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Prince Arthur as Christian Magnanimity in Book One of The Faerie Queene

D. Douglas Waters
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 9, No. 1, The English Renaissance (Winter, 1969), pp. 53-62
Published by: Rice University
DOI: 10.2307/449933
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449933
Page Count: 10
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Prince Arthur as Christian Magnanimity in Book One of The Faerie Queene
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Abstract

In the theological allegory of The Legende of Holinesse Spenser uses Prince Arthur as a symbol of the moral virtue of magnanimity or greatness of soul, a "christianized" concept of Aristotle's megalopsychia appropriated by St. Thomas Aquinas, Patrizi, Pontano, Cinthio, Piccolomini, Sir Thomas Elyot, La Primaudaye, Cardinal Cajetan, and others. Heavenly grace and Una (truth) bring Prince Arthur to Red Crosse's rescue, just as St. Thomas believed any infusion of the moral virtues presupposed the presence of grace. Having diminished his magnanimity or greatness of soul through actual sins in Cantos II-VII, the Knight of Holiness falls victim to Orgoglio (pride) and is helpless without the coming of Prince Arthur (symbolizing the infusion of magnanimity into Red Crosse's soul). In harmony with most Catholic and some Protestant views of the christian man's ability to cooperate with grace and rise from sin, Spenser shows that grace infuses magnanimity, that Red Crosse cooperates with grace and repents, and that Prince Arthur (magnanimity) kills Orgoglio (pride).

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