Edmund Spenser



 

I. Biography:

1. Educated in a Protestant background: Cambridge

2. With a set ambition to become a great poet: an assiduous experimenter in meter forms, hence the title, “poet’s poet”
3. Long sojourn in Ireland: fervent support of English colonial regime

II. The Shepheardes Calender:

1. In the tradition of pastoral poetry:

2. Deliberately archaic, thus rustic, language: in imitation of Chaucer’s linguistic style

3. Twelve eclogues titled with the months of the year

III. The Faerie Queen:

1. Extremely complex, multi-layered moral allegory: not static embodiment of certain attributes, but gradual development to the attributes
2. Also historical allegory: also volatile in reference

3. A national epic: separate, individual knightly deeds contributing to the glory of the nation

4. A chivalric romance: meandering plot development with elements of romance genre

5. Spenserian stanza: 9 lines, first 8 lines in iambic pentameter and the last line in iambic hexameter, with a rhyming scheme, ababbcbcc

IV. Discussion of the Text:

1. Moral allegory: the serpent Error (p. 633), the palace of pride (p. 663), the queen of pride, Lucifera (p. 665), Duessa (p. 680), fall of princes (p. 685), despair (p. 730), House of Holiness (Canto X)
2. Religious allegory (mostly anti-Catholic allusions): the woman in scarlet (p. 647, p. 701); the figure of blind Catholic faith (p. 656; Corceca & Abessa); the lion as protector of faith (cf. 654); the dragon of the Revelation (p. 702); p. 667 (Idleness as a Catholic monk)
3. Epic convention: p. 681 (Descent to Hell), p. 708 (retelling the past), p. 628, 751 (invocation of Muses), p. 633, 659 (epic simile)
4. Redcross Knight: his recklessness (p. 632); credulity (p. 647); verbal infelicity (p. 672); p. 710 (a concluding judgment of his character), p. 729 (his recklessness in confronting Despair), p. 748 (against bloody warfare), p. 748 (finally elevated as St. George)

5. Distrust in imagery: p. 642 ~ 44 (Archimago’s witchery); p. 650 (Duessa vs. Fraelissa; also a moral allegory), p. 720 ~21 (Duessa unrobed), p. 691(satire against idolatry), p. 703 (lament on the function of seeing)
6. Chivalry convention invoked but distrusted (but, the codes of chivalry still structures the plot): p. 648, 649 (Fradubio’s ill-fated chivalric adventure), 664 (Malvenu), p. 677 (Duessa’s encouragement to Sansjoy), p. 701, p. 748

7. Biblical Allusions: p. 663, p. 719

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