Hermione recognises the ‘unknown’ and
‘unknowable’ as ‘other’ and thus constitutes
an ethical choice in the sense recommended by Emmanuel Levinas. 23 Levinas defines ethics
as a recognition of the ‘other’ that enables the rejection
of ‘sovereign reason’ that ‘knows only
itself’; as Knapp points out, the ‘other’ in this
sense refers to ‘the other person, designated
Invisibility and erasure in The Two Merry Milkmaids
momentarily demonstrates the efficacy of invisibility as a means of
appearing in the visible that enables intervention in perceived
corruption. Rather than acquiring special powers of discernment, in
occupying the privileged space of the invisible spectator Dorilus
acquires enhanced powers of oration and the platform to communicate the
In his study of vision and ethics in Shakespeare and
James A. Knapp, Image Ethics in Shakespeare
and Spenser (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011 ), p. 1.
Knapp, Image Ethics , pp.
Leonard Barkan, ‘Making Pictures Speak:
Renaissance Art, Elizabethan
Ethics , p.
See Tessa Watt, Cheap Print and Popular
Piety, 1550–1640 , Cambridge Studies in Early Modern
British History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991),
Hamling and Williams
genre, so that he could claim the status of an epic poet. Over the centuries, as he became a specimen for anthologies and survey courses, he
often became only an epic poet, or sometimes a pastoral poet as well. But
6 For additional discussion of this passage, see McCabe, “Masks,” for an analysis of James’s
response, and Ashworth-King, Ethics of Satire, chapter 3, for a discussion of its meaning
within the overall context of Spenser’s satirical meanings in the Mercilla episode.