Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Passion's Triumph over ReasonA History of the Moral Imagination from Spenser to Rochester$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Christopher Tilmouth

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212378.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 December 2020

Spenser, Psychomachia, and the Limits of Governance

Spenser, Psychomachia, and the Limits of Governance

(p.37) 2 Spenser, Psychomachia, and the Limits of Governance
Passion's Triumph over Reason

Christopher Tilmouth (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the presentation of the passions in The Faerie Queene, arguing that Spenser treats these as hostile, morally disruptive forces within the soul, powers which reason must fight against in a perpetual psychomachia. It examines the limits of Spenser's debt to Aristotle: Spenser mirrors Aristotle's idea that men are constantly prone to degenerate from a state of akrasia (weakness of will) into one of outright vice (a love of evil), but he does not match Aristotle's faith that characters can develop the other way too, towards moral perfection and consistently virtuous conduct. Afflicted by shame at their own weakness, Spenser's knights struggle to realize virtues such as temperance, often requiring the help of grace. However, important though that grace is, Spenser repeatedly affirms the primacy of reason in steering men's conduct towards goodness. Grace is an assistant power in the struggle for virtue; rational self-determination remains central.

Keywords:   The Faerie Queene, Aristotle, temperance, akrasia, shame, grace

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .