A Caltech Library Service

The medieval sources of Spenser's occasion episode

Burchmore, David W. (1980) The medieval sources of Spenser's occasion episode. Humanities Working Paper, 51. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

[img] PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


For nearly 250 years commentators have been trying to explain why the hag "Occasion" in Faerie Queene II.iv differs in appearance and function from her presumed source, the classical Occasio. The usual explanation assumes that Spenser "Combined" the features of Occasio with those of other figures such as Envy, Discord, Allecto or Poeana, and in doing so he also changed or "transmuted" the meaning of the original icon. But in fact all of the characteristic features of Spenser's hag -- not just her old age, ugliness, tattered clothing and reproachful tongue, but her staff, limp and forelock as well -- were attributes of Misfortune (Fortune in her unpleasant aspect) in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The name "Occasion" simply means that she represents those specific instances of misfortune which "occasion" (give rise to) anger or despair. The fight between Guyon and Occasion, in which he binds her to a post and later allows Pyrochloes to release her, drives from the famous battle between Fortune and Poverty in Boccaccio's De casibus. Certain modifications in the action suggest that Spenser was influenced by the simplified pictures of the story found in some manuscripts of the French translation; and in fact three of the four illuminated copies known to have been in England during the Renaissance contain such illustrations.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Additional Information:Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual, 2 (1981), forthcoming
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:51
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20090811-101649034
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Burchmore, David W. The medieval sources of Spenser's occasion episode. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1980. Humanities Working Paper, No. 51.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:14951
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:11 Aug 2009 17:26
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:53

Repository Staff Only: item control page