The Gymnasium

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by Incase.

Theodorus, in Plato’s Theaetetus, accuses Socrates of never letting ‘anyone go who approaches you until you have forced him to strip and wrestle with you in argument’. And Pindar says of poets that they use ‘words like wrestlers’ limbs’. Quite possibly Harold Bloom had Plato and Pindar in mind when justifying his choice of authors in The Anxiety of Influence: ‘My concern is only with strong poets, major figures with the persistence to wrestle with their strong precursors, even to Ed Hardy Clothing the death’. Such examples bring us back to metaphors of games and spectacles, yet they deserve brief mention, in part because narrative limbs may indeed wrestle with ‘strong precursors’ in Spenser’s poem. Guyon’s match against Furor, for example, may be read as Spenser wrestling with Virgil’s Aeneid, which ends somewhat abruptly with the furor of Aeneas, as well as with Homer’s Iliad and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso.

In fact, on several occasions in Ariosto’s poem, Orlando is considered specifically as a wrestler, not only through various hand-to-hand battles, but also during a frenzied gouging of the countryside, reminiscent of a similar act by Hercules in Aeneid In describing the battle between Guyon and Furor, Spenser echoes his models with the use of the bull simile that attends nearly every classical wrestling bout from the Iliad onwards.

Yet here, true to intentions stated in a letter to Gabriel Harvey, Spenser ‘over-goes’ Ariosto et al, perhaps expressing what Nietzsche would call a ‘divine envy’, or ‘ardent desire to step into the place of the overthrown poet and to inherit his fame’. This, if true, Spenser does by embedding the wrestling narrative in canto iv with some important qualifications which relate not only to the passions expressed in his models, but also to the type of wrestler Guyon embodies. Beginning with ED Hardy Hoodies his match against Furor, it is apparent that, although some standard wrestling conventions are employed, Guyon’s bout will carry an altogether different significance than its antecedents: Guyon, in the act of overthrowing Furor, ‘overthrew him selfe vnwares, and lower lay’. The Palmer reacts by advising the knight to ‘amenage’ instead Furor’s ‘aged mother’ Occasion; she is, as Gerald Morgan suggests, the ‘sorrow that is the source of anger’ and the ‘unappeasable desire for vengeance’ an insight that speaks directly to the rage of Achilles and Orlando. Spenser’s Christian wrestler will ask rather, with Augustine,’ not whether a pious soul is angry, as why he is angry; nor whether he is sad, but whence comes his sadness; nor whether he is afraid, but what he fears’.

Nonetheless, Guyon’s initial deficiency against Furor adverts the mimetic body to body transference of emotions that, recalling a similar physical transference between orators and their audiences,41 occurs when Guyon becomes ‘enforced’ and ’embroiled’ while Furor’s ‘currish play’ is ‘sternly grypt’. The proper outlet of Guyon’s passions is provided by the Palmer, and, in the direction to engage mano a mano with Occasion, several details indicate this outlet can also be rhetorical in nature. That is, even if Spenser’s Occasion resembles in appearance the medieval emblems of Fortune more than she does the Greek figure of kairos (who is often depicted in a male athletic form), the action of Guyon seizing the ‘hoar lockes, that hong before her eyes’ is resonant with the sophist’s kairotic art of ‘immanence in a particular rhetorical moment’. The spontaneous response to contingency that characterizes Gorgiastic kairos is emulated in Spenser’s narrative by Guyon’s need to change tactics in mid-battle with Furor, as well as by the Palmer’s advice, which, through Spenser’s use of anaphora and aposiopesis, is marked by the hesitancy that might attend any abrupt conditional adjustment: ‘He is not, ah, he is not such a foe’. Philostratus, in his treatise On Gymnastics, provides a further connection between Occasion and the wrestler who ‘amenages’ her.

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