Spenser’s Ravishment: Rape and Rapture in The Faerie Queene

  • Katherine Eggert
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


“Ah who can love the worker of her smart?” The narrator of Edmund Spenser’s late-sixteenth-century magnum opus, The Faerie Queene, rhetorically poses this question at one of the grisliest moments in an often grisly poem, as the enchanter Busirane uses the very heart’s blood of his pinioned victim, the chaste Amoret, to write “a thousand charmes” meant to capture her affections.2 Rhetorically—and yet twentieth-century interpreters of the allegory of this situation have often taken the question as one that requires answering. For some 30 years beginning in the mid-1960s, the dominant critical trend among Spenser scholars was to describe Amoret’s suffering as an externalized, allegorically expressed form of either her dread of sexual union with her brand-new husband, Scudamour—Busirane having kidnapped her at the wedding masque, before the marriage could be consummated—or her shock and shame at the magnitude of her own sexual desire.3 In these readings, the “worker” of Amoret’s “smart” thus proves to be not the sadistic Busirane, but Amoret herself.


Sexual Pleasure Sensual Pleasure Narrative Event Magnum Opus Real Rapist 
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© Elizabeth Robertson and Christine M. Rose 2001

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  • Katherine Eggert

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