ABSTRACT

In The Faerie Queene and The Shepheardes Calendar as well as Amoretti and Epithalamion and Two Cantos of Mutabilitie Spenser appropriates a variety of elite and popular carnivalesque materials from English and Irish contexts.1 His non-dramatic works exhibit ties to vital spectacular and performative traditions. Festive motifs and figures in these works include clownish, rustic fools and May games; Lords of Misrule central to Christmas and Twelfth Night festivities; the Mummers’ Play St. George and the Fiery Dragon; religious and civic processions and masques; the Wild or Savage Man commonly featured in Midsummer pageants; and carnivalesque feasts of excess that sometimes verge on cannibalism. The poet defends native, holiday traditions, especially when they are cast in a Protestant light and separated from Catholic feast days. He emphasizes the dignity of bodily pleasures when they are linked to spiritualism.2 In Spenser’s writings religious practices and behavioral excesses contrary to the tenets of the Protestant Reformation tend to detract from the overall health of the spirit, mind, and body.