Belphoebe


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Belphoebe

perfect maidenhood; epithet of Elizabeth I. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
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In a striking inversion of the poem's reflection of Queen Elizabeth in several of its heroines, the Perelandran queen seems to reflect not only the biblical Eve and Spenser's Una, but also the poem's Britomart, Belphoebe, and even Acrasia.
He illustrates: "We should not say 'To appreciate Belphoebe we must think about Elizabeth I'; but rather 'To understand the ritual compliment Spenser is paying Elizabeth, we must study Belphoebe.
When Elizabeth was connected to martial women during her lifetime, other associative values were usually stressed: Diana, goddess of the hunt, was often used in court literature, but authors would link Elizabeth to her chastity and beauty rather than any explicitly violent tendencies--The Faerie Queene's virginal huntress Belphoebe, for example (Spenser 1590 and 1596).
These topics of virtue reveal themselves in several different ways throughout the poem: sometimes Spenser has his characters, such as Redcrosse, struggle with interpreting virtue; other times he depicts one virtue in several different ways via several different characters, as is the case with Elizabeth's simultaneous role as Una, Briotomart, Belphoebe, and Gloriana; alternatively, he may allow a character to narrate coming to virtuous knowledge, as is the case with Arthur and Gloriana.
SPENSER'S way of overcoming the trap of limited, flat representations of virtue--the type of representation Spenser claims is why he "cannot [Elizabeth's] glorious portraict figure playne"--is to present several variant depictions of Elizabeth's virtue "in mirrours more then one her selfe to see, / But either Gloriana let her chuse, / Or in Belphoebe fashioned bee: / In th'one her rule, in th'other her rare chastitee" (FQ 3.
On the contrary, the only fixed identification is that of Gloriana and Belphoebe as the public and private aspects of Elizabeth I:
No record exists of her censure of Spenser for critically depicting in The Faerie Queene her treatment of Ralegh in the allegory of Belphoebe and Timias's relationship.
They saw Judith and Esther, Gloriana and Belphoebe, Diana the virgin huntress, and Minerva the wise protectress, and best of all their own beloved Queen and Mistress, come in this hour of danger in all simplicity to trust herself among them.
Superficially she was the centre of adulation in a gynocentric court hedged in by her virginity yet provoking frustration amongst those who saw themselves - at least in their poetry - as hunters pursuing this reluctant Diana who was worshipped under other names such as Astrea, Belphoebe, Oriana or Gloriana.