Of Lords and Stars
Spenser’s Paradoxical Praise of Essex in the Prothalamion
The essay argues that glittering tribute to Essex in the Prothalamion is ambivalent and paradoxical. The author focuses on the Ovidian and Virgilian intertexts of the praise and brings to light Spenser’s hidden references to Lucifer and Phaethon, mythical emblems of pride. For the generic and stylistic inconsistencies, explicit notes of personal and political concern, and the moral seriousness that run through the poem, the Prothalamion is not a mere nuptial song and does not mark Spenser’s return to courtly poetry. On the contrary, under its epithalamic façade the poem hides a reflection and meditation on the vainglory of this world. Spenser’s last poem, like Four Hymns, is a poem of exit that marks the crisis of the Tudor poetics of praise and patronage, as well as Spenser’s own project of paidea.