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Finding Freedom in Spenser’s Rhetorical Places
by Maria Devlin

Critics often oppose allegory and freedom.[1] Angus Fletcher and Gordon Teskey find that allegory excludes freedom in that it excludes deliberation. Allegorical heroes “do not choose, they do not ‘deliberate’” but suffer “a real lack of freedom” under allegory’s daemonic compulsion.[2] Elizabeth Fowler finds that “personification allegory serves to dissipate rather than to collect … agency” in scenes like Scudamor’s raptus of Amoret,[3] and on Teskey’s account, all allegory is raptus. The human voice “gives the body an inner sanctum where deliberation can occur,” but the body loses its voice when imprinted with allegorical meaning. [4] Spenser’s allegorical figures supposedly lack just such an inner sanctum. Jeff Dolven says, “The Faerie Queene may unsettle us with the possibility, not only that characters cannot read the allegory, but that we must read it at their expense.”[5] Susanne Wofford calls this condition “heroic ignorance.”[6] Characters “must make moral choices in the absence of the kind of certainty or understanding that such decisions seem to require” (222). An allegory’s “claims to moral legitimacy” are undermined by its “structure of compulsion” (280). In this way, “moral allegory” becomes an oxymoron. Action can be moral or allegorical, but not both. 

The agon between allegory and freedom, though, is based on one limited and modern sense of freedom—freedom as lack of constraint. To the extent that a character is guided by his role, to that extent he is unfree. This would not have been Spenser’s view. In the Aristotelian-Thomist philosophical tradition he inherited, freedom is the capacity to judge. A free action is one that issues from judgment. And judgment is deliberation guided by a principle and attentive to particulars. Fowler finds that Spenser constructs his poem to elicit just this sort of deliberation from the reader. In complex allegories like the marriage of Medway and Thames, Spenser “produces an engine of deliberation that draws the reader, in its first stage, to puzzle out local explanations for appositions and oppositions. In its second stage, deliberation invites the reader to seek out the underlying principles of comparison. Finally, deliberation moves the reader to respond affectively and deepen that response with ethical and political judgment.”[7] When we deliberate about actions that we witness, we first analyze the local or particular details, then look for the principles by which to judge them.

The process is reversed when we take action. Free choice in acting requires first of all a principle or fixed goal. We choose freely when we take a fixed end or principle as our standard and deliberate about our particular available choices in light of that standard. The “classic means” of depicting a character’s freedom is to show him or her deliberating: “Deliberation is the literary trope that allows agency to express itself” (Escobedo 798). Fletcher’s and Teskey’s accounts of how allegory excludes deliberation already suggest the link between deliberation and this view of freedom. On this view, allegorical figures, too, act freely when they take their given virtue as their end and deliberate about how best to realize that virtue in their particular circumstances. The characters who lack a fixed end are not the most free but the most compulsive. I will introduce a scene from Book V to show how this sense of freedom operates in the poem. I argue in this paper that, contrary to many recent critical interpretations, there is in The Faerie Queene a direct and positive relationship between the poem’s moral allegory and the characters’ freedom of action. Rhetorical deliberation is often the sign by which we can locate free moral action. 

Canto I of Book V presents a curious scene. Artegall, the Knight of Justice, encounters a squire mourning beside a headless lady. Artegall asks, “Who was it” that killed the lady, “And why?” (II.i.16.1-2).[8] The Squire explains that a knight came along, stole the Squire’s lady, and beheaded his own when she pursued him. Artegall pursues the rapacious knight and “gently gan him to demand of all / That did betwixt him and that Squire betide” (i.23.2-3). The Knight challenges the Squire to prove his accusation in trial by combat. The Squire is too weak to fight and prepares to surrender, thus conceding his guilt. Artegall, however, “by signes perceiving plaine” that the Squire is innocent, devises a new strategy “the truth thereout to straine” (i.24.6-9). He asks if they will instead accept him as judge and recommends that the dead lady and the living lady be divided between them. The Knight agrees, but the Squire refuses, wishing to give up his lady rather than see her killed. When Artegall “perceive[s]” the Squire’s “true love,” he awards the lady to him: “For worthy thou of her does rightly seeme” (i.28.1-4).

What has happened in this scene? Artegall has been commissioned by Astrea to “execute her stedfast doome” (V.i.12.3) of justice. He encounters a situation whose particular circumstances are obscure, but he discovers them by questioning both parties. When trial by combat is proposed, he sees that this method of decision would, in this particular case, return an unjust judgment against the Squire, because he can tell by perception that the Squire is not guilty. So he introduces a test to get new information about the claimants. When he perceives the Squire’s true love, he makes a judgment and explains his principle of judgment: neither success in combat, nor property rights of the original owner, but worth decides the case. This scene relies on the free and moral deliberation that Aristotelian-Thomistic action theory makes available.  

Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics was a key philosophical text in Early Modern England and one source for The Faerie Queene.[9] Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, which draws heavily on the Ethics, gained in authority at sixteenth-century Cambridge, where Spenser was educated.[10] In the Summa, Aquinas lays out a theory of human action and freedom that informs texts from Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity to one of England’s most popular works on dialectic: Thomas Wilson’s Rule of Reason.[11] For Aquinas, our freedom in action turns on the relationship between universals and particulars. Our rationality can apprehend, not just particular objects, but universal concepts like “the good.” Our will aims essentially, not at particular goods, but at the good per se.[12] But particular goods are all we can attain in action. So we deliberate about the goods available in our particular circumstances and choose the one we judge will best embody the good as such. When we are attentive to particulars and guided by a principle, we are capable of free choice.

Now, free choice does not exclude all constraint. The good per se is by necessity the will’s principle or goal. Anything we desire, we desire under the aspect of goodness.[13] But though the end is fixed, the means are flexible. We do not choose our goal, but we do choose how we accomplish it. In fact, we must choose, because the translation from a universal principle to a particular action is always underdetermined. No particular good can be identical to goodness itself. Because it cannot embody our end fully, it cannot move our will necessarily.[14] There is always more than one way to embody a principle in a particular. This underdetermination allows us freedom to choose the particular action that we judge best embodies our principle here and now. This is not the modern sense of freedom as radical absence of constraint. We act freely, not because our pursuit of particulars lacks all constraint, but because our choice of this particular rather than that is not constrained.

On this view, only free action can be moral action. To be moral, a decision must be guided by a principle, like goodness or justice, and must be attentive to particulars. Heather James acknowledges that justice requires both when she says, “Artegall has been trained to think of justice beyond and outside of the more local and time-bound considerations of law, and yet he is pressed into Gloriana’s service in the most local and time-bound of Spenser’s books.”[15] Artegall does, indeed, possess an ultimate principle of justice, as well as various subordinate principles (like merit) by which a just outcome may be reached. But he attends also to particulars.

Spenser uses the word “perceive” three times in the scene of the Squire and the Knight. For Aristotle, perception is our ability to grasp particulars insofar as they are relevant to the decision at hand. Perception is vital, because the same principle requires different actions in different circumstances to be successfully realized. James reads this scene simply as Artegall’s reprisal of King Solomon’s test, a serene repetition of “authoritative and virtuous examples” learned from Astraea. But if the test were merely a repetition, unresponsive to the situation, it might well have failed. What if the Knight had also been familiar with the Solomon story or had merely guessed at Artegall’s strategy? He could have “gamed the system” by offering the “correct” answer without any of the right motivation behind it. Would Artegall have then been forced to give both claimants equal credit? No, because his judgment is not based simply on their recapitulating the original responses to the test. He gives his verdict when he “perceaue[s]” that the Squire is “so willing” to give up his life for the lady—a willingness that the Knight could not have shown to a perceptive judge. Artegall’s decision succeeds, not only because he uses a valid principle and a valid test, but also because he can perceive whether the test will be valid and why.

If the agent cannot perceive or respond to particulars, he will not be able to realize his moral goal in action. On the other hand, if he has no goal, he has no standard against which to compare and judge his options. His decision can only be arbitrary. Without a principle, the agent cannot make a real choice, because there is nothing for the choice to be a choice of. Only free action, guided by a principle and attentive to particulars, can be moral action. Artegall in this scene exemplifies both, which is why the scene is one of the book’s most successful emblems of justice.

Now, if critics were right that allegory excludes freedom, they would be right to worry that allegorical characters might fail to embody their moral goals. But what enables free and moral action is judgment, which is enabled by a process we find everywhere in Early Modern texts: legal debates, classroom textbooks, philosophical treatises, and allegorical poems. What allows an agent to realize his general goal in particular circumstances is deliberation. The tools of Early Modern rhetoric were designed precisely to enable deliberation. Where we find those tools deployed in The Faerie Queene, we often find free moral action as well.

One problem Artegall confronts is that the law proposed, trial by combat, is inadequate to the case’s particular circumstances. It had been recognized since Aristotle’s Ethics and Rhetoric that universal laws can never be adequate to all cases.[16] A law will sometimes render an unjust judgment for a particular case. Justice then requires that we adapt the law to those particular circumstances. This principle of adaptation was known as equity. Equity provided a “flexible standard that allows one to negotiate between general laws and specific practices.”[17] Sixteenth-century readers of Aristotle believed that the discovery of this flexible standard was aided by the techniques of rhetoric.   

Joel Altman, Wesley Trimpi, Kathy Eden, and Drew Scheler[18] have shown how classical and Early Modern poets, including Spenser, adopted rhetorical strategies, like questions, hypotheses, and fictional narratives, to discover the right arguments for deciding open questions—much as Artegall questions the two claimants and constructs a test to “straine” out the truth.[19] The art of discovering relevant arguments belonged to the rhetorical canon of invention. In the 16th century, invention was often classified under dialectic, but as Peter Mack has shown, Agricola, Ramus, and their followers, including Thomas Wilson, insisted that dialectic and rhetoric be studied together.[20] Rhetoric needed dialectic to discover arguments and evaluate them. The relationship between rhetoric and dialectic in Ramism is still disputed, but the disputes have no direct bearing on my argument here, and I will use the terms interchangeably.

Harry Berger, Judith Anderson, and others have noted the importance of rhetorical places in Spenser’s work.[21] Dialectic would have been a key part of Spenser’s rhetorical education, and the places, or topics, were at the heart of dialectical invention. The topics designated different relations that concepts may have with each other—definition, property, cause, effect, etc. Given a question about a subject, a speaker would apply the topics to uncover new aspects of the subject, especially those most relevant for the question. “These common headings,” wrote Agricola, “contain all the arguments; for this reason they are called topics”—from topos, place—“because in them are placed, as if in … a sort of treasury, all instruments for causing belief.”[22] The topics elicit belief rather than certainty because they apply to contingent matters, where we can attain only probable knowledge. The Early Modern practice of arguing in utramque partem applied to these kinds of contingent questions in which opposite sides were each defensible. Aquinas writes that, in contingent matters, the “judgment of reason … is not determined” but has “an openness with respect to opposites, as is clear from dialectical syllogisms and rhetorical persuasions” (I, q. 83, a. 1). The realm of the contingent is the realm of rhetoric. We do not deliberate or persuade about things that are necessary.

The most important contingent, non-necessary things about which we deliberate are our own free acts. Aquinas writes, “A man’s being the master of his own acts stems from the fact that he has deliberation about his acts. For it is from the fact that reason, in deliberating, is open to opposites that the will has a capacity for both opposites” (I-II, q. 6, a. 2). The will is open to different options just where reason is open to different judgments, and reason is open just in the contingent realms where rhetoric applies. The tools of dialectical invention, including the topics, are meant to enable reason’s work in judging and choosing.

Animals do not act with free judgment, says Aquinas, because they do not compare alternatives. Their actions are determined by instinct. Human judgment is free because it arises from a comparison made by reason—“ex collatione quadam rationis” (I, q. 83, a. 1). Instinct apprehends only one thing, and so is necessarily moved by it. By contrast, reason brings together many things so that the will can be moved by any of them but is moved necessarily by none of them. What are the many things reason brings together? Not simply different choices of action, but actions seen in different ways. No particular good can fully embody the good per se. By comparing different actions with the universal good, reason recognizes every act as good in some respects, imperfect in others—good enough so that it could be chosen, but not so good that it must be.[23] The rational comparison or collatio brings together particular options viewed in relation to a universal standard that allows us to compare and judge them. Particulars give us choices. A principle helps us to choose. 

Judgment or iudicium is also Thomas Wilson’s term in Rule of Reason for the first part of logic: what the speaker needs to make his argument sound.[24] The topics enable the speaker to collect different arguments and make sound comparisons. According to Agricola, the topics elicit, “All that can be said about [the subject], and all that [it] is” (quoted in Mack, Renaissance Argument, 140-141). They also enable us to “collect[] what agrees and disagrees with it” (quoted in Mack 139). Agricola’s verb for collect, colligere, derives from ligo, to bind, as Thomas’s collatio derives from fero, to bring. These terms, with verbs of physical action at their origins, convey the almost material process of gathering knowledge. And it is crucial that we gather this knowledge into common places. Once we bring two subjects together into the same place, that place, or topic, provides a standard by which we can compare them—in terms of their causes, effects, etc. If free choice is guided by a principle and is attentive to particulars, the topics can be used to gather the particulars and provide the principle. In this way, the places of rhetorical invention enable freedom of judgment and action. 

They also signal its presence. There are many villains in the Faerie Queene who are skilled rhetoricians, but deliberation that is sound rather than sophistic usually accompanies actions that are both free and morally successful. The trial of Duessa, perhaps the central allegorical scene in Book V, proceeds by introducing characters like Zele, Kingdoms Care, Authority, Pittie, Regard, and Grief who speak for and against her. These characters correspond to different topics one would use in deliberating both sides of a legal case. Their presence helps us see Mercilla’s verdict as both a free decision and a just one, and more just because it is free.

We are not, of course, given access to Mercilla’s deliberations, as we might be by a dramatic soliloquy. What is important is that the matter necessary for deliberation is made present. Esobedo writes that “Spenser … doesn’t dramatize [his characters’] actions as choices, but instead makes them appear as effects of narrative momentum or moral character. Even at those moments in which the narrative explicitly offers multiple options, Spenser almost never allows his characters to deliberatively select one option over another.”[25] But when the narrative organizes itself as a presentation of deliberative material—when the scene proceeds by articulating principles of choice and contextual data relevant to them—the momentum is towards judgment. Such scenes include Contemplation’s explanation to Red Crosse Knight of the reason he cannot yet enter Jerusalem, Guyon and the Palmer’s discussion of whether or not to bury Amavia and Mordant, and Mutabilitie and Jove’s entering into trial as two legal claimants.[26] In such scenes, the allegory fails unless we understand it as exemplifying principled and attentive decision. 

We also find the matter of decision in Artegall’s debate with the egalitarian Giant. Artegall, too, draws on the topics, invoking comparisons, efficient causes, final causes, probable effects, more and less, and possibility and impossibility, to show that the Giant cannot achieve justice by weighing the world’s parts in his balance. The Giant, meanwhile, shows us by negative example why only free action can be just.

Both free action and moral action require attention to particulars and guidance by a principle. The Giant ignores particulars. He groups things like right and wrong that cannot be weighed together, and attempts to weigh things like thoughts that cannot be weighed. He makes the same move of weighing no matter the context. But principles require different choices in different circumstances. The Giant’s weighing, then, cannot be guided by a principle like justice. Artegall points out that his weighing will be pointless since he lacks the “goodly measure” (V.ii.35.2) of what the weight is supposed to be.

The Giant finally reacts to Artegall’s arguments simply by thrusting away the right from his balance, “For it was not the right which he did seeke / But rather strove extremities to way, / Th’one to diminish, th’other for to eeke. / For of the meane he greatly did misleeke” (ii.49.2-5). He does not want to weigh extremities for the sake of a principle. He does not seek the “right.” He simply wants to weigh extremities—over and over, no matter the result. Elizabeth Fowler argues that the Giant does possess a genuine principle. He presents and desires “strongly reasoned deliberative justice” (“Failure” 61). But even if his principle is correct, his procedure is not. If Artegall’s testing of the Giant’s balances “arbitrarily narrow[s]” (63) their discourse about justice, the test is in response to the already arbitrarily narrow method of adjudicating via weighing. This compulsive behavior generally happens, not when characters embody a guiding virtue, but when they lack one. Moral allegory enables free choice when it provides characters with a principle by which to choose. Characters without a guiding principle are not more free but more determined. They can only react compulsively in a single way.

The poem does show us many vicious allegorical figures who behave compulsively, not freely, but the compulsion comes from the vice, not from the allegory. Virtuous behavior cannot be compulsive. This is why, I suspect, so many critics are uncomfortable with Talus. It is not that his justice is harsh. It’s that it is not justice—not per se. While James finds that “Equity largely fails in the Legend of Justice” and that Talus is to blame, Talus is not at fault “as a character or even an allegorical personification bordering on the human: he is neither of those things. He’s an iron flail.” The mere fact that he is an allegorical figure does not make him compulsive or “an instrument and not an agent of justice.” It is his insistently material nature that makes him incapable of the context-sensitive judgment necessary both for free and for moral choice. Thomas Wilson writes,

Of those that are workyng causes, some by nature bring thynges to passe, some by aduisement, and by a fore purposed choyse. Thynges woorke by nature (and that necessarily) which lacke knowlege to chuse this, or that, & haue no iudgement, to discerne thynges … Some of these causes worke by the force and violence of nature, some by an outward powre … Thei woorke by an outward powre, whiche are strayned to woorke by another meane … boulettes of leade, shot out of a gunne, an arrowe out of a bowe, a stone out of a slyng: all these flie not into the ayre, by their owne power or might, but by force, & violence of him that casteth them.[27]

Things lack “iudgement” that are fully material—lead bullets, stones, or iron flails. Talus “does not accept a view of the law that embraces and depends upon context and interpretation” (James) because he is essentially a material object, launched by the “force, & violence” of external agent, subject to necessity, capable of destruction, but not capable of interpretation, “advisement,” or “choyse.” Talus does make it progressively more difficult for the Book to accomplish its titular virtue, but his presence does not undo the connection between rhetorical deliberation and justice. The connection is, rather, strengthened by the fact that Talus is generally dispatched only when diplomatic discussion fails. Violence begins where rhetoric leaves off.

I have argued that in The Faerie Queene, free action, moral action, and rhetorical deliberation are all directly aligned against compulsion, moral failure, and violence. I would like to conclude by stating why this might be important. Sophisticated critics emphasize the freedom that allegory offers its readers. David Lee Miller writes, “what matters most is not that a particular object in the narrative refers us to … concepts, but that these concepts find their way into a particular object” (Miller 158). A particular object can never be identical to a concept. The gap between them creates underdetermined, polysemous meaning, and with it, interpretive freedom for the reader. In a similar way, a particular action cannot be identical to a principle. The gap between them provides freedom of choice for the agent.[28] It may be true, as Teskey says, that “Justice demands that we be just” (133), but allegory can at most tell us what to do; it cannot tell us how to do it. Allegory’s characters, like its readers, are capable of freedom. But they possess it most, as do we, when they use the resources of rhetoric to attend closely to the contingencies and particulars of their own experience. Rather than assuming that allegory simply excludes freedom, we should examine the poem moment by moment to see where free and moral action might be present.[29] The places to start looking are the places.

Maria Devlin
Harvard University


I thank Nick Moschovakis and William Junker for their insightful suggestions concerning this essay’s sources, argument, and composition.

[1] For another summary of these critical positions, see Andrew Escobedo, “Allegorical Agency and the Sins of Angels,” ELH 75.4 (Winter 2008): 787-818; 787.

[2] Angus Fletcher, Allegory: Theory of a Symbolic Mode (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2012), 64.

[3] “The Failure of Moral Philosophy in the Work of Edmund Spenser,” Representations 51 (Summer, 1995), 47-76; 58.

[4] Gordon Teskey, Allegory and Violence (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1996), 124.

[5] Jeff Dolven, Scenes of Instruction in Renaissance Romance (Chicago: U of Chicago, 2007), 133.

[6] Susanne Wofford, The Choice of Achilles: The Ideology of Figure in the Epic (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1992), 221.

[7] Fowler finds that Spenser’s mixed and conflicting poetic devices prompt us specifically to “deliberate on the Aristotelian model.” See Literary Character: The Human Figure in Early English Writing (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2003), 205-6.

[8] All quotations from Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, ed. A.C. Hamilton, 2nd ed. (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2007).

[9] See Gerald Morgan, “Holiness as the First of Spenser’s Aristotelian Moral Virtues,” The Modern Language Review 81.4 (Oct. 1986): 817-837. 

[10] See “Aquinas” in The Spenser Encyclopedia, ed. A.C. Hamilton (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1997).

[11] See Peter Mack, “Spenser and Rhetoric,” in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser, ed. Richard McCabe (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010), 424.

[12] See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, q. 1, a. 2. All translations are by Alfred Freddoso.

[13] See I-II, q. 94, a. 2.

[14] See I-II, q. 13, a. 6.

[15] Heather James, “The Problem of Poetry in The Faerie Queene, Book V,” The Spenser Review 45.1.1.

[16] See Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, V.10, 11137b-1138a, Rhetoric, I.13, 1374a-b.

[17] Drew Scheler, “Equitable Poetics and the State of Conflict in Edmund Spenser’s Two Cantos of Mutabilitie,Rhetorica 32.4 (Autumn 2014): 362-385; 367.

[18] Joel Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama (Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1978). Drew Scheler, in “Equitable Poetics,” cites Wesley Trimpi, Muses of One Mind: The Literary Analysis of Experience and Its Continuity (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983) and Kathy Eden, Poetic and Legal Fiction in the Aristotelian Tradition (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1986);

[19] Fowler, discussing the legal argumentation at the end of Book IV, concludes, “For the legal fictions of the poem are not merely fanciful ways of expressing thoughts, but ethical and political explorations of social forms—person, marriage, polity, dominion—that had tremendous force in Spenser’s culture …”  (Literary 212). 

[20] See Peter Mack, “Ramus and Ramism: Rhetoric and Dialectic” in Ramus, Pedagogy, and the Liberal Arts: Ramism in Britain and the Wider World, ed. Steven J. Reid and Emma Annette Wilson (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2011).

[21] See David Lee Miller, “The Faerie Queene (1590),” in A Critical Companion to Spenser Studies, ed. Bart van Es (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 163.

[22] De inventione dialectica, trans. Peter Mack, cited in Peter Mack, Renaissance Argument: Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Rhetoric and Dialectic (Leiden and New York: E.J. Brill, 1993), quoted 140.

[23] See I-II, q. 13, a.6.

[24] “This Arte [of Logic] is deuided into ii partes. The first parte standeth in framing of thinges aptlye together, in knitting woordes, for the purpose accordingly, & in Latin is called Iudicium.The second parte consisteth in finding out matter, and searching stuffe agreable to the cause, and in Latine is called Inuentio. For you must vnderstande, that when one goeth about to proue any thing, he must firste inuente somewhat to proue his cause, the which when he hath done: he muste vse iudgement, bothe in framing the same reason so inuented, & also to see, whether it serueth for the purpose or not.” Thomas Wilson, The Rule of Reason, 2nd ed. (London, 1551: STC, 25809).

[25] Andrew Escobedo, “The Sincerity of Rapture,” Spenser Studies 24 (2009): 185-208; 186.

[26] For an account of the various legal principles at stake in Mutabilitie’s trial, see Fowler, “Architectonic Character and Dominion in Two Cantos of Mutabilitie” in Literary Character.

[27] See I, q. 59, a. 3.

[28] Freedom here is still intended as the “capacity to judge” rather than “freedom from constraint.” A free interpretation is achieved by attending to the text rather than following procedural rules; it is still constrained by the text it attends to. It may or may not be the case that there are unlimited or multiple valid interpretations, just as it may or may not be the case that there are unlimited or multiple right actions in a given situation. Free judgment may be discretionary, but it is not simply subjective. For a discussion of this distinction, see Fowler, “Failure of Moral Philosophy,” 64; I thank Andrew Escobedo for calling this distinction to my attention.

[29] Freedom may be present even where such deliberation is not depicted. Characters “‘make choices’ in that they perform actions that are not directly compelled by external agents.” All literary characters, allegorical or not, enjoy freedom “in this minimal sense” (Escobedo “Sincerity” 186). More substantiality, we could say we find freedom in action where we find consent. Consent is, in Fowler’s readings, the basis for political bonds in The Faerie Queene. When “Medway moves from maid to bride by consent and ceremony” (Literary 212) or when “mutual consent” is modeled by Cambina, Canacee, and Britomart (“Failure” 57), we find consensual, voluntary action. The episode depicting Scudamor’s raptus of Amoret, in which Spenser “underlines her resistance in no uncertain terms” (57), implies Amoret’s ability to give or withhold consent by depicting its violation.

 

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Maria Devlin, "Finding Freedom in Spenser’s Rhetorical Places," Spenser Review 45.2.24 (Fall 2015). Accessed May 23rd, 2024.
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