Spenser and Italian Literature

Jason Lawrence

in The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199227365
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Spenser and Italian Literature

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



This article focuses on Spenser's relationship with Italian literature. Spenser's profound relationship with Italian literature is manifest from his earliest printed poetry, even if initially his engagement with it seems to have been mediated through French verse. The Epigrams printed in Van der Noot's collection in 1569 are a close rendition of Clément Marot's Le Chant des visions de Petrarque (1533), the French poet's translation of Petrarch's canzone ‘Standomi un giorno solo a la fenestra’. Spenser's original English version follows Marot rather than Petrarch directly, suggesting that he was unable to read Italian when he first worked on the translation, presumably as a pupil at the Merchant Taylors' School before he went up to Pembroke Hall in 1569. This raises important questions about when (and how) Spenser learnt the Italian language, and the subsequent depth of his knowledge of Italian literature, as evidenced in much of his later work.

Keywords: Italian language; poetry; Italian literature; Clément Marot

Article.  8570 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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