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Faerie Queene


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The greatest work of Spenser, of which the first three books were published 1590, and the second three 1596.

The general scheme of the work is proposed in the author's introductory letter addressed to Ralegh. By the Faerie Queene the poet signifies Glory in the abstract and Elizabeth I in particular (who also figures under the names of Britomart, Belphoebe, Mercilla, and Gloriana). Twelve of her knights, the ‘patrons’ or examples of 12 different virtues, each undertake an adventure, on the 12 successive days of the queen's annual festival. Prince Arthur symbolizes ‘magnificence’, in the Aristotelian sense of the perfection of all the other virtues (Spenser must have meant ‘magnanimity’ or ‘gentlemanliness’). Arthur has a vision of the Faerie Queene and, determining to seek her out, is brought into the adventures of the several knights and carries them to a successful issue. This explanation, given in the introduction, does not appear from the poem itself, for the author starts at once with the adventures of the knights. Of the six books Spenser published, the subjects are:I, the adventures of the Redcrosse Knight of Holiness (the Anglican Church), the protector of the Virgin Una (truth, or the true religion), and the wiles of Archimago and Duessa;II, the adventures of Sir Guyon, the Knight of Temperance, his encounters with Pyrochles and Cymochles, his visit to the cave of Mammon and the House of Temperance, and his destruction of Acrasia and her Bower of Bliss. Canto x of this Book contains a chronicle of British rulers from Brut to Elizabeth;III, the legend of Chastity, exemplified by Britomart and Belphoebe;IV, the legend of Triamond and Cambell, exemplifying Friendship; together with the story of Sir Scudamour and Amoret;V, the adventures of Artegall, the Knight of Justice, in which allegorical reference is made to various historical events of the reign of Queen Elizabeth: the defeat of the Spaniards in the Netherlands, the recantation of Henry IV of France, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and the administration of Ireland by Lord Grey de Wilton;VI, the adventures of Sir Calidore, exemplifying Courtesy.There is also a fragment on Mutabilitie, being the sixth and seventh cantos of the legend of Constancie, which was to have formed the seventh Book. This fragment contains a charming description of the seasons and the months.The work as a whole, modelled to some extent on the Orlando Furioso of Ariosto, suffers from a certain monotony, and its chief beauties lie in the particular episodes with which the allegory is varied and in descriptions, such as those of the Cave of Mammon. The poem is written in the stanza invented by Spenser (see Spenserian Stanza) and since utilized by James Thomson, Keats, Shelley, and Byron.

I, the adventures of the Redcrosse Knight of Holiness (the Anglican Church), the protector of the Virgin Una (truth, or the true religion), and the wiles of Archimago and Duessa;

II, the adventures of Sir Guyon, the Knight of Temperance, his encounters with Pyrochles and Cymochles, his visit to the cave of Mammon and the House of Temperance, and his destruction of Acrasia and her Bower of Bliss. Canto x of this Book contains a chronicle of British rulers from Brut to Elizabeth;

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Subjects: Literature.


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Authors

Edmund Spenser (1552—1599) poet and administrator in Ireland


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