Spenser and Shakespeare

  • A. J. Gilbert


Edmund Spenser (1552–99) develops the visual aspect of the three styles. He introduces a new range of aesthetic refinement in his interpretation of the classical and medieval registers; his work is dedicated to the later Renaissance ideals of grace, variety, difficulty and conscious artifice. These features of his style are typical of the mannerist phase of European, and especially Italian, art in the sixteenth century.1 Now mannerism is a nineteenth-century term for this period of later Renaissance art, and there is some controversy over the appropriateness of its use for the period. The Renaissance Italian term maniera means ‘style’, but it has been extended by art historians to define the characteristics of the fashionable style which dominated the arts from about 1520 to 1600.2 There is no doubt, however, that this period has a distinctive approach to the traditional motifs of the high Renaissance, and it is useful to identify the new emphasis by a separate term. The origins of this development are to be found in that earlier period, and mannerism is no longer regarded as a reaction against the ideals of the high Renaissance.3 There is good reason, then, to consider how Spenser has absorbed and interpreted these mannerist ideals within the traditional range of literary styles.


Noun Phrase Moral Truth Style Idealism Style Diction Style Image 
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  1. 1.
    J. Shearman, Mannerism, Harmondsworth, 1967, repr. 1973.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Cf. M. Levey, High Renaissance, Harmondsworth, 1975, pp. 44 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Cf. E. Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, 2nd. ed., London, 1968, pp. 86–96.Google Scholar

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© A. J. Gilbert 1979

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  • A. J. Gilbert

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