Temperance and Allegory Essay

1253 Words 6 Pages
In The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser set out to create a work that could never be rivaled in breadth and complexity. His magnificent poem spans religious and literary movements, exalts and denounces rulers at the same time, honors traditional poetic forms and creates new ones, all while telling a fantastic story of romance, heroism, morality, and glory. In book two, Sir Guyon, the knight of temperance, is led into hell, and tempted by the creature known as Mammon, but remains faithful to his temperate values. In stanzas 44-46 of book two, Spenser utilizes techniques of romance poetry to create an allegory between Mammon’s daughter and the Catholic Church, reflecting Reformation ideals of temperance in the Protestant faith. The Faerie …show more content…
Until stanza 46, the allegorical presentation of Mammon’s daughter as the Catholic Church remains superficial; limited to vague hints of a glorious creation fallen into corruption and misery. However, stanza 46 reveals this lady’s purpose in the hellish underworld through which Sir Guyon is being led. She holds a golden chain running from the lowest hell to the highest heaven and through everything betwixt the two (2.7.407-409). In that region of hell, the teeming multitudes scrap and battle in a vain effort to climb from the damnation in which they dwell. Here, specific Protestant concerns regarding the Catholic Church can be understood beneath the primary thread of the story. One of Luther’s primary concerns when he penned the Ninety-five Theses was the corruption festering in the Catholic Church. One form of corruption that was particularly odious to Luther was the buying and selling of Indulgences. Indulgences were, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “A remission of the punishment which is still due to sin after sacramental absolution, this remission being valid in the court of conscience and before God, and being made by an application of the treasure of the Church on the part of a lawful superior” (OED, “indulgence” 2). In the days prior to the Protestant movement, the Catholic Church

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