Mother Hubberds Tale By Edmund Spenser English Literature Essay

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Introduction

Mother Hubberd's Tale was composed by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). As any other piece of art, its content was full of advice to the youths concerning life in general. From the tale, Spenser says that Mother Hubberd's Tale was unruffled in the raw vanity of his own youth. As an attempt to respond on the question, it will be of significance to go through the main account of the tale.

Mother Hubberd's Tale is claimed to have been written out of honesty, where events are written down as they happen in the real world. After it was compiled and ready for the market, the author was so delighted with its content, since it highlights about the strange adventures between the ape and fox. In the tale, the ape and the fox are believed to have come together with a mind of seeking fortune a broad, and this happens after they had opened their mutual grievances and disappointed hopes.

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Mother Hubberd's Tale tells of the circumstances when an ape and a fox gets on a trip of heading to the court, where they come to realize that there is no difference when it comes to the kind of lifestyle in the court and that found in the provinces. Spenser has assimilated medieval techniques and the folk tradition brilliantly to produce a work that is still an interesting, amusing narrative, and a powerful religious and political satire. He so successfully blends the worlds of humans, beasts, and Olympian gods that there is no apparent incongruity. Therefore, the main argument in this paper is to bring out the understanding if Mother Hubberd's Tale is all about anger and danger as Harvey believes, and why it was recalled. The reasons behind the recall will be highlighted, and in this case, the highlight will be about the Lord Burghley's family. Also issues and the danger concerning this piece of work will also be discussed.

Analysis of Mother Hubberd's Tale

In his works, Spencer clearly differs from other great European poets like Shakespeare and Chaucer before and after him. Spencer made no attempt to represent the moving nature of the world around him in his verses. He made allegory the basis of his poetical conception. The conduct of Spenser's tale is believed to be out in line with his time, and this normally talks about his personality and the way of life. Through all the early portion of Elizabeth's sovereignty, in which the mastermind of Spenser as a poet was created, and it used the most influential elements in passing significant information to concerned parties. It showed the uncertainty and tentativeness that is often a characteristic of times of transition.

The entire poem is framed as if spoken by Mother Hubberd herself, one of his friends who paid him a visit in August when he was unwell. This allegory is after the old way of living, where the imitation of all that goes around is considered to be excellent. The humour of the tale is not affected by any change in style, and it is clearly indicated that the morality within the tale is significantly admirable. It is easy to observe that Keenness of Wit with which Spencer has represented the Arts of ill Courtiers. Mother Hubberd's tale is also known as Prosopopoeia, which refers to the rhetorical device in which an imaginary or absent person speaks or acts out a story.

The purpose of the device is to set the satire within an imaginary context, allowing the animal fable that follows to be both believable and understandable.

The central character of Mother Hubberd's Tale, the wily fox who attempts to defraud the public, comes from the popular French stories of Reynard the Fox, translated and published by England's first printer, William Caxton, in the late fifteenth century.

In the fable, the ape is a neighbour to a fox, and a proposal is made by the fox about an adventure they were to set together in search of fortune. The ape accepted requested to be told about the plot of doing so, and how the fox believed that the plan was achievable at all. A camouflage was suggested by the fox, and he also pointed out that for them to succeed with their plan of getting the fortune, they were to act like beggars. In this way, they would be free of all commitments and any other related errands. The two dressed themselves in the tattered remains of military uniforms to win confidence and sympathy.

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The comrades' first victim was an honest, unintelligent farmer who listened sympathetically to the ape's description of his misfortunes and his wounds. The ape requested employment-something that would not tax his poor, battered body-and soon he was tending the gullible husbandman's sheep with the fox as his trusty dog. The partners in crime feasted lavishly on their charges for several months, and then escaped into the night just before they were to produce an accounting of the flock.

Weary of profitless begging, they provided themselves with a gown and a cassock to impersonate learned clergymen. They first encountered an illiterate priest who advised them on their parish duties. All that was necessary was to say the service weekly, to "lay the meat before" the faithful; they had no responsibility for helping their parishioners accept the gospel. The priest then suggested that the fox and the ape go to some nobleman, feigning a grave and saintly demeanour, to request a benefice. He could not recommend that they seek preferment at court, for "nothing there is done without a fee."

They should appear at court themselves, and in this case, they were to be of bold face and confidence. The fox and the ape easily won the royal favour, being suited by nature and inclination to win acceptance. The ape dressed in outlandish clothes and demonstrated his accomplishments: "For he could play, and daunce, and vault, and spring, and all that else pertains to revelling." He was also skilled at fortune-telling, juggling, and sleight of hand. The latter talent was especially profitable, for "what he touched came not to light again."

The ape passed his time gambling, carrying on intrigues, and composing exceedingly bad verses to corrupt the chaste ladies around him. To support his success, the fox, disguised as his confidential servant, practiced all kinds of deceits and, for a large fee, promised favours from his master to poor suitors who came to court looking for preferment.

Heeding this good counsel, the fox assumed the role of priest, and the ape became his parish clerk. They revelled gaily for a time, but the complaints of their abused and exploited parishioners finally brought about their expulsion from their offices. Once more on the road, they almost starved before they met a richly dressed mule who told them that he had just come from the court. He, too, had advice for achieving success.

At length the fox's deceptions were discovered, and he was banished. The ape, left without resources, soon found himself shabby and scorned, and he fled to rejoin his friend. Lamenting their lack of success, they wandered into a wood where they found a lion lying asleep, his crown and sceptre beside him. The ape timorously stole the lion's skin and his regalia, and then claimed the throne for himself as a reward for his valour. The fox reluctantly agreed, stipulating that he be allowed to make all the decisions of government. They initiated a reign of terror, extorting treasure from all the beasts of the forest.

The fox sold justice, raised the fortunes of his family by his ill-gotten gains, and defended his actions on the grounds of his long experience and his desire to build up the royal treasury. He brought about the downfall of the noblest beasts, scorned scholars and poets,

and disdained the common people. Only divine intervention could put an end to this disastrous reign; Jupiter noticed the turmoil among the wild animals and sent Mercury to humble the usurper ape. Mercury woke the lion from his unnatural sleep, and the latter went to the door of his palace, roaring with such force that most of its inhabitants perished from fear. The ape ran to find a hiding place, and the fox skulked out to the lion, laying all the blame upon his partner. The lion punished both, stripping the fox and casting him out, then clipping the ape's tail and ears; the story ends as a kind of myth of "why the ape has no tail."

The format of the poem is that of the "travel tale," specifically that of the picaresque story, which follows the adventures of a clever rogue. (The Spanish word for rogue, pícaro, gives the genre its name.) In Mother Hubberd's Tale, there are two rogues, the fox and the ape. Their travels take them from rustic isolation to palatial splendour, since each deception they perform advances them another step up the social ladder: They begin as beggars and continue their successful trickeries until the ape becomes a king and the fox, his powerful first minister. At that point, Jupiter, a symbol of divine authority, bestirs the rightful monarch, the lion, into reclaiming his throne, and the fox and the ape receive their rightful punishments.

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Of all the stories told by his friends, Mother Hubberd's tale had interested Spenser the most. He wrote it down but after publishing it in 1591, as a poem it was recalled and regarded as dangerous. Why was Mother Hubberd's tale recalled? Was it because the tale displeased Lord Burghley's family? Is the tale as angry and dangerous as Harvey believes? What's so dangerous about the work? 

Edmund Spenser's earlier works were well received and they highlighted his genius in poetry. However Mother Hubberd's tale was not taken kindly. The tale offended the Elizabethan authorities and the book was apparently "called in," or censored, shortly after its publication.

Mother Hubberd's tale which Gabriel Harvey regards as dangerous and offensive is satirical. The poem falls into two sections. The largest section of the poem, up to line 950, is a general satire on human society and its ills. The fox and ape meet a succession of stock characters that symbolically represent the various levels of society. First, they encounter and dupe the honest farmer; his failing is that he is credulous to the point of stupidity, mistaking the ape for a shepherd and the fox for his faithful sheepdog.

At the same time, Spenser uses this episode to point out an evil of his age, the plight of discharged veterans who were left to wander with no means of livelihood. The two rogues next encounter an illiterate priest, who suggests the benefits of a clerical occupation if religion is not taken too seriously. Spenser's account of their progress in this guise is a scathing condemnation of clerical abuses of his age. Finally, they arrive at court and, after vain efforts to win preference, they chance upon the sleeping lion, steal his skin and crown, and usurp the throne.

It is the satire in Mother Hubberd's Tale that caused it to be called back was political in nature, and referred specifically to events surrounding the proposed marriage of Queen Elizabeth I to the French Duc d'Alençon. Although the events had taken place long before the actual publication of the poem, which was probably written in 1579-1580, its offense to high officials in Elizabeth's court, including Lord Burleigh and even the queen herself, was sufficient to have the volume suppressed and Spenser, for all practical purposes, banished to Ireland.

The description of the pair's exploits at court is the longest single section of the poem, and it was closest to Spenser's heart, for he had spent many months at court trying without success to win royal favour and patronage Spenser also contrasts the ape's behavior with that of the true nobleman, whose primary allegiance is to his honour and personal integrity; who spends his days in riding, running, wrestling, preparing himself for military service, playing musical instruments, and writing poetry; who tries to learn enough about the affairs of state to be a wise counsellor to his prince; and who endeavours in every way to achieve excellence. The latter part of the poem is set entirely in the world of animals, as the two adventurers take over the throne of the lion, the traditional king of beasts. Here, the satire becomes pointedly

specific. The ape, an animal not native to the land, calls in alien creatures such as griffins, Minotaurs, crocodiles, dragons, beavers, and centaurs to support his rule.

As the poem notes, "For tyrannie is with strange ayde supported." Spenser is clearly alluding to the proposed marriage of Elizabeth to the Duc d'Alençon. Marriage to a foreigner, Spenser warns, would bring a similar body of unnatural, decidedly un-English figures into the court. Queen Elizabeth, seldom a monarch to seek, and never one to accept, unwanted advice, would have been furious at the poet's presumption, one reason the volume was called back.

There were other reasons why everything had to happen this way. With the ape as king, the fox becomes his powerful chief minister, wielding the real power behind the throne and using the opportunity to advance his own family into positions of influence and riches and ousting the older, more legitimate aristocracy. Just such behavior had been widely alleged against Lord Burleigh, Elizabeth's lord treasurer, and the repetition of such attacks, even in disguised form, would have provided another argument for the authorities to suppress the book.

Beyond the social and political satire of Mother Hubberd's Tale, however, is the literary and artistic level of the work. Mother Hubberd's Tale is the most medieval of Spenser's works. As he often did, Spenser turned to the verse of the fourteenth century poet Geoffrey Chaucer for inspiration and pattern. Spenser's debt to the earlier writer includes the use of the beast fable to criticize the politics of the day and stylistic devices.

His apology for his plain language, on the grounds that he is simply reproducing the words of an old woman, is reminiscent of Chaucer's excuse for the bawdy vocabulary of some of his characters. Spenser has deliberately tried to reproduce the sententious quality of an old woman's storytelling; however, he occasionally slips out of his persona, especially when he is discussing the evils of the court. Taken all in all, Mother Hubberd's Tale is a minor masterpiece of narrative verse.

Spenser followed Chaucer's example in another important point: that of writing verse with the clarity and simplicity of prose. The action in Mother Hubberd's Tale is clearly presented and easily grasped. The characters, although sometimes stock figures drawn from conventional morality, are realistic enough to be believable and, the fox and the ape especially, are individuals. The major flaw in the progression of the narrative is probably the personal feeling that overshadows the story in the episode at court, but this adds to the poem's interest for the modern reader.

Conclusion

Evidently Mother Hubberd's tale pinpoints the ills in the human society and touches directly on the ruling society of Europe. This satirical piece is recalled immediately after it publication as it mirrors on the character and way of doing things of the ruling society who are offended by this reference. It doesn't just displease Lord Burghley's family, but the entire ruling society of Europe. Harvey regards it as expressing Spenser's anger and refers to it as dangerous. Is it an angry piece? Spenser's poem is an expression of the feelings of the commoner towards the ruling class who often deny them justice. Dangerous, perhaps as it would easily stir the commoners to voice out their discontent. And that it brings out the ruling class in bad light.

It is this satirical depiction of the ruling society of Europe that upset those in power and caused the poem to be recalled. It however represented the situation as it were and rubbed wrongly on those implicated. From his earlier experience with the court through his friends who were courtiers, and also his work in Ireland, Spenser may have written out of anger. This then makes the work dangerous as it is a piece touching on the ruling society of Europe and putting forth serious allegations.

Mother Hubberd's Tale is claimed to have been written out of honesty, where events are written down as they happen in the real world. After it was compiled and ready for the market, the author was so delighted with its content, since it highlights about the strange adventures between the ape and fox. In the tale, the ape and the fox are believed to have come together with a mind of seeking fortune a broad, and this happens after they had opened their mutual grievances and disappointed hopes.

Mother Hubberd's Tale tells of the circumstances when an ape and a fox gets on a trip of heading to the court, where they come to realize that there is no difference when it comes to the kind of lifestyle in the court and that found in the provinces. Spenser has assimilated medieval techniques and the folk tradition brilliantly to produce a work that is still an interesting, amusing narrative, and a powerful religious and political satire. He so successfully blends the worlds of humans, beasts, and Olympian gods that there is no apparent incongruity.

As explained in his works, Spencer clearly differs from other great European poets like Shakespeare and Chaucer before and after him. Spencer made no attempt to represent the moving nature of the world around him in his verses. He made allegory the basis of his poetical conception. The conduct of Spenser's tale is believed to be out in line with his time, and this normally talks about his personality and the way of life. Through all the early portion of Elizabeth's sovereignty, in which the mastermind of Spenser as a poet was created, and it used the most influential elements in passing significant information to concerned parties. It showed the uncertainty and tentativeness that is often a characteristic of times of transition.