(95) In contrast with the Garden of Adonis Spenser sets Acrasia
's Bower, a place of fruitless lust and sterile sex, where "Art, as halfe in scorne / Of niggard Nature, like a pompous bride" (II.xii.50.6-7) condescendingly triumphs.
The fountain provides one obvious link, but there are several others, and Duessa and Acrasia
can be easily linked as femmes fatales.
Ruddymane is "lucklesse" (II.i.50.9) because his father abandoned him for Acrasia
(II.i.50.8); his mother, for death.
The second clue to the mythic nature of this scene, apart from the physical absurdity of its expression, is its Homeric echoing, for Acrasia
, as everyone knows, is part of a long line of enchantresses that stretches back to Calypso and the Sirens and Circe in Homer's Odyssey.
The text's four parts map four key concepts: eudaimonia, virtue, practical reasoning, and acrasia
. Each part is comprised of a chapter on Plato and chapter on Aristotle.
Gone is the reproach with which Spenser speaks of that other truant knight, Sir Verdant, captivated by Acrasia
in the Bower of Bliss:
Percival reenacts Spenser's Knight of Temperance, Guyon, who destroys the seductive witch Acrasia
's infamous "Bowre of Blisse," a site of "lewd loues, and wastfull luxuree" (2.12.80)--which is to say, both imaginative and sexual license:
His destruction of the villainous Acrasia
's Bower of Bliss, while not as gruesomely violent an act as many of Sir Artegall's punishments, is certainly as severely absolute.
Lewis's classic discussion of the contrast between the sterile, sickly sexuality of the Bower of Bliss in Book II and the healthy, procreative sexuality of the Gar-den of Adonis in Book III, by observing that the latter, "that great 'seminary' of living things, has almost no erotic appeal." By contrast, Acrasia
, the seductive witch of the Bower, "offers not simply sexual plea-sure--'long wanton joys'--but self-abandonment, erotic aestheticism, the melting of the will, the end of all quests; and Spenser understands, at the deepest level of his being, the appeal of such an end." Greenblatt cannot conceive--or at least will not accept--the paradoxical notion of the law of grace, of the liberation of the will, rather than its "melting," in conformity to the divine will.