What a Heavenly Beauty: The Female Image in Edmund Spenser’s Amoretti

Maoru SONG


Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) was one of the prominent poets in Renaissance English literature, and was honored as “the poets’ poet”. Without any doubt, the Faerie Queene is his masterpiece, but Amoretti is his another great achievement. His sonnet sequence, and Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, are known as the most three famous sonnet sequences in Renaissance English literature. Amoreeti is composed of 89 sonnets, and notes down the author’s courtly love for his second wife Elizabeth Boyle. The beauty in the sonnet sequence is endowed with sweet appearance and noble virtues which foreground each other, revealing her nobility and chastity. In addition, the sonnet sequence presents the beauty from the stand of the pursuer so that her figure is in consistent change owing to the successes and setbacks in the process of the lover’s pursuing. The two prominent figures of the lady are earthly beauty and heavenly beauty, and therefore, the courting of the lover changes from earthly love to heavenly love. Furthermore, in the courting, the ruthlessness and pride of the lady in the eyes of the lover, owing to the setbacks, actually implies his own pride. The lady’s proud image is repeatedly presented in the first half part of the sonnet sequence, and this image is in disappearing owing to the success of courting. Under the vanishment of the lady’s proud image, the pursuer is on the way to be virtuous. Therefore, the lady can be regarded as a redeemer to assist the pursuer to change from imperfection to perfection. Furthermore, the beauty acts as the representative of God saving the man from sin to virtue, and her divinity indicates she represents the glory of God. Under the help of the God-bearer, the man changes from enjoying earthly love to heavenly love.


Amoretti; Female image; Divine; Salvation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/8180


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