In the Proem to Book V, the most directly political section of The Faerie Queene, Spenser uses hyperbole to satirize what he believes to be the impoverished values and priorities of his own day in comparison to those of the classical and medieval epochs. Of the comparison between his own era and the past, the narrator writes:
For that which all men then did vertue call,
Is now cald vice; and that which vice was hight,
Is now hight vertue, and so us’d of all:
Right now is wrong, and wrong that was is right,
As all things else in time are chaunged quight.
Ne wonder; for the heauens reuolution
Is wandred farre, from where it first was pight,
And so doe make contrarie constitution
Of all this lower world, toward his dissolution.
Spenser hyperbolically claims that all values have completely reversed in his own era, the late 16th century. That which “all men” once called “vertue” is now deemed “vice,” and that “which vice was hight” is instead “now hight virtue.” He continues his pessimistic lament, arguing that “Right now is wrong, and wrong that was is right,” and “all things in time are chaunged quight.” Spenser further underscores his point by suggesting that chaos in the social sphere has even led to disarray in the natural world: “the heauenes reuolution / Is wandred farre," he suggests, and everything in the world is moving “contrarie” to its natural order, leading towards the “dissolution” of the Earth itself.
Here, Spenser harshly condemns the moral disorder which he believes to be not only prevalent but almost universal in his society. His language here marks a sharp break from his previous praise of the reign of Elizabeth I and the chivalric values fostered in her court, though he carefully avoids criticizing the Queen directly.