Hill, Susan Jane
Prince Arthur, Crowne of Martiall Band: the vision and the quest in Spenser's Faerie Queene.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Over the four hundred years which have elapsed since the publication of The Faerie Queene, the effectiveness of Arthur as the central hero of the poem has been called into question time and time again. Critics have objected to the sporadic nature of Arthur's appearances, and to the fact that this quest is unfinished. In the first chapter of my thesis I provide a survey of Spenser criticism, covering neoclassical and romantic views as well as a selection of twentieth century studies. My own argument centres on the belief that the role of Arthur in The Faerie Queene is not best understood in terms of a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. In contrast to the titular heroes of each book, perfection is the starting point of Arthur's story, not a goal he gradually works towards. The effects of Arthur's interventions do differ from book to book, but this reflects the evolving moral allegory of The Faerie Queene rather than the development of Arthur himself.
In order to highlight the pre-eminence of Arthur vis-a-vis the titular knights of The Faerie Queene, chapter two compares the presentation of Arthur in a selection of medieval texts: the Celtic Arthur of the Mabinogion, the courtly king of Chretien de Troyes, Arthur's relation to the Grail in La Queste del Saint Graal, the warrior-king of Layamon's Brut, and the gathering together of different types of Arthurian narrative by Sir Thomas Malory. There has not been extended study of Spenser's Arthur in this context - those critics who touch on the topic tend not to go beyond the generalisation that Spenser exploits the prestige of Arthurian tradition whilst avoiding the constraints of reworking the familiar story.
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