UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aspects of temperance in Spencer and Milton Sexton, James Penman


The purpose of the thesis is first to anatomize the concept of "temperance," studying it in its Classical and Christian contexts. After having done so I examine the use of the concept in Spenser's Faerie Queene, Book II and in a series of works by Milton. We see that "temperance" is a many-sided term, variously defined as "quietness," "modesty," "doing one's own work," and "self-knowledge." Since its linguistic prototype was the Greek sophrosyne, the notion of "order" and "harmony" also carries over to the word "temperance." It becomes clear that temperance has cosmological significance--it is a manifestation of the orderly universe with regard to personal morality. As such it is an instrument of God's grace against the forces of Satanic disorder and intemperance. Temperance served to keep the Christian hero alive to grace and able to respond to it when the right moment arrived, only after much trial. Temperance, then, helps man to weather the state of trial which comes before the state of glory and makes him worthy of felicity. In Chapter One, the notion of temperance is examined with reference to various Classical and Christian works, thus uncovering a wide range of meanings for the term. Chapter Two is devoted to a chronological journey through Spenser's Book of Temperance, and showing how Spenser was alive to the tradition behind him. The third chapter examines Comus, Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes and in so doing underscores Milton's understanding of and concern with temperance.

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