I've made some SERIOUS progress on the paper I'm writing for my Spenser/Milton class.
The basic idea is that Spenser's character Mutabilitie (the goddess of change) and Milton's character Satan share common characteristics and are treated by the authors in similar ways:
1. Both rebel against Divine authority (Mutabilitie against Jove and Satan against God).
2. Both are blamed for the sorrows of the world.
3. Despite this blame, both characters are, at times, treated sympathetically.
Here is the major difference I have found:
While Spenser admits Mutabilitie's role in Nature and in God's plan, Milton does not accord the same to Satan. Satan has no place in the "Great Chain of Being" according to Milton. However, I will show that, according to the precepts of God's universe, as laid out by Milton, Satan has a crucial role to play. Taking the argument in Lovejoy's 1937 article "Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall" a step farther, I will argue that not only was the fall of Adam requisite for fulfilling God's plan, but that the rebellion of Satan was likewise a necessity.
Anyway... there's a lot more to it, obviously, but it is really coming along!
(X-posted to my journal and academicpagans)