Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion

Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion Character List

The Suitor

The speaker of Amoretti is consistently the suitor attempting to woo his beloved. This suitor has a strong real-world connection to the poet, Edmund Spenser, since he wrote these poems as part of his suit to Elizabeth Boyle. However, Spenser also intended these poems for publication, so any attempt to identify autiobiographical details within the sonnets should always be tempered by an understanding that Spenser was already a professional poet at the time of the writing, and so a complete identification of the suitor with Edmund Spenser is not always justified.

The Beloved

Throughout Amoretti, the speaker either describes or addresses a beautiful woman whom he seeks to woo. With only rare exception, the "she" in every sonnet is this beloved, who for most of the poetic sequence rebuffs the speaker's attempts to win her hand. Historically, the Beloved may be identified as Elizabeth Boyle, for whom Spenser wrote these sonnets in his suit for her hand in marriage. The reader should be warned, however, that a direct comparison to Elizabeth Boyle should always be made with caution since Spenser, a professional poet, also intended these sonnets for publication. Also of import is the probability that the speaker is an unreliable narrator, caught up in his emotional turmoil, and so his representation of the beloved may be skewed depending on his perception of her attitude toward himself.

The Groom

The suitor of Amoretti has become the groom in Epithamalion. The groom is simultaneously a stand-in for Edmund Spenser and a microcosm of human experience. He proceeds through the day very much as Edmund Spenser may have, but also proceeds through the stages in a man's life in the ode. He begins with the childlike joy of anticipating a new day, progresses to the passionate impatience of a young lover, arrives at the promised moment of conjugal bliss, then turns his eyes toward the future generations he hopes to beget.

The Bride

The beloved of Amoretti is now the bride in Epithamalion. As with the beloved, she can be identified with Elizabeth Boyle, but only cautiously. The bride also represents the ideal woman in her beauty, her inner virtues, and her submission to her husband's will. Although she is the catalyst for the wedding, she is often sidelined in favor of the poets' descriptions of the wedding party, the gods he is invoking, or the children he hopes she will bear for him.