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Chapter Five Spenser's Customs of Courtesy

1. Vladimir Nabokov, Lectures on Russian Literature , ed. Fredson Bowers (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981), 146-147. [BACK]

2. See the prefatory remarks to Book VI in A. C. Hamilton, ed., Spenser: The Faerie Queene , 621. [BACK]

3. In contrast to the arbitrary, symbolic customs of Book VI—Crudor's craving for shaved beards and Arthur's strange charge that Turpine strips travelers of their upper garments—the customs of Pollente's bridge and castle in the legend of justice (Book V of The Faerie Queene ) seem eminently practical. The Pollente episode suggests the skills needed to confront the historical reality of local tolls and town customs in Ireland, highwaymen who rob passersby, and neighboring landlords ready to go to court to defend property lines. Bacon called the related topic of tenures a source of great turbulence: "I have chosen to Read upon the Law of Uses made 27. Hen . 8, a Law whereupon the Inheritances of thise Realme are tossed at this day like a Ship upon the Sea" ( Learned Reading upon the Statute of Uses [1642], A 3).

Spenser would not have known Bacon's lecture. But it seems fitting that Spenser compares Pollente's duel with Artegall to the contest between a dolphin (glossed as "guile" by Hamilton) and a seal. Seals usually live at sea. But seals are also the wax impressions that attest the execution of a legal document, such as a deed. Pollente's daughter is named Munera, "agreeing with her deeds." A pun on deeds as activities (such as bribing officials) and rifles to real estate had been possible since Henry VIII's Statute of Uses, which authorized conveying title to realty by a writing. The beneficial interest in property is called a "use" (the nominal owner might be someone else). Even Donny the dwarf knows that Pollente's way of fighting is not to joust (the romance sign of justice), but to jump off his bridge "through practice usuall " ( FQ 5.2.8). I believe that the Pollente episode is as close to a poetic representation of the Munster settlement as The Faerie Queen provides. The trapdoors in the bridge may represent the procedural pitfalls of a lawsuit, such as Spenser and his neighbor Lord Roche engaged in. Or the scene may figure Artegall's inability to ascertain the exact nature of local custom, a problem for someone seeking to prove title to land. [BACK]

4. Despite the strategic placement of these scenes, few critics focus on custom itself, or extend to Turpine's Castle of the Ford their comments on the topos that the Variorum edition of Spenser's works treats most fully for Malecasta's castle, which it traces back to Boiardo's Palazo Zoioso (Edmund Spenser, Works: A Variorum Edition , ed. E. A. Greenlaw, F. M. Padelford, C. G. Osgood, et al., 10 vols. [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1932-1949]), vol. 3, 208. Rosemond Tuve, for example, says that "castles with 'customs' which the errant knights must face" are merely incident to "the initial datum : these are tales of knights errant" ( Allegorical Imagery [Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1966), 379-380; cf. 384). Harry Berger lists romance motifs for Book VI, from nurseries and foundlings to cannibals, shepherds, and "withdrawal and return," but like others he ignores the custom of the castle topos (Harry Berger, Jr., "A Secret Discipline: The Faerie Queene Book VI," in Revisionary Play [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], 215-242, 216. Patricia Parker's wide-ranging essay on romance in The Spenser Encyclopedia , which reminds us that romances are characterized by recurring images such as magic castles where knights receive instruction, overlooks the custom of the castle as a scene of social confrontation ( The Spenser Encyclopedia , ed. A. C. Hamilton [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990], 609-618). Humphrey Tonkin's article " The Faerie Queene , Book VI" adds nothing to his earlier studies of courtesy, and misleadingly telescopes hundreds of years of Arthurian Romance by referring to Crudor's custom as "a variation on a Celtic legend" ( The Spenser Encyclopedia , 283-287). The Spenser Encyclopedia itself offers no article on either castles or customs.

Critics who do consider Crudor's and Turpine's castles usually ignore the theme of social custom. James Nohrnberg is something of an exception. His analogical technique rightly turns our attention to Malecasta, Malbecco, and the opening of Book IV, and he compares Turpine to the "difficult or intractable person" of Giovanni Della Casa's courtesy book, Galateo ( The Analogy of "The Faerie Queene, " 656). The critical focus usually falls, however, on the knight who broaches the castle or on the keeper of the custom. Dorothy Woodward Culp summarizes the first episodes of Book VI by saying that Calidor meets and helps various people in distress ("Courtesy and Fortune's Chance in Book 6 of The Faerie Queene," Modern Philology 68 [1971]: 254-259, 254). Theresa Krier merges Crudor's demand that Briana beard knights (thus humiliating her by demanding a price for his love) with the traditions of courtly love. She therefore adds an economic motive to the secrecy, adultery, and idealization of the female that normally characterize the medieval passion whose essential distinction, one supposed, was its ability to transcend cupidity ( Gazing on Secret Sights [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990], 231-232). David Miller ("Calidore," The Spenser Encyclopedia , 127-128) and Gordon Teskey ("Arthur in The Faerie Queene,'' The Spenser Encyclopedia , 69-71) nearly contrast the conduct of Crudor, which may be reformed, to Sir Turpine's irredeemable turpitude. Yet the infinite varieties of evil do not quite explain the problem of social confrontation. What a poem can treat as moral philosophy has darker consequences in the world. [BACK]

5. See Hamilton, Spenser: The Faerie Queene , 737. [BACK]

6. The allegory is "faint enough," writes Norhnberg, but the meaning seems to be that "perverted effort [Maleffort] in the service of evil custom is a fertile source of error" ( The Analogy of "The Faerie Queene, " 695). [BACK]

7. Hamilton, Spenser: The Faerie Queene , note to FQ 6.1.25. [BACK]

8. George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (1589; Cambridge: At the University Press, 1936), 226. [BACK]

9. Frank Whigham comments that "when Calidore and Crudor fight in The Faerie Queene . . . moral disparity recedes before martial resemblance." He reads the episode as an expression of a "tension between ideological distinctiveness and the fluid social reality" ( Ambition and Privilege: The Social Tropes of Elizabethan Courtesy Theory [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984], 78-79). [BACK]

10. Compare the "affection" that suddenly alters Leontes in The Winter's Tale (1.2.137), making him suspect his queen of adultery. Although Briana calms down while Leontes heats up, both experience a sudden change in mood. [BACK]

11. Kenneth Burke, Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 441. [BACK]

12. Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious , 234-235. [BACK]

13. Ibid., 173. [BACK]

14. Felicity Heal identifies two contrasting aspects of English civility: "The first is the idea that refinement separates those who possess it from the rest, and justifies them in seeking one another's company. . . . Paradoxically, the second important aspect of the civility literature is its concern for the idea of accommodation. Social versatility, and the ability to adjust to the needs of others for the avoidance of unpleasantness, became major themes in English writing from the mid-Elizabethan period onwards" ( Hospitality in Early Modern England [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990], 103-104). [BACK]

15. The first part of Malecasta's entry procedure inverts the normal custom that tests a knight by his prowess. By her rules, whoever wins, loses. A knight with no lady must serve her. A knight with a lady must abandon his lady. And a knight who refuses to give up his lady and successfully defends her beauty against Malecasta receives, by law, Malecasta as his reward, just what he does not want, since he already has a lady. Because her "soueraine beautie hath no living pere," say her six guardians in a logical non sequitur, she "hath ordained this law, which we approuve" ( FQ 3.1.26).

The unweaving of Malecasta's social web is caused not by anything Britomart does, but instead follows from the web's own logic. After Britomart defeats the

six perversions of civility who defend Malecasta—Gardante and the others were ironically "traynd in all civilitee" ( FQ 3.1.44)—she enters the castle for the night, as required by Malecasta's law. If Malecasta represents adultery or premarital sex, as most commentators say, nonetheless her law—which Spenser's interest in laws and customs characteristically emphasizes—functions to allow her to operate simply as what used to be called a "masher," someone sexually aggressive, either male or female, whose attentions make others uncomfortable. [BACK]

16. Sir Edward Coke, for example, calls the shifting of land from tillage to pasture an "inconvenience" to the commonwealth due to depopulation and the beginning of "mischief" ( The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England or A Commentary upon Littleton , 4th ed. [London, 1639], 85). Spenser uses "inconvenience" in this technical sense throughout The View of the Present State of Ireland . [BACK]

17. Spenser calls The Faerie Queene a "continued Allegory, or dark conceit" in his letter to Raleigh (Hamilton, Spenser: The Faerie Queene , 737). [BACK]

18. What is looked for at Calepine's hand is a heroic response, but Calepine balks. By contrast, Britomart, Paridell, and the Squire of Dames threaten to fire Malbecco's gates when he locks them out ( FQ 3.9.17). Boiardo's Orlando tells the traitor Trufaldino that unless he unlocks the gates of Albraca, he will scatter the citadel across the plains ( OI 1.15.46). Generally Spenser's knights have only human powers; none takes on armies singlehanded. But they do overpower mobs, and even Calepine later disperses the savages who capture Serena. Here, however, he shows only weakness. [BACK]

19. The allegory suggests that she was bitten by the Blattant Beast because she became pregnant while making love outdoors to Calepine—or that slander would have it seem so. [BACK]

20. Nor does the romance endorse specific practices of child care. In contrast, Renaissance courtesy manuals often center on family life. L. B. Alberti's Vita Civile , for example, advises mothers to nurse their children, or to find a suitable substitute. Spenser's images work insofar as they show universals, not accidents of history. Nonetheless, a detail that has nothing to do with courtesy keeps the romance grounded in reality: the baby cries all day. It is a grateful Calepine who finds Matilda, a childless woman who relieves his social embarrassment. By the time she does, however, he has lost his way. He will not meet Serena again until he finds her naked and silent among the savages, a rich image

that from this perspective suggests her inability (due to herself, social practices, or male conditioning) to impart her experience ( FQ 6.8.51). [BACK]

21. Stephen Greenblatt, "To Fashion a Gentleman: Spenser and the Destruction of the Bower of Bliss," in Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 157-192. In a similar vein, Robert Stillman suggests that Spenser uses the green world of pastoral romance to conceal his political concerns ("Spenserian Autonomy and the Trial of New Historicism: Book Six of The Faerie Queene," English Literary Renaissance 22 [1992]: 299-314). [BACK]

22. The Book of Justice, as well as Spenser's plans for reforming Ireland, make the mistake of specificity that Book VI generally manages to avoid. The Book of Courtesy starts off on this wrong foot by making civility a place, not an idea (the flower of virtue "spreds it selfe through all civilitie," 6.proem.4). Edmund Campion similarly equates civility with areas of Ireland that answer the writs of the crown ( Historie of Ireland [Dublin, 1633], fol. A). [BACK]

23. Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Filocolo , Book IV, question i, in Decameron, Filocolo, Ameto, Fiammetta , ed. Enrico Bianchi, Carlo Salinari, and Natalino Sapegno (Milan: Ricciardi, 1952), 838. [BACK]

24. Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie , 170. [BACK]

25. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology , trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 212. [BACK]

26. René Descartes, Discourse on Method and the Meditations , trans. F. E. Sutcliffe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), 29. [BACK]

27. Civility, the culmination of social graces, is broadly characterized. Colin later tells Calidor that the graces "teach us, how to each degree and kynde / we should our selves demeane, to low, to hie; / To friends, to foes" ( FQ 6.10.23). Colin Clout represents that part of Spenser capable of poetic rapture or ecstasy, the furious fit described in the October eclogue. His lofty, transcendent vision therefore does not translate the three graces into specific modes of conduct. We gather little more than that the three graces contrast the three detractions, Defetto, Decetto, and Despetto. They assume the classic position of Renaissance art—two facing forward, one backward—to show "That good should from us goe, then come in greater store" ( FQ 6. 10.24). Defetto and Decetto, like Turpine and the Blatant Beast (now spelling with one t ), prefer to attack from behind ( FQ 6.5.19). [BACK]

28. Michael MacCarthy-Morrogh, The Munster Plantation: English Migration to Southern Ireland, 1583-1641 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 111-114. [BACK]

29. Ibid., 124. [BACK]

30. See Bruce Avery, "Mapping the Irish Other: Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland," ELH 57 (1990): 263-280. [BACK]

31. MacCarthy-Morrogh, The Munster Plantation , 135. [BACK]

32. Custom is defined narrowly in the View , a dialogue that treats in turn the Irish abuses of laws, customs, and religion, then offers remedies to solve the problems it identifies. Spenser's fascination with specific social forms emerges most forcibly when Eudoxus exclaims how much he enjoys listening to Irenius's description of these customs, the "manye swete remembraunces of Antiquityes" ( Spenser's Prose Works , ed. Rudolf Gottfried [Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1949], 81). Abusive customs include nomadic herding (97), wearing a mantle and glib (long bangs that cover the face, 99-102), uncivil battle cries (102), choice of weapons (106), ceremonies such as prayers and charms and vows (107), and the Irish "manner of marryinge of burying of dauncinge of singinge of feastinge of Cursinge" (109). The moral of the View is that Irish ways of dressing, speaking, and riding are unsuited to Englishmen. The Faerie Queene , however, locates suitability in the moral sphere, not in precise modes of dress, speech, or carriage. [BACK]

33. For example, Arthur, if he were to become king in some future extension of The Faerie Queene to twenty-four books, would necessarily become what in Malory he already is, the husband of an unfaithful queen. [BACK]

34. The lesson that courtesy includes tolerating practices of which one disapproves, as well as others' disapproval of what one believes is right, is repeated three times in the two central cantos positioned between the first half and the last third of the book—where we usually look for Spenser's allegorical core. First, Arthur baffles Turpine and holds him up for an example, but does not kill him. Second, Mirabella, like Turpine, maintains her own ways, despite the heavy sentence imposed on her by the court of Cupid. When offered a choice, she refuses to be released from Disdain and Scorn. The presence of these figures suggests their inevitability in social situations. The narrative voice castigates her woman's pride ( FQ 6.8.1), but the story accepts her resolution. Some aloofness is necessary for a woman, even if she is condemned for it. Finally, Serena ends where she began, naked and outdoors with Calepine, vulnerable, unable to communicate her experience in terms others will understand ( FQ 6.8.51). As an outcast, she can easily stand for the entrepreneurial poet, whose very vocation exposes him to censure. [BACK]

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