0 09 2009

The Old Woman in the Cave of Lust: Edmund Spenser's Silenced Feminine Voices in The Faerie Queene

Colleen E. Kennedy


Edmund Spenser’s epic Arthurian-centric poem The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) is permeated by fairy tales and old wives’ tales, but the very presence of the tales and their tellers is problematic, as these feminine voices are often included only to be silenced (Miller 6). Spenser’s anxiety of female voices, narratives, sources, and genres, becomes manifested in one very complicated and often overlooked character: the Old Woman in the Cave of Lust. This Old Woman is only found in one canto of Spenser’s epic poem (IV.vii) and is denied a voice; she isn’t given one line of dialogue. The very fact that this Old Woman emerges into the text, is ambiguously portrayed, temporarily vilified, and then retreats from the text unscathed demonstrates the power of the female voice in Spenser’s text. 

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ISSN 1749-9771