Epithalamion Characters
by Edmund Spenser

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Epithalamion Characters

This is a poem, or ode, by Spenser to his bride on their wedding day in celebration of their upcoming nuptials. The entire focus of the poem is Elizabeth Boyle, Spenser's bride-to-be. Spenser lost his previous wife the same year that he marries Elizabeth, who is a much younger woman.

Spenser lovingly writes about how he wants Elizabeth to wake up, so they can get married and begin their lives together. The ode traces the hours of their wedding day into the night, with the ending pointing to hopes of children.

In the twenty-four stanzas of the poem, which represent the twenty-four hours of his wedding day, Spenser makes reference to many Greek mythological characters. He appeals to the nymphs and muses for help in creating a perfect wedding day. Spenser combines non-fictional and fictional writing in this manner.

Nymphs are spirits who can influence animals and nature. Spenser asks that the nymphs help to make his wedding day magical and beautiful. Muses are artistic goddesses from whom Spenser asks help throughout his ode, especially in the actual writing of his poem.

Spenser also weaves references to other mythological characters throughout his poem. He references Mavis, a mythological nightingale, which will sing for his wedding day. He mentions Hymen as well; Hymen is the god over wedding ceremonies. In the beginning, Spenser wants Hymen to go before the day and ceremony, as well as guide him and his bride later in life.

Orpheus is a poet and musician. Spenser likens himself to this character's love story with his wife and the lengths to which he would go for his love.

Spenser references the story of how the Goddess Eos (who is forever young) fell in love with Tithones, a mortal who does grow old. Spenser longs to grow old with Elizabeth.

The character Phoebus is actually Apollo. Spenser wants the sun, Apollo, to wake up Elizabeth for their wedding day.

Spenser includes reference to Maia, the goddess of nursing mothers, because he hopes and dreams of Elizabeth being a mother to his children.