Edmund Spenser: Prothalamion

(1682 words)
  • Tamsin Theresa Badcoe (University of Bristol)

A novel variation on a marriage hymn, Spenser’s Prothalamion is an innovative “spousal verse” that anticipates the double wedding held on November 8th 1596 of Elizabeth and Katharine Somerset, daughters of the Earl of Worcester, to Henry Guildford and William Petre. Printed by William Ponsonby, the poem depicts a betrothal ceremony, which fuses the representation of movement through a natural landscape with preparatory rites that speak of love, renewal and fulfilment. It is possible that the poem figuratively maps an actual river pageant, in which the future brides, who are depicted in the poem as a pair of luminous swans, “floating on the Christal Flood” (57), sailed along parts of the Lea and the Thames to E…

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Badcoe, Tamsin Theresa. "Prothalamion". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 16 November 2013
[http://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=16049, accessed 28 September 2016.]