Lust plays a large role in Edmund Spenser’s famous 1590 poem The Faerie Queene—this much Early Modern scholars can agree on. Surrounding the purpose lust serves in this didactic tale, however, there is a good deal of contention. Some academics argue that Spenser uses his lurid descriptions of lust to reveal to readers their own sinful preferences. Others claim that Spenser uses lust simply to attract an audience. The list of differing interpretations of the text goes on. But one overarching theme can be seen in all of these unique analyses of lust: each operates on the assumption that Spenser intended lust to be an entirely wicked force in his romance. In my essay, I seek to challenge this assumption. I believe that in order to create more nuanced theories regarding desire in Spenser’s poem, it is necessary to move beyond the tendency to take the evil of lust as a given. Thus, in my own research, I have attempted to keep an open mind regarding the nature of desire in The Faerie Queene. Through close analysis of the tale’s wealthy heroes, who channel their sexual energies toward a higher cause, I assert that Spenser proposes that lust can have a positive use when experienced by members of the upper-class. This means of understanding Spenser’s poem is innovative and unique, but it also proves to be illuminating.
"A Time and Place for Premarital Desire: Positive Uses of Lust in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene,"
Scholarly Horizons: University of Minnesota, Morris Undergraduate Journal: Vol. 1:
2, Article 13.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.morris.umn.edu/horizons/vol1/iss2/13