Document Type


Publication Date



"When considered in the context of Elizabeth's effort to silence all discussion of incest, Edmund Spenser's courtly epic aiming to cultivate favor with the monarch looks like a disastrous miscalculation, for incest appears throughout The Faerie Queene. Indeed, incest sits at the center (both literally and figuratively) of the Book of Chastity, the very book wherein Spenser encourages Elizabeth 'in mirrours more then one her selfe to see.' In the present essay, I investigate the apparently illogical and impolitic prominence afforded to incest in book three of The Faerie Queene, ultimately arguing that the imperialist logic underpinning the epic is linked to an intense fear of miscegenation that, in turn, privileges endogamous relations as a way of warding off foreign invasion and contamination. For Spenser, incest becomes a positive practice, one that ensures national and individual purity."


This article was originally published in ELH, volume 73, in 2006.

Peer Reviewed



Johns Hopkins University



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.