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Faerie Queene


By Spenser
The themes of temperance, that being the employment of
restraint, or at least moderation, especially in the
yielding to personal appetites or desires, and of
intemperance, the submitting to such desires, pervade Book
Two of The Faerie Queene. Prior to describing individual
rooms within the Castle of Alma, it is useful to briefly
discuss how the idea of the castle functions within the
Book. Spenser compares the towers of the structure with
towers at Thebes and Troy, which stand as monuments to
individuals. According to Berger, Alma's Castle functions
as an 'archetype of human temperance'; Spenser specifically
describes the building in terms of the human body, relating
it to Christian teachings; in the first canto, he states:
Of all Gods workes, which do this world adorn,
 There is no one more faire and excellent,
 Then is mans body both for powre and form,
 Whiles it is kept in sobre government...
Spenser's statement borrows from the polemic of St.
Augustine, which states 'there is no need... that in our
sins and vices we accuse the nature of the flesh to the
injury of the creator, for in its own kind and degree the
flesh is good.' (Berger) Alma's castle represents this
'good flesh'. Throughout canto IX, the reader is shown that
the inordinate uses of the flesh, intemperance, that
permeate all other cantos of book II, are not the only
possible uses of the flesh, as represented by the actions
of Guyo. Concerning the interior of the castle, the
Kitchen is described in detail, in terms which can be
directly related to Spenser's presentation of Mammon's
refinery in canto VII; he portrays both temperate and
intemperate versions of similar processes of conversion and
production. The kitchen is described as:
A vault built for great dispence
 With many ranges reard along the wall,
 And one great chimney, whose long tonnel thence,
 The smoke force threw. And in the midst of all
 There placed was a cauldron wide and tall,
 Upon a mighty furnace...
Similarly, Mammon's refinery is described as occupying a
vault-like room,
Therein a hundred ranges weren pight,
 And hundred fornaces many feends did bide,
 Deformed creatures, horrible In sight,
 And every feend his busie paines applide.
Alma's kitchen is controlled by 'many cookes' who 'about
their businesse sweat, and .. toyld'. The master cook,
Concoction, is described in terms of temperance, as 'A
careful man...full of comely guise'. The Clerk, Digestion,
is 'seemly wise', and controls all 'as well as he could
devise'. In comparison to this scene of freedom, order and
control, the workers in Mammon's realm are 'feends', slaves
with no apparent freedom. Whereas Alma's kitchen converts
food into humors for consumption by the body, Mammo Alma's
parlour further extends the theme of order and temperance,
however it also introduces elements of intemperance,
mirroring the temptations which Guyon continually
encounters throughout all cantos of book II. The parlour is
described in terms of its occupants, rather than its decor
and structure. Passions, in the form of love, desire and
pleasure are related, prior to the revelation of their
negative counterparts; Jealousy, grief, aversions, and
hatred are present amongst the occupants of the house;
...some could not abide to toy, All pleasance was to them
briefe and annoy: This fround, that faund, the third for
shame did blush, Another seemed envious, or coy, Another in
her teeth did gnaw a rush. (Stanza 35) Throughout Book II
Guyon is seen to exert his aversion to pleasure, as he
crushes and smashes the illusions of intemperance in canto
XII, and shrugs off temptations in canto VII. Here, in
Alma's parlour, these temptations, the passions, are also
present, however they are subdued, natural and not
corrupting. Whilst still seen as flaws in man, they are
accepted; as in all things, moderation is the key. As
Berger comments, whereas Guyon rejects passions as
'unbefitting an excellent man, here they are knigh
Berger, H. The Allegorical Temper: vision and reality in
Book II of Spenser's Faerie Queene,
Yale University Press, 1957.


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