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Samuel Daniel's The Complaint of Rosamond and the arrival of Tasso's Armida in England


  • I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for their generous support during the research and writing of this essay.


This essay argues that the earliest English work to offer a sustained poetic engagement with the figure of Armida, the celebrated pagan enchantress from Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (1581), is Daniel's The Complaint of Rosamond (1592). Unlike Spenser in The Faerie Queene (1590), who pays little attention to the enchantress herself even as he imitates Tasso directly in his construction of the Bower of Bliss, Daniel's portrayal of his long-dead royal mistress is repeatedly, if unexpectedly, associated with Armida's beauty. The essay considers how Daniel might have first encountered Tasso's character in Italy, and goes on to demonstrate how frequently he translated from Tasso in describing the analogous impact of Rosamond's beauty at the court of Henry II. A few of Daniel's direct imitations from the Italian were detected by his contemporary Francis Davison, but many others were missed, and they have all been entirely ignored in modern criticism. This essay then seeks to demonstrate their centrality to Daniel's conception of his spectral narrator, concluding that his translation and creative adaptation of material related to Armida from Tasso's poem adds a significant level of interpretative ambiguity to the figure of Rosamond.