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Epic RomanceHomer to Milton$
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Colin Burrow

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198117940

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117940.001.0001

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Inglorious Spensers

Inglorious Spensers

(p.147) 6 Inglorious Spensers
Epic Romance

Colin Burrow

Oxford University Press

A further, and perhaps historically more important response to Edmund Spenser's poem The Faerie Queene emerges through the seventeenth century. Passions come to be seen as independent forces; heroes become agents who swing rapidly between these passions; and increasingly, through the works of Abraham Cowley and John Dryden, Royal and Royalist characters are inclined to pitiful love, while dangerous rebels incline to anger. This is the line that ultimately leads to Dryden's Aeneid, in which a pitiful Aeneas confronts an irascible Turnus, and to his Absalom and Achitophel, in which a clement, all-powerful monarch confronts the mad rage of his rebellious antagonists. The general movement, from the rich confusions of Spenser to the over-clarified idiom of Restoration epic, has enormous literary-historical importance. The minor writers and translators discussed in this chapter and the next create a medium through which John Milton read Spenser, and play a large part in creating the set of attitudes to the romance tradition that he inherited.

Keywords:   Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, passions, heroes, Abraham Cowley, John Dryden, Restoration epic, John Milton, romance tradition

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