epithalamion Spenser celebrates the full cycle of life as it ranges from hours of a day (23 stanzas + 1 envoi) to the summer solstice ("With Barnaby the bright") to the movement of seasons, months, and years (68 short lines and 365 long lines), thereby also celebrating the full cycle and duration of his love and marriage to his beloved Elizabeth. Therefore, after reading this, the reader has a perception of continuation and ever moving cycles in love and marriage.

Spenser also hallows his marriage song (epithalamion is Greek for a wedding song tribute) through allusion to Greek gods as well as to the Christian God and sacrament. When the couple passes the temple gates with Hymen, the organ rolls and angels fly and the Holy Priest weds them. Therefore, after reading Epithalamion, the reader has a sense of the eternal sanctity of love and marriage, regardless of religious association.

Spenser also invokes the blessing of the night on the consummation of their wedding night lest there be any fears to alarm or dangers to be afraid of so that the night might be sweet and end in blissful and loving sleep. After reading this poem, the reader would therefore have the perception of the majesty of love and marriage, not of the appeal of lust.

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