The End Is Not Yet: Monarchy, Choice, and the Problematic Binaries of Representation
Early English Studies, vol. 1 (2007)
Ten years before the publication of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene John Stubbs wrote an infamous pamphlet, Into The Gaping Gulf, that addressed not only the perils of Elizabeth’s foreign marriage, but highlighted the danger in portrayal of her most iconic virtue, her chastity. While all of The Faerie Queene arguably depicts Elizabeth, Book Three–centered as it is on chastity–offers a particularly potent and dangerous experiment in representation, as any discussion of chastity would speak directly to the poem’s most important reader and her most powerful iconographic tool. Spenser creates a world in which the reader is forced to interpret the multivalent images of Elizabeth and thereby alleviates the perilous risks that accompany depiction of the monarch. This paper argues that politically dangerous misrepresentations are avoided through the ambiguity that ultimately is engendered through Spenser’s use of medieval political theology.