Divided They Fall: (De)constructing the Triple Hecate in Spenser's Cantos of Mutabilitie
Dell, Jessica. "Divided They Fall: (De)constructing the Triple Hecate in Spenser's Cantos of Mutabilitie". EMLS 16.2 (2012): 1. URL: http://purl.org/emls/16-2/dellfaer.htm
The son of Kronus never did her harmAccording to Hesiod, Hecate was initially conceived of as a powerful goddess, a “pre-Olympian Titan who later shared rule with Zeus”. Hecate's magical influence extended from the heavens, to the earth, to the deep and mysterious ocean itself, making her a commanding figure whose legitimacy was above dispute. Hesiod's description of Hecate also makes it abundantly clear that she co-ruled with Zeus, neither his superior nor his subordinate. But perhaps the most shocking revelation that arises from this passage is that Hecate was not required to defend her station after the fall of her Titan brethren, despite their shared ancestry. Her power remained, according to this ancient source, absolute. By specifically negating Hecate's need to defend her rights, however, the text subtly implies that Hecate's position might have required defence if Zeus had not chosen to champion her cause. Hesiod’s narrative hints at the possibility of violence against Hecate even as it rejects it. Spenser, however, latches onto this potential for conflict and exploits it in his Mutabilitie Cantos.
Nor did he snatch away the rights she had
Under the Titan gods of old: she keeps
Her privilege in earth, sea, and heaven
As it was positioned to her from the start.
Nor did she get a lesser share because
She had no brothers to defend her rights.
Her share is greater: Zeus is her advocate.
... many of them, afterwards obtain'dSpenser intentionally evokes Hecate in her most powerful form in this passage. In other earlier moments of The Faerie Queene, Spenser pigeonholes her as a mere goddess of witchcraft. Here, however, Spenser provides his readers with an image of Hecate in her most exulted shape, as a supreme goddess who possessed immense power and privilege. Hecate's security becomes Mutabilitie's struggle, however, as Jove subsequently denies Mutabilitie the same rights he bestowed upon her ancestor. Instead of preserving Hecate's divinity, Spenser chooses to characterize Mutabilitie as the dregs of a faded lineage, heir to a diluted power. Supriya Chaudhuri has previously argued this same point, persuasively reminding her readers that despite Mutabilitie's grand genealogical connections she “is not a classical goddess but a metaphysical abstraction”. Hecate does not legitimize Mutabilitie's inheritance claim, but instead helps highlight her dubious (and potentially deceitful) nature. Mutabilitie, whom Spenser has already characterized as being “cruell,” ambitious, and arrogant in her aspirations for power, becomes linked with figures that are meant to amplify her own villainy. Chaudhuri presses this idea even further, viewing Mutabilitie's rebellion “as an incursion of genealogical memory into the suppressed history of violence upon which the rule of Olympian gods is based”. While Spenser does not completely dismiss or trivialize Hecate, therefore, he instead characterizes her as a threatening and demonic figure, one whose authority is not simply allowed to continue, as Hesiod suggests, but rather one who requires her power to be carefully “plac't” (to quote Spenser) and controlled by Jove after his violent overthrow of the Titans.
Great power of Iove, and high authority;
As Hecate, in whose almighty hand
He plac't all rule and principality,
To be by her disposed diversely
To Gods, and men, as she them list divide.
That duly her attended day and night;While this passage initially seems to reaffirm Cynthia's lunar power and strengthen her association with the torch-bearing face of the triple Hecate, Spenser's choice of words reveal a very subtle shift in meaning. Unlike artistic renderings of Luna, which depict a woman who is more than capable of holding her own torch and lighting her own way, Spenser's Cynthia is a passive figure who meekly sits on her royal throne while blindly following Vesper along her celestial path. Spenser's careful wording also makes the torch, rather than Cynthia, the object that supplies “joy to weary wandering travailers”. While Spenser does characterize Cynthia as a regal sovereign in her own right, he limits her true power by transforming her into an ornamental ruler alone. The brief glimpses we receive of Cynthia's two male advisors, Vesper and Tyme, reveal where the real power lies, as we respectively witness Vesper dictate Cynthia's movements and Tyme arrange her schedule. Spenser's Cynthia meekly submits herself to masculine authority, a fact further attested to by her loyal support of Jove. She might be the goddess of the moon and night-time sky, but according to the power hierarchy Spenser creates in the Mutabilitie Cantos, she can only ever be the paler lunar shadow to the absolute power of the male sun God, Jove.
.... with his Torche, still twinkling like twylight,
Her lightened all the way where she should wend,
And joy to weary wandering travailers did lend.
That when the hardy Titanesse beheldAs her resentment builds Mutabilitie becomes increasingly violent and unreasonable. She attacks Cynthia and, as the two goddesses struggle with one another, the earth below becomes “darkened quite”. Spenser chooses to have Mutabilitie's physical proximity to Cynthia result in the cyclical change of the moon as it shifts from full moon (Cynthia) to dark moon (Mutabilitie). In this moment of the poem, therefore, Spenser depicts the cycle of change symbolically embodied by the triple Hecate as a violent transition, rather than a peaceful and cooperative changeover:
The goodly building of her Palace bright,
Shee gan to burne in her ambitious spright,
And t'envie her that in such glorie raigned.
Eftsoones she cast by force and tortuous might,
Her to displace, and to her selfe have gained
The kingdome of the Night, and waters by her wained.
Yet nathemore the Giantesse forbare:The shift from one face of the triple Hecate to the other becomes a physically violent contest of strength between Cynthia and Mutabilitie, a catfight that eventually requires a male godhead to intervene in order for harmony to be restored.
But boldly preacing-on, raught forth her hand
To pluck [Cynthia] downe perforce from off her chaire;
And there-with lifting up her golden wand
Threatned to strike her if she did with-stand.
......................... the Titanesse
Was striving with faire Cynthia for her seat.
There Faunus saw that pleased much his eye,Her divinity, dignity, and symbolic import become, quite literally in this episode, stripped from her as Faunus's wandering eyes make Diana's private self publicly accessible to Spenser's readers. Throughout The Faerie Queene Spenser uses the removal of clothing as a literary motif to reveal larger truths to his readers (for example, in the stripping of Duessa earlier in the poem). In this episode, however, the truth that Spenser discloses erases and defaces Diana's larger symbolic meaning, rather than reveals it. Faunus observes no significant truth in Diana's naked flesh and, upon discovering this, the peeping Tom is left with nothing else to do but laugh at the uncovered goddess.
And made his hart to tickle in his brest,
That for great ioy of some-what he did spy,
He could him not containe in silent rest;
But breaking forth in laughter, loud profest
His foolish thought.
Nath'lesse, Diana full of indignation,While this abandonment characterizes Ireland as a forsaken land, a depiction that aptly applies to Spenser's own political views, it simultaneously undermines Elizabeth's royal authority. As Elizabeth's identity becomes increasingly intertwined with Spenser's Diana, his decision to have Faunus effectively laugh both women out of Ireland borders on treasonous. Both Diana and Elizabeth flee Ireland out of shame and completely abandon their royal responsibilities there. In Spenser's eyes, this abandonment constitutes a failure, as he fervently believed that Elizabeth should take a more active and aggressive role in the colonization and civilization of Ireland. Quite dangerously, Spenser aligns Elizabeth with an image of female divinity only to highlight its failures.
Thence-forth abandoned her delicious brooke;
In whose sweet streame, before that bad occasion,
So much delight to bathe her limbes she tooke:
Ne onely her, but also quite forsook
All those faire forests about Arlo hid,
And all the Mountaine, which doth over-looke
The richest champion that may else be rid
And the faire Shure, in which are thousand Salmons bred.
 C. M. C. Green, Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 134.
 For a further discussion of early modern literary treatments of the Triple Hecate see Jeanne Addison Roberts, “The Crone in English Renaissance Drama”, in John Pitcher and Susan Cerasano, eds., Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, vol. 15 (London: Rosemont Publishing, 2003), 116-137 or Janet S. Wolf, “'Like an Old Tale Still': Paulina, 'Triple Hecate,' and the Persephone Myth in The Winter's Tale,” in Elizabeth T. Hayes, ed., Images of Persephone: Feminist Readings in Western Literature (Gainesvilles: University of Florida Press, 1994), 32-44. For additional primary sources, refer to Lyly's Endymion, Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, or Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
 Dorothea Wender, “Introduction” in Hesiod and Theognis, 11-22 (New York: Penguin Books, 1984), 11.
 Hesiod, Theogony in Hesiod and Theognis, edited by Dorthea Wender, 23-57 (New York: Penguin Books, 1984), 36-37.
 Jeanne Addison Roberts, The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus, and Gender (Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1991), 172.
 For a concise discussion of Spenser's familiarity with and use of Hesiod, including The Theogony, see Stella P. Revard, “Hesiod”, in A. C. Hamilton, ed., The Spenser Encyclopedia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 369.
 For a further discussion of early modern definitions of Hecate see Helen Ostovich, “The Appropriation of Pleasure in The Magnetic Lady,” in Susan Frye and Karen Robertson, eds, Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women's Alliances in Early Modern England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 99 or Jeanne Addison Roberts, The Shakespearean Wild, 175.
 Edmund Spenser, Two Cantos of Mutabilitie, in A. C. Hamilton, ed, The Faerie Queene (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2001), VII.i.3.1-6.
 In I.i.43, for example, Archimago calls on the evil powers of Hecate to deceive and trick Red Cross Knight into abandoning Una. A. C. Hamilton suggests that as the goddess of witches, Hecate was associated with “magic, dreams, and apparitions (41). Hecate, therefore, is associated with demonic magic and deception early on in Spenser's writing.
 Supriya Chaudhuri, “Mutability, metamorphosis and the nature of power,” in Jane Grogan, ed., Celebrating Mutability (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010), 179.
 Ostovich 99.
 Jeanne Addison Roberts, The Shakespearean Wild, 172.
 Carin M. C. Green, Roman Religion, 135.
 Ostovich 99.
 For an artistic rendering see Ostovich 100.
 Jon A. Quitslund, “Questionable Evidence in the Letters of 1850,” Spenser's Life and the Subject of Biography, edited by Judith H. Anderson, Donald Cheney, David A. Richardson (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996), 82.
 John Mulryan, “Mythographers”, in A. C. Hamilton, ed., The Spenser Encyclopedia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 494.
 Natale Conti's Mythologiae, 2 vols., translated and annotated by John Mulryan and Stephen Brown (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2006), 1.200.
 Ibid 99.
 Patricia Turner and Charles Russell Coulter, eds., Dictionary of Ancient Deities (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 208.
 Rudolf Steiner, Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit, translated by Dorothy Lenn and Owen Barfield (Munich: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), 42.
 Ostovich, “Appropriation of Pleasure,” 99.
 Jennifer Wynne Hellwarth, The Reproductive Unconscious in Medieval and Early Modern England (New York: Routledge, 2002), 8; Merry E. Wiesner, Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 81.
 Steiner, 42.
 Spenser, 716.
 Helen Hackett, Virgin Mother, Maiden Queen (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995), 1.
 Ibid, 2-3.
 Ibid, 3.
 Spenser, VII.vi.9, 4; 7-9.
 Ibid 9, 9, my emphasis added.
 Ibid 8, 2; 12, 1-2.
 Ibid 8, 1-2.
 Ibid 10, 1-9.
 Ibid 14, 2.
 Ibid 13, 5; 17, 2-3.
 For Diana/Actaeon myth see Ovid, Metamorphoses, vol. 3 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 198.
 A. C. Hamilton, “Annotations” in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (New York: Pearson Education Limited, 2001), 698.
 Spenser, VII.vi.46, 1-6.
 Ibid 53, 1.
 Ibid 38, 7-8.
 Ibid 51, 1.
 Elizabeth Fowler, “Architectonic Character and Dominion in Two Cantos of Mutabilitie,” in Literary Character: The Human Figure in Early Modern English Writing (New York: Cornell University Press, 2003), 228.
 Spenser, VII.vi.54, 1-9.
 For additional information concerning Spenser's political views of Ireland see Andrew Hadfield, Shakespeare, Spenser and the Matter of Britain (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) or David J. Baker, Between Nations: Shakespeare, Spenser, Marvell, and the Question of Britain (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997).
 Spenser, VII.vii.3, 6.
 Richard J. Berleth, “Fraile Woman, Foolish Gerle: Misogyny in Spenser's Mutabilitie Cantos,” Modern Philology 93.1 (August 1995), 37-53.
 Spenser, VII.vi.28, 6.
 Hamilton, 696.
 Spenser, VII.vi.31, 1-2.
 Ibid 43, 1; 25, 8.
 Ibid 35, 6.
 Ibid VII.vii.5, 5-7.
 Elizabeth I, “Armada Speech” in Leah S. Marcus, Janel Mueller, and Mary Beth Rose, eds., Elizabeth I: Collected Works (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 326.
 Spenser, VII.vii.47, 8-9.
 Ibid 48, 5.
 Ibid 48, 8-9.
 Leah S. Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and Its Discontents (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 54.
 Louis Adrian Montrose, “The Elizabethan Subject and the Spenserian Text,” in Patricia Parker and David Quint, eds., Literary Theory / Renaissance Texts (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1986), 312.
 Chaudhuri, 183.
 Spenser, VII.viii.2, 9.
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© 2012-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).