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Timias: Towards a Religious Definition of Spenserian Honour
by Dr Stuart A. Hart

Timias: Towards a Religious Definition of Spenserian Honour

The subject of this article is Timias — Prince Arthur’s ‘dearly loued Squire’ (I.vii.37.1). Very little has been written about Timias, despite the fact that he appears in five of the six completed books of the Faerie Queene (I, II, III, IV and VI).[1] This is hardly surprising; he does not have a book named after him, his appearances in the poem are sporadic and he tends to orbit the main events of the narrative, existing on the periphery of things rather than dominating the action. When he is the focus on attention it is often just in the light of one very specific historical allegory involving Raleigh. However, as A. Leigh DeNeef notes, Timias is an important figure who is worthy of more attention given that his narrative history ‘offers an unusually clear example of the ways Spenser accommodates the characters and incidents of The Faerie Queene to various intertextual and extratextual pressures’.[2] The article will call for a reassessment of Timias’s significance within the poem, and more importantly it will argue for a reappraisal of his theological importance within the poem’s soteriological landscape. It will suggest that, despite his minor status, Timias performs a key role in The Faerie Queene by the way in which he both represents and challenges Protestant assumptions regarding the path to salvation.

Honour Culture in Early Modern Britain

In framing a discussion about Timias’s religious significance, one must first consider the concept of honour with which Timias is associated through the Greek derivation of his name (timê / τιμή). Honour was understood in broad terms during the early modern period. As the OED notes, since c.1300 the term had come to refer to a ‘quality of character entitling a person to great respect; nobility of mind or spirit; honourableness, uprightness; a fine sense of, and strict adherence to, what is considered to be morally right or just’.[3] In addition to this, ‘honour’ was also used, and had been since c.1225, to refer to ‘great respect, esteem, or reverence received, gained or enjoyed by a person or thing; glory, renown, fame; reputation, good name’.[4] As Linda Pollock notes, in part, honour was associated with ideas of restraint and moderation and was bound up with the related virtues of magnanimity, temperance and obligation.[5] Moreover, as Richard Cust and Mervyn James have identified, it was also overlaid with ideas of lineage, genealogy and aristocracy.[6] James Nohrnberg has argued that apart from its association with honour, Timias’s name also generates meaning from its wordplay on time, which suggests the character’s opportuneness.[7] Indeed, Timias’s timely intervention as a ‘human instrument of divine grace’ at several times in books I and II lends credence to this idea as I will later demonstrate.[8]

The extent to which ideas about esteem and reputation were central to early modern constructions of honour may be measured by the way in which the word was used interchangeably with a number of other terms during the period. As Walker notes, the noun ‘honour’ was frequently used alongside other words such as ‘name’, ‘fame’, ‘carriage’, ‘condition’, ‘reputation’, ‘credit’, ‘honesty’, ‘virtue’ and ‘chastity’.[9] Each of these terms had a bearing on the way in which honour was imagined and constructed. In much the same way, words such as infamy, slander, disgrace, stain, slur, blemish and shame were often used in the same context as the noun dishonour. Together, these terms point towards a conception of honour that is founded upon ideas of respect, pride and moral dignity. Moreover, they suggest that honour is relational, and bound up with notions of worth and one’s claim to respect in the eyes of others. As we shall see, many of these terms, and the ideas that they embody, lie at the heart of Spenser’s consideration of honour. Through his treatment of Timias, Spenser constantly seems to be experimenting with such idioms in order to qualify, as well as stretch, extend and redefine, what honour means in both a secular and religious sense. 

Central to Spenser’s conception of honour is the idea that in order to be worthy of respect in the eyes of others, one must demonstrate temperance through the ability to govern one’s passions. In particular, one must be able to master the affections of pride, irascibility and concupiscence. Spenser implies that these are the corrosive elements that pose the largest threat to a person’s good name as Timias discovers in books III, IV and VI through his dealings with the three fosters, Belphoebe, Lust and Mirabella. It might strike us as odd that temperance should continue to be foregrounded in the later books given its prominence in Book II. However, it seems that Spenser has purposefully structured the poem so that there is a meaningful and progressive sequence of virtues through the six books. The poem seems to suggest that control of the self is the root of all one’s behaviour in the world, and as the unfinished nature of Book II implies, the pursuit of temperance is an ongoing one given man’s susceptibility to sinfulness. Timias functions in the poem to facilitate the realisation of the other books’ virtues through combatting those forces of intemperance, which threaten a Christian gentleman’s sense of honour. Spenser’s Calvinist readers would have argued that because of humankind’s inherent depravity, man is incapable of subjugating these sinful impulses and earning honour through deeds. For the Reformers, honour was something that only God could bestow upon the elect through the gift of unmerited grace. It was a state of being that was interchangeable with justification. However, as Spenser suggests through his treatment of the squire in books III, IV and VI, despite humankind’s weakness, man’s will still has the ability to earn honour through reason’s capacity to cooperate with, and work alongside, grace in the pursuit of goodness.

That honour was imagined in theological terms during the period is reflected by the frequency with which it is mentioned in some of the most important doctrinal publications of the time. For instance, In the opening paragraph of the Act for the Vniformitie of Common Prayer, printed in the 1559 booke of common prayer, we read of the ‘honor of God’ and how this had been abused through Queen Mary’s decision to repeal Edward VI’s previous Act of Uniformity.[10] The word also appears in the same publication under the section ‘Of Ceremonies’. On the subject of the liturgy, it is stated that ‘the settyng forth of Gods honour or glorye’ may only take place and thus guide ‘the people to a moste perfecte and Godly lyuyng without errour or supersticion’ if popish ceremonies are abolished.[11] In both instances, the word honour is used to signify God’s greatness and glory. Moreover, there is the suggestion that honour has a particular association with Protestantism: God’s grandeur can only be correctly exalted through the ordinances of the Protestant Church, and that the idolatrous veneration of saints as well as the popish liturgy of the Roman Church are corrupt forms of worship that threaten to bring dishonour to God. Honour is further referenced in Cranmer’s 1547 ‘Homelie on the saluacion of mankynd’, when man is urged to ‘seke in all thinges, his glory and honor, not our sensuall pleasures & vaynglory, evermore dreadynge willinglye to offende suche a merciful God and loving Redemer in word, thought, or dede’.[12] Here Cranmer beseeches the faithful to reject sinfulness in favour of a life of pious devotion, whereby they may aspire to God’s honour, by which Cranmer appears to mean God’s nobility of spirit and moral wholesomeness. The idea that man may work towards achieving a sense of honour, which may be thought of as Christian honour, through the abnegation of the flesh, as well as by eliminating pride in favour or humility is one that seems to shape Spenser’s presentation of Timias. This is illustrated in the squire’s encounters with the three fosters and the giant Lust, as well as in Timias’s dealings with the vainglorious Mirabella. In each of these episodes, Spenser uses allegory to suggest that man must overcome the forces of licentiousness and pride in order that he may progress on the path to regeneration and Christian honour.

In the theological examples cited above the term ‘honour’ is used as a noun; however, John Jewel uses the word in the form of a verb in his ‘Homilee of good workes. And first of Fasting’ in the second book of homilies published in 1571: ‘loue God above all thinges, […] loue my neighbour as myself, […] honour father and mother, […] honour the higher powers, […] geue to euery man that which is his due, and suche like’.[13] Here, through Jewel’s allusion to Mark 12.30-1, Matthew 19.19 and Exodus 20.12, we see how the word honour is used, in the formulation of a number of imperatives, to signify that sense of piety and devotion that humankind, in the pursuit of holiness, should extend towards the trio of God, one’s parents and one’s neighbour. Of the examples that I have provided, this is the first one that, in part, uses the term honour in a religious sense in relation to humankind. In all of the other examples, the word is used exclusively with regards to God.  However, within the context of the sentence, a degree of overlap exists between the divine and the human by the way in which sixteenth-century readers would have imagined how the act of honouring one’s family and extending charity and courtesy towards one’s neighbours was analogous to the act of showing devotion to God through its expression of love and reverence. Spenser’s doctrinally-inclined readers would see in the figure of Timias the embodiment of this idea that the term honour not only refers to a state of holiness that one aspires to achieve in the ongoing process towards sanctification, but that it also indicates an act of worship towards God. We see this notion being played out most notably in books I and II of The Faerie Queene when Spenser has Timias function as an instrument of divine grace. It seems that in having the squire work alongside Arthur, channeling the spirit of God, Spenser glorifies the immanence and also the revealed will of  God. Moreover, Timias’s part in the rescue of Redcrosse from Duessa and Orgoglio in Book I, may also be seen as an act of honour by the way in which it glorifies the claim of the Protestant Church to represent the true faith over the competing claims of the Roman church. Similarly, in books III, IV and VI, Timias’s figurative struggles for control of the passions may be seen to represent humankind’s attempts to honour and exalt God through renouncing the wiles of the Devil.

Protestant theologians of the period also believed that honour was a distinction that God bestowed on man through the imputation of man’s righteousness, apprehended and received by faith. Evidence of this belief can be seen in the 1571 ‘Homilie against peril of idolatrie’ when Jewel quotes from Origen’s Contra Celsum: ‘a man may know God and his onely sonne, and those whiche haue had suche honour geuen them by God, that they be called Gods: But it is not possible that anye should by worshypping of images get any knowledge of God.’[14] Here, Jewel utilises the Church Father, Origen of Alexandria, to warn against the adoration of idolatrous images. He claims that they threaten to obscure man’s true knowledge of God and lead him from the correct path of devotion, and with it, the road to redemption. The anti-Roman sentiment expressed in the homily mirrors that found in the quotations cited above from the Act for the Vniformitie of Common Prayer and the booke of common prayer. However, what is different is the emphasis that Origen’s phrasing gives to the idea that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, received by faith, is an honour or a privilege that God awards to man. However, the theologian’s words suggest that not everyone will be the recipient of this divine act of beneficence. Through the emotive use of the word ‘those’, he seems to imply that Christian honour is not granted to humankind in general but only to the fortunate few. It is not surprising that Jewel looked to use this quotation from Origen, as it reflects Protestant thinking at the time. Jewel’s Protestant readers would probably take Origen’s use of the term ‘those’ to refer to the Elect, God’s predestined few who are justified through faith alone. Thus, in this key Church of England publication, honour is located at the heart of the Protestant doctrine of sola fide, whilst at the same time being diametrically opposed to the Catholic faith and its supposed practice of idolatry.

Theologians were not alone in imagining honour in religious terms. A number of essayists also considered the subject. In his essay, Of Honour, written for Sir Thomas Egerton in 1596, the lawyer, translator and book collector, Robert Ashley, writes of how man was incapable of achieving honour by himself because of the fact that there was no precedent for it on Earth. He claims that it could not have evolved naturally because man and the beasts are too ‘base and vnbeseeming […] [of God’s] heavenly nature’.[15] Therefore, he asserts that the source of honour must be providential; God must be its ‘wellspringe and fountayne’. Having argued this, he then goes on to idealise the virtue’s worth, claiming that ‘there ys nothing amongst men more excellent then honour’ and that God ‘cannot geue or bestowe a greater guyfte vppon man’.[16] Christian honour, which one may take here to mean the glory of holiness, stems from an act of divine grace and beneficence. It is through God’s indwelling spirit that man achieves a state of honour. In part, Ashley believes, as Origen did, that this nobility of spirit derives from being blessed with faith. He writes: ‘when […] [God] maketh vs blessed then are we also partakers both of his divinitie and of his honour’. The seemingly Calvinist slant of Ashley’s writing, with its emphasis upon grace rather than works, is hardly surprising considering that he was writing to attract patronage from Egerton, a renowned Calvinist.[17]

As the sixteenth century wore on, concepts of honour with regards to the elite ruling class became increasingly associated with Christian humanism and public service. As Cust notes, during this period, we begin to see an emphasis on education as the hallmark of a gentleman and a qualification for public office; however, in addition to this, there also emerges a need for a reputation for holiness.[18] Together, these elements produced an ideal. The ability to formulate an elaborate rhetorical style that incorporated legal, biblical and classical allusion was seen by many as the ‘hallmark of a suitably learned member of the governing class’.[19] It reflected a measured and judicial mind — attributes that were deemed essential for those who harboured pretensions of advancement. This idea is gestured to in the writing of Ashley. As we will see, and as one might expect, the association between godliness and honour is one that seems to underpin Spenser’s thinking on the virtue. The ability to demonstrate one’s holiness through upholding the Christian virtues of continence, courtesy, charity and fortitude is at the centre of Spenser’s treatment of Timias.


Books I & II: Timias as an Agent of Divine Grace

Spenser first gestures towards the religious significance of Timias in his opening description of him at I.vii.37. Spenser describes him as a ‘gentle youth’ and ‘dearly loved squire’ (I.vii.37.1). The epithet ‘gentle’ is the same one used to describe Redcrosse at I.i.1. It signifies membership of a specific social class — the nobility. However, apart from its social meaning, it also has religious connotations to which the more pious of Spenser’s readers would have been attuned. It is associated with Christian beneficence through St Paul’s reference to the ‘meekenes, and gentlenes of Christ’ at 2 Corinthians 10.1.[20] The word is used in a similar sense at 2 Timothy 2.24 to describe the charity and benevolence expected of the faithful: ‘the seruant of ye Lord […] must be gentle toward all men’ (abbreviations sic). In addition to this, its noun form also figures at 2 Samuel 22.36 in the King James Bible when David states: ‘Thou hast also giuen mee the shield of thy saluation: and thy gentleness hath made me great’. On this occasion, it is God who is gentle. Through God’s divine grace and benevolence, David is made ‘great’, by which we take the adjective to mean magnanimous.[21] Through the use of the word ‘gentle’, with its biblical echoes, to describe Timias, the poem invites its readers thereafter to think about the squire in a religious light in the same way that it does when it uses the term to describe Redcrosse. Indeed, the fact that Spenser uses the same term to refer to both figures at the same stage of their adventure links the pair together. The poem seems to be saying something about their spiritual potential and promise as they set out on their journey, as well as the extent to which their destinies may be safeguarded by providence.    

The epithet ‘goodly’, which is also used to describe Timias at I.vii.29, though conventional and innocuous on its own, does, when used together with ‘gentle’, evoke a further religious dimension to the character’s depiction. It links the character to Arthur who is described using the same adjective at I.vii.29.2 (‘goodly knight’). It is possible that Spenser used this particular epithet because of its phonetic similarity to the word godly, thereby drawing upon paronomasia to hint at the pair’s holiness.

One of the effects of thinking about Timias in a religious light is the production of fresh readings of familiar scenes and passages. At I.vii.37, the equine image takes on a soteriological slant because of the religious colouring of the stanza, which as we have already noted, invites theological interpretation through the religious connotations of ‘gentle’ and the wordplay on ‘goodly’ / godly. Drawing from Plato’s Phaedrus (246a-b, 253c-54e), the poet uses a common equine image to imply the squire’s governance of his passionate impulses. We read of how the squire ‘could menage faire / His stubborne steed with curbed canon bit, / Who under him did trample as the aire’ (I.vii.37.5-7). This is not the only occasion that Spenser uses this type of image allegorically to suggest reason’s subjugation of the passions. As we have seen, he also does so at II.xii.53.5 when Guyon learns to resist temptation by ‘brydling his will, and maistering his might’. Likewise, at II.iv.34.1-2, the Palmer warns, ‘Most wretched man, / That to affections does the bridle lend’. Given the underlying religious tenor of II.iv.34, it is possible to suggest that Timias’s seeming ability to bridle his emotions and desires is indicative of his potential for holiness. It reflects his spiritual fortitude in the face of temptation and the triumph of reason over passion.

One way in which Spenser hints at Timias’s religious significance is by how he has the squire look after the prince’s allegorical armour and weaponry. This is seen at II.viii.17.6-7, where the squire carries his master’s ‘heben launce / And coverd shield’. As critics have noted, the prince’s armour recalls the Pauline metaphor of God’s protection of the faithful from Ephesians 6.11: ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the assaultes of the deuil’.[22] It also alludes to Psalm 28.7: ‘The Lorde is my strength and my shielde: mine heart trusted in him, and I was helped’. The image of God’s armour protecting the faithful was a powerful one during the early modern period, and was found in many Protestant treatises and sermons. For example, Spenser’s contemporary, the popular Protestant homilist Henry ‘Silver-Tongued’ Smith, uses the same image when he beseeches the faithful to ‘put on the armor of light’.[23] He declares that the armour of Christ ‘defendeth vs from all the assaults of the diuell, the flesh, the world, the heate of persecution, and the cold of defection’.[24] By making Timias carry Arthur’s shield, Spenser encourages readers to associate him with its religious properties. As Gless notes, the shield symbolises ‘the ultimate source of light, […] [In its uncovered state, it] represents the divine glory unmediated, a direct intuitive vision made possible and rendered transcendentally possible by the grace that justifies it’.[25] It is possible to see how, by taking responsibility for Arthur’s shield, the squire may benefit from the spiritual protection it provides. The same may be said of the ‘speare of heben wood’ whose ‘harmefull head, thrice heated in the fire, / Had riven many a brest with pikehead square’ (I.vii.37.3-4). The fact that the weapon is ‘thrice heated’ invites readers to interpret it in terms of Christian numerology. For Spenser’s doctrinally informed readers, it becomes a spear of salvation, forged and blessed by the sacred powers of the Holy Trinity. As a weapon of holiness it contrasts with the ‘firie dartes of the wicked’ (Ephesians 6.16). Timias does not actually use the spear, but the fact that he carries it for Arthur, is, to some extent, suggestive of the figure’s Christian tenor. As Gless notes, it is possible that for many of Spenser’s Protestant readers, Arthur’s armour and weaponry would have implied ‘justification and sanctification, both gifts of Christ’.[26] The fact that Timias handles the prince’s armour might have suggested that, in part, he shares in Arthur’s justification.

Throughout books I and II, Timias’s holiness is amplified by the way in which he functions alongside Arthur as an agent of providential design. This is seen most noticeably at I.viii.3.5 when he uses his ‘horne of bugle small’ to blow open the gates of Orgoglio’s castle. In doing so, he facilitates Arthur’s rescue of Redcrosse from the forces of iniquity — Orgoglio and Duessa. Spenser writes that Redcrosse’s ‘deliuerance’ from evil is down to ‘heavenly grace’ (I.viii.1.3-9). The poet’s language emphasises the providential dimension of the part played by Arthur and Timias in rescuing Redcrosse. Allegorically, Timias’s horn represents the ‘horne’ of ‘saluation’ of 2 Samuel 22, which announces the word of God to the faithful — offering the promise of redemption. Timias uses his horn to similar effect at II.ix.11. Here he sounds it so that he and Arthur can gain admittance into Alma’s ‘goodly castle’ (II.ix.10.3). The castle symbolises the body, and one that is receptive to holiness if we permit the wordplay on ‘goodly’ and godly at II.ix.10.3 and II.xi.2.9. Timias’s successful use of the horn may be seen to represent the way in which God’s word is received by the faithful. The opening of the castle gates for Arthur and Timias allegorically dramatises the way in which Alma accepts the spirit of God. At the same time it also represents the way in which honour comes to those who cooperate with God by choosing to receive his grace.

In the Maleger episode, Spenser uses Arthur and Timias to debate the limits of reason in relation to self-governance of the passions. At the beginning of cantos IX and XI, the narrator stresses the importance of ‘sober gouerment’ and the need for reason to ‘rule obedient’ because otherwise the ‘strong affections’ will bring the ‘sowle into captivity’ by exercising ‘most bitter tyranny’ over man’s ‘frail flesh’ (II.ix.1.4, II.xi.1.2 - II.xi.2.2). However, having suggested that reason has the capacity to overcome sinfulness, Spenser seems to imply that, on occasions, the psychomachic forces of ‘wretchednesse’ are too powerful for reason to overcome. This is the case with Alma when she is besieged by the allegorical figures of Maleger, Impotence and Impatience. According to Philip Rollinson, Maleger is the ‘cruell Captaine’ of ‘misrule and passions bace’ (II.ix.15.3, II.ix.1.6). The etymological components of his name (lat. ‘male’ - badly, ‘aeger’ - diseased or sick) suggest ‘both physical sickness and spiritual sickness of fallen mortality’.[27] The two hags equally represent the forces of intemperance. As Rollinson notes, Impotence is the ‘aspect of misrule which cannot control the concupiscible part of the passions (love / hate, attraction / aversion, joy / sorrow)’. Impatience, on the other hand, ‘commonly identified by the scholastics as a daughter of anger, cannot control the irascible passions (hope / despair, fear / audacity, and anger)’.[28] Together, the three figures pose a formidable threat to Alma — one which reason alone cannot overcome. Despite withstanding the forces of misrule for so long and holding them at bay, Alma must ultimately rely upon providential intercession in order to escape ‘bondage’ (II.xi.1.8). This comes in the shape of Arthur and Timias, who function here as instruments of grace. The fact that Alma must rely upon external assistance to overcome the forces of intemperance highlights not only the limitations of natural reason, but also the need for humility in the face of God’s mercy and beneficence. The poem seems to be prompting us here to consider the contingent nature of the human-divine relationship. It appears to being suggesting that precise individual circumstances determine the required balance of human-divine cooperation.

Timias’s deliverance of Arthur at II.xi.29-31 is significant because for the first time the reader sees the squire emerge from Arthur’s shadow and establish himself as an allegorical force of grace in his own right. This occurs when he comes to the rescue of Arthur who is being attacked by Maleger, Impotence and Impatience outside the grounds of Alma’s castle. For once, the prince is not an agent of divine mercy, but rather the recipient of it. He is transfigured into a helpless and vulnerable victim of Maleger. As Spenser reminds us in this episode, because of man’s inherent weakness, even the most righteous are not free from sin and temptation in this corporeal life: ‘So feeble is mans state, and life vnsound, / That in assurance it may never stand, / Till it dissolued be from earthly band’ (II.xi.30.3-5). Arthur must rely upon the timely intervention of the squire for salvation from the forces of iniquity — an act which the poem describes using the language of soteriology: ‘ […] had not grace thee blest, thou shouldest not suruive’ (II.xi.30.9). This episode, involving Arthur’s subjugation and then rescue, suggests that there will be occasions when even the most faithful find their fortitude and righteousness tested. However, the poem seems to suggest that through faith God will protect them, as seen here through the providential symbolism of Timias’s assistance. It implies that adversity is temporary; it is a trial of faith, which the justified must endure on the path to sanctification. Perseverance in the face of affliction will strengthen man’s spiritual fortitude. In making this point, Spenser is drawing upon a well-established Christian theme of which there are many biblical precedents such as James 1.3-4: ‘trying of your faith bringeth forth patience  […] let patience haue her perfect worke, that ye may be perfect & entier, lacking nothing’ (abbreviations sic). It can also be found in Isaiah 41.10: ‘Feare thou not, for I am with thee: be not afraide, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, and helpe thee, and will susteine thee with the right hand of my iustice’.

Timias’s key role in helping Arthur at II.xi.30, as well as his religious significance at I.viii.3-5, II.ix.11, and to a lesser extent, I.vii.29, helps to explain the character’s function within books I and II of the poem. As A. Leigh DeNeef notes, ‘Like Arthur, Timias is a “fresh budd of vertue springing fast” (I.viii.27.1) and stands as a “bulwarke” (I.viii.12.9) against the forces of evil […] [he] helps define the “righteous man” (I.viii.1.2) though whose efforts God’s grace operates in earthly affairs’.[29] If it were not for Timias’s soteriological dimension in these episodes, then it would be difficult to understand why Arthur had any need for a squire. Of course, in romance literature, knights have squires; they form an inherent part of the feudal economy within which the events of the poem are set. To this end, one might argue that Spenser was merely following the norms of medieval and early modern romance.[30] However, he is doing more than simply following romance convention — he is incorporating it into his allegory. Through his virtuous and timely actions in assisting Arthur to defeat the forces of evil, we read Timias as an instrument through which God’s merciful grace is transmitted into the allegorical landscape of Faerie Land. Along with Arthur, he functions, in part, to channel the word of God to the faithful, offering them celestial assistance in the face of adversity and temptation.[31]


Looking Ahead to Books II, IV and VI

The article has argued for a reassessment of Timias as an agent of divine grace by revealing how, in books I and II he functions alongside Arthur by assisting the prince in the execution of God’s revealed will. As I have shown, he embodies the virtue with which he is associated by honouring the glory, immanence and moral rectitude of God. However, if one were to look ahead to books III, IV and VI,  which space prevents me from doing in the present article, one would see that the squire’s role changes as the poem progresses. In these later books he is no longer a human instrument of heavenly providence; instead, Spenser uses him to explore the potential, as well as the limits, of human agency in the pursuit of Christian honour, holiness and redemption. As if to signal this shift, in book III Timias ‘acquires … an individualising name’; prior to this he was known solely in relation to his master, Arthur.[32] From this point on, he functions to dramatise the psychomachic conflict between passion and reason, and the ways in which one’s honour, in the eyes of God, is challenged by the sins of pride, concupiscence, irascibility and rashness as reflected through his encounters with, among others, the fosters, Belphoebe, the allegorical figure of Lust, Mirabella and the Blatant Beast. Timias’s part in these later books compliments Spenser’s portrayal of him in books I and II by suggesting that, for the Christian gentleman, honour is a contingent facet of holiness, which is dependent on a cooperation between grace and reason.

In conclusion, I hope to have offered a new way of thinking about Timias and his role in the poem, as well as bring into focus ideas of Christian honour and how they may shape our reading of the squire. As DeNeef notes, traditionally critics have tended to concentrate on the figure’s appearance in books III and IV reading him in terms of very specific literary and historical analogues, chiefly Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso 14 and the scandal surrounding Raleigh’s marriage to Elizabeth Throckmorton.[33] However, as I have tried to show, Timias is more than this; he occupies an important position in the poem’s soteriological landscape and by acknowledging his theological tenor in books I and II, the reader is encouraged to see how the squire’s part in the later sections of the poem may also be interpreted through a religious lens in addition to viewing it as part of the poem’s historical allegory or network of literary allusions. Moreover, by being receptive to the ways in which Spenser invites us to interpret the squire in soteriological terms, we are also prompted to rethink questions of honour by framing them in sacred as well as profane terms.


Dr Stuart A. Hart (Solihull School)

[1] Brief discussions of Timias can be found at: Jeff Dolven, Scenes of Instruction in Renaissance Romance (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 225, 228-30; A. C. Hamilton, The Structure of Allegory in ‘The Faerie Queene’  (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), pp. 140-1, 162-3; Carol Kaske, Spenser and Biblical Poetics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), pp. 43-6, 61-2; A. Leigh Deneef, ‘Timias’, in The Spenser Encyclopedia,, ed. by A. C. Hamilton and others (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), pp. 690-1; Isabel MacCaffrey, Spenser’s Allegory: The Anatomy of Imagination (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), pp. 267-90, 276-8, 281-2, 316, 362-3; Richard Mallette, Spenser and the Discourses of Reformation England (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), pp. 102-5, 134-5, 171, 182-5, 188-90; Paul Suttie, Self Interpretation in ‘The Faerie Queene’ (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006), pp. 36-7.

[2] DeNeef, ‘Timias’, in The Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 690.

[3] OED, ‘honour’, n. 2a.

[4]  OED, ‘honour’, n. 1a.

[5] Linda Pollock, ‘Honour, Gender and Reconciliation in Elite Culture, 1570-1700’, Journal of British Studies, 46 (2007), 3-29 (pp. 9-16).

[6] This was expressed by the gentry through their preoccupation with displaying their genealogy and heraldry through elaborate coats of arms on window glasses, house decorations and family monuments. Richard Cust, ‘Honour and Politics in Early Modern England: The Case of Beaumont vs. Hastings’, Past and Present, 149 (1995), 57-94; Mervyn James, Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 308-415.

[7] James Nohrnberg, The Analogy of ‘The Faerie Queene (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 314.

[8] DeNeef, ‘Timias’, in The Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 690.

[9] Garthine Walker, ‘Expanding the Boundaries of Female Honour in Early Modern England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society: Sixth Series, 6 (1996), 235-45, p. 236.

[10] Church of England, The booke of common prayer, and administracion of the sacramentes, and other rites and ceremonies in the Church of England (London: Richard Jugge & John Cawood, 1559, STC / 2295:01), sig. A2r.

[11] Church of England, The booke of common prayer, sig. B2v.

[12] Thomas Cranmer, Certayne sermons, or homelies appoynted by the kynges Maiestie, to be declared and redde, by all persones, vicars, or curates, euery Sondaye in their churches, where they haue cure (London, 1547), sig. F1v.

[13] John Jewel, The second tome of homilees of such matters as were promised, and intituled in the former part of homilees. Set out by the aucthoritie of the Queenes Maiestie: and to be read in euery parishe church agreeably (London: Richard Jugge & John Cawood, 1571), sig. M2r.

[14] Jewel, The second tome of homilees, sig. C8V.

[15] Robert Ashley, Of Honour (San Marino: Huntington Library Press, 1947), p. 28.

[16] Ashley, Of Honour, p. 28.

[17] J. H. Baker, ‘Egerton, Thomas, first Viscount Brackley (1540–1617), Lord Chancellor’, ODNB.

[18] Cust, ‘Honour and Politics’, pp. 70-1.

[19] Cust, ‘Honour and Politics’, p. 72.

[20] All biblical quotations, unless otherwise stated, are taken from the online version of the 1587 Geneva Bible, which is reproduced on the Bible in English 990-1970 (LION) website.

[21] OED, ‘great’, adj. 6 & 18b.

[22] Gless, ‘Armor of God’ in Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 62; Darryl Gless, Interpretation and Theology in Spenser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 127-8, 131, 133.

[23] As noted in the ODNB, Smith was referred to as the ‘Silver-Tongued Preacher’, or the ‘Silver-Tongued Smith’ because of his reputation for delivering eloquent and stirring sermons. Henry Smith, The sermons of Maister Henrie Smith gathered into one volume. Printed according to his corrected copies in his life time (London: Thomas Man, 1593, STC 22719), sig. Y2v.

[24] Henry Smith, sermons, sig. Y6r.

[25] Gless, Interpretation and Theology in Spenser, p. 131.

[26] Gless, Interpretation and Theology in Spenser, p. 46.

[27] Philip B. Rollinson, ‘Maleger’ in Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 449.

[28] Rollinson, ‘Maleger’ in Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 449.

[29] DeNeef, ‘Timias’ in The Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 691.

[30] Andrew King, ‘The Faerie Queene’ and Middle English Romance: The Matter of Just Memory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), pp. 12-29, 126-210.

[31] Apart from functioning as an agent of divine grace in books I and II, Timias plays another role; in his encounter with Duessa at I.viii.14-15, he allegorically represents the way in which the faithful often fall prey to the wiles of the Roman Catholic Church. See Kaske, Spenser and Biblical Poetics, pp. 42-5.

[32] DeNeef, ‘Timias’ in The Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 690.

[33] DeNeef, ‘Timias’ in The Spenser Encyclopedia, p. 690.


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Cite as:

Dr Stuart A. Hart, "Timias: Towards a Religious Definition of Spenserian Honour," Spenser Review 49.1.4 (Winter 2019). Accessed February 19th, 2019.
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