Read The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser Walter Crane Online


This remarkable poem, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, was Spenser's finest achievement. The first epic poem in modern English, The Faerie Queene combines dramatic narratives of chivalrous adventure with exquisite and picturesque episodes of pageantry. At the same time, Spenser is expounding a deeply-felt allegory of the eternal struggle between Truth and Error]]...

Title : The Faerie Queene
Author :
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ISBN : 16156551
Format Type : Leather Bound
Number of Pages : 1546 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Faerie Queene Reviews

  • Warwick
    2019-03-18 13:49

    To me, this is the great long poem in English, beside which Paradise Lost seems like a clumsy haiku. Where Milton is precise and sententious, Spenser is exuberant, almost mad, and always focused on sheer reading pleasure. His aim is to take you on a crazed sword-and-sorcery epic, and his style combines godlike verbal inventiveness with the sort of eye for lurid details that an HBO commissioning editor would kill for.It's almost like fan fiction. One imagines Spenser getting high over his copy of Malory one night, and then falling asleep and having a feverish opium dream about it. The Faerie Queene is the result: errant knights, evil witches and dragons, cross-dressing heroes, splenetic deities, and lots of damsels who get tied up in becomingly abbreviated outfits to await rescue. Despite this list of clichés, though, Spenser can also be fascinatingly transgressive, especially when it comes to gender roles: women in the Faerie Queene are by no means all passive weaklings, and there are no fewer than two different ‘warrior maids’ who ride around in full armour kicking the shit out of people who question their sense of agency or look at them funny. Note also the intriguing walk-on parts such as the giantess Argantè, who keeps men locked up ‘to serve her lust’ – a nice inversion of the usual trope of women being carted off as sexual prizes – and who is moreover defeated by the female knight Palladine.Incidentally, Spenser likes to come up with inventive perversions to characterise his villains: Argantè is accused of prenatal incest, which I have to admit was a new one on me:These twinnes, men say, (a thing far passing thought)While in their mothers wombe enclosd they were,Ere they into the lightsom world were brought,In fleshly lust were mingled both yfere,And in that monstrous wise did to the world appere.I don't think enough has been written about Spenser's language. There is a tendency for modern readers to gloss over the tricky bits, and think: ‘Well, presumably this was an easy read back in the 1590s.’ It really wasn't. Spenser's language was, even to his contemporaries, extremely archaic and convoluted, with a distinct taste for inventive coinages. It's like a kind of Elizabethan Clockwork Orange (A Clockwork Potato?). Some of this is now invisible to modern readers. Words like amazement, amenable, bland, blatant, bouncing, centered, discontent, dismay, elope, formerly, gurgling, horrid, invulnerable, jovial, lawlessness, memorize, newsman, Olympic, pallid, red-handed, sarcasm, transfix, unassailable, violin, warmonger – all of them, and hundreds more, seem uncomplicated now, but that is only because Spenser invented them and we have become used to them in the centuries since. This is not to mention the hundreds of other words he coined that did not catch on and have now become obsolete (there's another).I particularly like his flair for euphemism. Here's another awesome section, where a hapless husband has tracked down his wife after she was kidnapped by a group of satyrs. He hides nearby in the bushes, only to find out that she's actually having quite a good time:At night, when all they went to sleepe, he vewd, Whereas his louely wife emongst them lay, Embraced of a Satyre rough and rude, Who all the night did minde his ioyous play: Nine times he heard him come aloft ere day, That all his hart with gealosie did swell…‘Come aloft’ of course meaning something along the lines of ‘mount sexually’. There's a lot of this kind of thing – Spenser not always coming across as the most secure guy in the world. The stanza concludes with another fun figurative flourish:But yet that nights ensample did bewray,That not for nought his wife them loued so well,When one so oft a night did ring his matins bell.Haha. Love it. This form of stanza – now known as ‘Spenserian’ – was his own creation, and the way each one concludes in a jaunty rhyming couplet makes him very quotable. I actually wrote this bit out in a notebook more than two years ago, which shows how long I've been reading this – it's been a sort of long-term project that I've dipped in and out of in between other books. This makes it hard to review, because I've now long forgotten half the stuff that happened in the first couple of sections. (Indeed when I started reading it, I was using a version on the internet, but I fell in love with the poem so hard that I ended up buying a luxury Folio Society limited edition bound in goatskin, probably the most expensive book in my entire collection – which, as Hannah was not slow to point out, seems hard to justify for a poem that you can read online for free.)So OK, the paperback looks incredibly dull and imposing, and, yes, the idea of a 1500-page allegorical poem about Queen Elizabeth I does sound like a living nightmare – but The Faerie Queene is the opposite of boring. It's pure incident from start to finish. And if there's a message to the epic, taken as a whole, I think Spenser's closing lines point us in the right direction. He shows us that what matters in this world is not money or power – nor even, in the final analysis, the virtues that he has been exploring for nearly 40,000 lines. What matters is taking the time to find pleasure – in love, in knowledge, and, most of all, in literature:Therefore do you, my rimes, keep better measure,And seeke to please; that now is counted wise mens threasure.

  • Bruce
    2019-03-10 11:45

    How astonishing is the literary fecundity of England's Elizabethan Age - Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, the list can go on and on. I last read "The Faerie Queene" more than forty-five years ago in a college English class, and then only in snippets. I felt that now was the time to read the poem in its entirety, and what a treat it has been.The poem consists of seven books (the last being foreshortened to only two cantos) of twelve cantos each. Each canto contains about fifty stanzas, the total work running to more than 400 pages. Each stanza is constructed as, appropriately named, a Spenserian Stanza with the nine-line rhyme scheme ababbcbcc, the first eight lines being in iambic pentameter and the final in iambic hexameter. Within this scheme is astonishingly great variety, and I was amazed that Spenser could sustain a poem of this length without the form becoming restricting and tedious. His frequent use of enjambment serves to avoid a repetitive sing-song quality to which the work might otherwise have been prone, and part of the freshness and inventiveness is also provided by his extensive use of alliteration. Let me share just the last three lines of one stanza as an illustration of his alliteration:"All flesh is frayle, and full of ficklenesse,Subject to fortunes chance, still chaunging new;What haps to day to me, to morrow may to you."As is apparent, Spenser uses archaic language throughout. He owes a great debt to Chaucer in many ways, and his use of archaic language and spelling suggests Chaucer's Middle English. I found it charming, and one quickly and easily becomes accustomed to it.The work was written as homage to Elizabeth I and describes the adventures of various knights each representing a chivalric virtue - Holinesse, Temperaunce, Chastitie, Courtesie, etc. The basic conceit would seem to derive from Medieval morality plays, and one is also reminded of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (again, however, the virtues praised are more distinctly chivalric than Christian), but "Faerie Queene" is to my mind far more charming and less preachy than the latter. Arthur plays a role as well, but the premise seems to be that these adventures predate his golden age. There are innumerable captivating and memorable characters and endless delightful adventures.I was charmed by this work. It was simply one that I would have regretted having lived a lifetime without having read in its entirety. Highly recommended!

  • Schuyler
    2019-03-05 11:26

    This has been my baby for the last two years. The only time I've really, badly procrastinated for two years on something I need to get done. Like the guilty, feel-yucky procrastination. Somehow the first two books didn't click. Each canto took forever to finish, and there are twelve cantos per book, and 6 books for the whole Faerie Queene, get the idea.I took it to election working. I tried reading it on the computer. None of the methods stuck for long, but I still had fun along the way. I loved all the reactions from various people. The army veteran who remembered reading The Faerie Queene in highschool. The stylish older lady who rolled her eyes at the bad memories. The howls of laughter from my family every time I read another lofty, unintelligible stanza about virtue's decline in the modern world. The time my brother asked "are you reading that to punish yourself?"No, actually.Two weeks ago, I was done with my writing goals for the month, I had finished my big epic novel's fourth edit, and my computer went to the shop for repairs. I think, all of a sudden, I had brain space for The Faerie Queene. Instead of struggling through one canto per week (with twelve cantos per book, and six books...never mind.) I stared whipping through six cantos a day. I wanted to get it done, and I wanted to get it done before we went out of town to the Creation Museum.Friends and fellow bibliophiles, I met my goal. And I am now a proud fangirl of the Edmund Spenser club.It feels elite.Basic Impressions: First of all, Spenser's imagery isn't hard to get. I still bungled it, though. I was reading along in book 4, about a knight getting mad, because he was trying to sleep next to workers pounding away at an anvil. My first impression was wondering how much of an imbecile he could be not to get up and move. But when I read the names of the workers (Pensiveness and Sighs), I realized it was an allegory for those dark nights when you're lying awake, and you can't shake off thoughts of grief and sorrow. Everybody has nights like that. Spenser explains exactly what he means; it doesn't take a genius to understand it. ( good. Because I don't get the obvious.)Second, his characters are so vivid. I did burst out laughing by about the sixth maiden in distress who claimed she was the 'most sorrowful maiden in all the world'. But in spite of that, the characters are varied and endearing.Thirdly, his Christian living and teaching are challenging and true. I dog-eared many pages of passages that struck me (this book is so huge I would never find them just by underlining) and rejoiced at the joy, vigor, and consistency with which his characters lived the Christian life.I did skip a few cantos--the parade of all the sea gods didn't add to the story, and I'm not interested in that kind of religious folklore. Some of Acrasia's scenes in book 2, and one description of hell in book 1 were things I didn't want to read. Use your discretion in skipping around as you need to. The Middle English I found easy to understand as I got into it, but that may be an extra challenge for some readers. Also, Spenser occasionally goes on unimportant side tangents. If you persevere through that you'll love the book as a whole. But side tangents in Middle English poetry are more unforgivable than modern prose. ;)Favorite BookEach book had a different virtue. The first book (Holiness) had the tightest story plot, while the second was quite rambling. The first two didn't really resonate with me, but each one got better and more gripping as they went along. I have the most dog-eared pages of things I want to remember in Book 4 (Friendship) and Book 5 (Justice). The combination of justice and chastity, and the illustrations of wise friends, foolish friends, reconciliation and visionary work brought joy to my soul.Favorite CharactersArtegall and his Tin Man, who went marching through the realm dispensing justice...Triamond and Cambell with their lady loves by their sides...the romance of Florimell and Marinell...King Arthur's squire. There were so many people to know and love. It would be hard to choose a favorite knight, but Artegall (Justice), Triamond (Friendship) and Calidore (Courtesy) were my favorite for the way they lived with purpose, fought as men, and protected women. And the women were pretty special as well. Many of them carried swords and killed evil people within their God-given position of biblical womanhood. If you want visionary womanhood, this book has lots of examples.Chivalry in the Faerie QueeneI don't think I've ever read a book that embodies chivalry between men and women so well as The Faerie Queene. I'm a bit tired of the arguments about chivalry between the sexes in modern society. The Faerie Queene didn't argue or make exceptions. It just illustrated how good men should treat good women, and how good men should treat evil women. Each knight faithfully dispensed his duties with bravery and chivalry for each damsel he found in distress. There was nothing more important to a knight than rescuing a lady in need, and it didn't matter if the lady was in the most compromising or embarrassing of situations. I think this book gave me an appreciation like none other of the comfort and security God designs for women by giving them the love and protection of men. What a precious, precious gift.Sexuality in the Faerie QueeneDealing with issues of lust, chastity, love, friendship, and temperance, The Faerie Queene has several frank discussions about sex. Christian knights rescue ladies from capture, unwanted love, and attempted rape. One girl is based off of Helen of Troy, and leaves her husband for an affair. Acrasia, in book 2, has a bower of bliss where she lures in weak-willed knights for sexual pleasure, like the adulterous woman in Proverbs. The last book, especially, has several rape attempts and mentions nakedness.While this may seem frank, I didn't read it for no reason. Spenser's handling of sexuality has some of the soundest thinking I've ever read. It trains your mind into truth. Instead of focusing on handsome blue eyes (and yes, The Faerie Queene had some rugged knights) he instead solemnly hammers into readers the importance of purity, chastity, male headship, and the beauty of sexuality as God intended it. He doesn't glorify sexuality or provocative behavior. You won't find lengthy bedroom scenes. He simply uses an appropriate level of detail for the subjects he is dealing with. Spenser wants his readers to have a Christian mindset in every area of life, and he can't train readers without talking about it.As I remarked to a group of friends this morning, sometimes in creating something 'clean' we miss creating something 'biblical'. While The Faerie Queene can make people uncomfortable, books like this with true, mature, biblical love, create a much more mature mindset and appropriate comfort level than clean books with shallow attractions.This is a full-blooded, adult, mature Christian novel. It doesn't shy away from any aspect of love life. I wouldn't have read this at a younger age, but now I think it's beneficial and rewarding. It may not be for everyone, and that's OK. But I would give my daughter The Faerie Queene before I would give her a stack of modern romances.In ConclusionThere is so much I want to include in this review, and I simply can't for length's sake. I can only hope that you'll give The Faerie Queene a try, and discover it to be just as rich and enjoyable as I did.This book is one of the most talented, solid Christian stories that I have ever read. Middle English and all, I consider it a privilege to have finished a copy of this story. I give it five stars and heartily recommend it to dominion-minded readers.

  • Ellen
    2019-03-08 13:32

    I first really read this poem in graduate school with a teacher so superb he made Spenser, Milton, Donne, Herbert, and Marvell exciting. They are still among my favorite poets.Faerie Queene is Spenser's richly imaginative 16th-century epic poem depicting the education/spiritual growth of the Redcrosse Knight. In Spenser's epic being able to distinguish between good and evil, true and false becomes imperative, but difficult in a landscape that is deceptive and illusory.Spenser's landscapes metamorphose to slowly reveal the truths behind the illusive exteriors. For example, shortly after defeating the monster Errour, Redcrosse meets an "Aged Sire" whose show of devotion the knight finds completely convincing. His cottage, where Redcrosse and his companions take shelter for the night, similarly appears to be a humble, innocent dwelling:A little lowly hermitage it was,Downe in a dale, hard by a forest side...There was a holy Chappell edifyde,Wherein the Hermite dewly wont to sayHis holy things each morne and eventyde. (I.i.34)But this is a landscape strewn with traps and snares. A sinister note begins to sound in the resumed description of the hermit who "could file his tongue as smooth as glass" (I.i.35) and scatters a frequent "Ave-Mary" in his speech. The night, ominously "creepeth on them fast" and when the travelers are "drownd in deadly sleeps" (I.i.36), the hermit's true nature emerges. The hermit, revealed to us as the evil Magician, Archimago (Hypocrisy), uses his dark skills to fashion a false dream for Redcrosse wherein Una appears to wantonly seduce him. When Redcrosse rejects Una, Archimago creates another vision, and Redcrosse flees. And so, Redcrosse's education continues within the intricate world Spenser imagines.

  • Michael
    2019-03-17 06:31

    When it comes to sheer reading pleasure, it is almost impossible to beat "The Faerie Queene". It has nearly everything that a reader could desire; action, romance, deep philosophical and theological meaning, allegory, pitched battles on fields of honor, blood, swords, spears...everything that makes life worth living. And it is all wrapped in some of the most beautiful language ever to be set down in the English tongue. Spenser was a master of English, and you can sense that he wrote for the joy and pleasure of shaping words, molding them, positioning them just so, and we, the readers, can bask in his joy. More to come...

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-03-02 06:38

    Some place Ariosto above Dante because he tempers his ridiculously erratic romanticism with remarkable satire, joie de vivre, and a gently sloping concession to an ending. While both Ariosto's and Spenser's works are long-winded, Spenser never overcomes the need for vindication which gradually grew out of this work. This desperation precluded the light-heartedness that buoyed Ariosto's lengthy tale.The more one reads The Faerie Queene, the more one begins to respect Liz's desire to keep this man at kingdom's length; like so many naively obsessed stalkers of this latter age, Spenser never develops the external analysis necessary either for receiving signals nor finding wit.He has certainly learned well his lessons from Milton, Homer, Dante, Ariosto, and the Mantuan Swan, but while he is a good student, he could never stand amongst his teachers. The abruptly unfinished Aeneid is far superior to Spenser's self-obsessed dike-fingering.He becomes so convinced of the necessity of his own brilliance that he cannot stop until it is proven. He refused to accept that this redemption might not come at all. Perhaps he hoped, like Virgil, to underscore the injustice of his political mistreatment with a great work, but unfortunately could not muster the strength to die upon its proper completion.Each meandering addendum bears its certain character and excitement. Spenser is not without poetry, allusion, and the other necessary tools. While Virgil's exile may have helped inspire his works, Spenser's exile became the central and driving theme. This book that simply wouldn't end is an apt enough metaphor for the unyielding injustice he labored under to create it.

  • Lada Fleur
    2019-03-04 14:21

    This is the favourite book I have ever laid my eyes on. I do not own the book. But what I remember of it is the perfect enchantement, of the world pf magic done in perfect Renaissance style glorifying the Queen Elizabeth 1.The best gook, inventive specenrian language, en English Rabelais in style with delightful concetto which create splendid and bustling world of the mythic geography Britain with Renaissance England.The quest of Arthurian Knight is so specifically Renaissance, and spencerian, the court is elizebethan, all in perfect fairy land style glorifying the 15 th century England and her actual prosperity under the divime reign."Epidemonium " fairy wedding is the glorification of royal wedding which unites prosperity of royal couple, and the country they represent. The style is so perfect with humanism and classical background, and of classical Gods.It is thew best book of The English Renaissance

  • David Acevedo
    2019-03-27 14:31

    Alright. So sometimes you read books merely in order to feel good about yourself. I'm a sinner. Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, deemed one of the most difficult books int he English language, I read as a challenge to myself, which also included David foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Joyce's Ulysses. I read them all and am proud of it. So The Faerie Queen is epic poetry. It celebrates Queen Gloriana (one of the many dubs of Elizabeth I). I won't go into "plot" details in this review. I'll say, however, that this book geared me towards reading Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and also served as the basis for my own epic poetry book "Empírea o la Saga de la Nueva Ciudad" (Erizo Editorial).

  • Werner
    2019-03-12 14:24

    I read this (in a different edition, without notes and which preserved the Elizabethean spellings) as part of my course preparation for teaching British Literature when we were home schooling our girls, and found it a challenging --though not unrewarding-- read. The quaint spellings and archaic diction and vocabulary require slow and careful reading to mentally translate. Fully enjoying the work as Spenser originally intended is difficult (if not impossible), first because it's only half finished; he completed only six of the projected dozen "books" that make up the whole, which plays havoc with developing a completed storyline. Second, the narrative the poet relates isn't simply an epic story; it's intended as an allegory (his model was the earlier Italian epic Orlando Furioso by Ariosto, which English interpreters of that day misread as an allegory). The various questing knights, for instance, represent assorted cardinal virtues; the title character is easily recognized as a stand-in for Elizabeth I, and so forth (for instance, the Goodreads description above suggests that the Amazon queen, Radigund, who winds up decapitated, represents Mary Queen of Scots). Full-blown allegory usually works well only if the various symbolizations are easily understood, or explained; that wasn't the case for me, so that aspect was largely over my head.Despite those defects, though, considered as stories in their own right many of the various episodes here prove to be quite fascinating (once you decipher the language :-)). The setting is Arthurian England, but Spenser treats it as a full-blown fantasy world, where high-medieval knights co-exist with figures from classical mythology, and the human world shares a much-crossed border with Faerie. Consequently, it's a fountain-head of the Arthurian fantasy subgenre, and a treasure trove (which later genre writers undoubtedly used as a grab-bag) of fantasy motifs. For me, one of the best parts was the depiction of Sir Artegall's love interest, Britomartis, a "lady knight" whose own lethal combat skills make her perhaps literature's first action heroine --she rescues him, rather than the other way around, when he gets himself into trouble. (Radigund is no slouch at fighting either; and while Spenser views her as villainess rather than heroine, that's undoubtedly not the way she views herself.) Of course, Spenser had a long way to go in his gender attitudes; the approving description of Britomartis returning the defeated Amazons "to men's subjection" and repealing the "liberty of women" had me rolling my eyes big time. :-) But her character nevertheless is somewhat subversive of the ideas of that day about gender roles --and both male and female readers certainly must have picked that up.

  • Jay Kennedy
    2019-03-01 09:24

    The Faerie Queen is one of my favorite classic English literature pieces. It is a sword and sorcery tale following several knights each embodying a virtue. The allegory between Protestant and Catholic is multi-layered but isn't too vague to decipher. This epic is an adventure in the likes of Chaucer and John Milton, which you won't want to skip if you are well-read in English literature.

  • Stephanie
    2019-03-24 06:45

    I DID ITTTTT WOWOWWOWOWthis book was wildIt also had a lot of death and rape in it I enjoyed books 2-5 the most .....Britomart is the lady knight of my dreams pretty much. I want her and Artegall to kiss :( I don't think that's too much to askI also loved Prince Arthur!!! Aww babe. I also loved his squire but I got really confused after the fortieth nameless squire showed up TBH

  • Mary Cornelius
    2019-03-18 13:39

    Whew. Well, that's done.

  • Jacob Aitken
    2019-03-05 14:19

    As Galadriel said in Return of the King, some things which shouldn't have been forgotten were lost. Spenser is one of those things. One of the great tragedies in Western pedagogy has been this ignorance of Spenser. He tells a beautiful story using the vehicle of hypnotic poetry. And there is sex. Lots of it. But even the sexual themes have pedagogical ends. Britomart is not merely chaste. She is told to vigorously pursue chastity. This does not mean merely to avoid all types of sexual encounters. Otherwise, we are left with a boring apophatic ethics. No, she is told to pursue chastity for the goal of a consummated and pure marriage. Sir Guyon combats the sensual Bower of Bliss by a more holy sensuality.In so doing Spenser has remained thoroughly Aristotelian but has reworked the old medieval Thomism around a "merry Protestantism." C. S. Lewis was correct: Spenser must be read through at least twice to fully appreciate him. Spenser is difficult, to be sure. Because of that we must applaud the noble (if somewhat wacky) attempts by Canon Press to make him accessible. But he is not that hard. His language is no different from his contemporary Shakespeare. If you are reasonably familiar with Shakespeare's language Spenser shouldn't be that challenging. And he rhymes--something which can't always be said of Shakespeare. What makes him really difficult is the archaic spelling, but even this is overcome after about seventy pages (the human brain unconsciously begins tranlsating the "u"s as "v"s, etc.). To quote Lewis again, To read Spenser is to grow in mental health.

  • Afro Madonna
    2019-03-06 12:48


  • Collin
    2019-03-01 14:26

    First book: Delightful! Many of the scenes got to be a little boring, but overall, I loved this book. Maybe it was because I was forcing my own interpretations of the character dynamics and situations on the story, but I really did enjoy it. Una is great, Redcrosse is very interesting, and the Una/Redcrosse/Arthur teamup was so much fun! The conflicts all worked well, especially the ones toward the end. I liked it.Second book: Eh... not so much. This book is much more scattered than the first, and /so/ much more didactic. There isn't so much a sense of the story going somewhere organically; it's just Spenser shoving his characters into various moralizing situations. My favorite scene was the one with Braggadochio and the beautiful huntswoman - I firmly believe that any Spenserian woman threatened with rape should attempt to stab her attacker with a spear, rendering him too afraid to chase her when she runs away. Good problem solving, mystery woman. But it was a mystery, and I'm still not really sure why that scene was even in this book, as nothing about it affects anything else in the story. Maybe I need to read it more than once, but it just didn't flow as well as the first book, or with as many interesting characters and conflicts.Third book: YES. YES. YES. And again, YES. Britomart is amazing. (I just finished the final book, so my reviews will be shorter and less helpful.)Fourth book: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I'm not sure whether this or Book 3 is my favorite. Probably Book 3, but this one comes close. Britomart rescues her man. I love it (I think the mature thing is to look over what our culture now deems "misogyny" or "patriarchy" because no one getting mad at Spencer's morals are going to actually change his story or make it less fun).Fifth book: Eh, fine. Artegall is fine. I don't think he's worthy of Brits, but he'll do, I suppose. Even if he does have a metal man to do his dirty work.Sixth book: Eh. Okay. I liked the Arthur-and-Timias parts best, of course, because I have a huge soft spot for Timias and his love for Belphoebe (who was unfortunately missing). This one got really bogged down in lots of characters and interlaced situations. I just hope Artegall got back to Brits. Overall: I want to give this three stars and four at once. Three is probably more accurate for a mean score, but I'm still SO in love with Books 1/3/4 that I feel like a four-star rating is more true to my enthusiasm for what I do like. It's a difficult book and it's often not fun at all, even in my favorite books, and gosh knows I went to university summaries more often than not because I could not be bothered to disentangle plotlines for characters I didn't care about. But it's a classic for a reason. And I DO LOVE ME SOME BRITOMART AND BRITOMART/AMORET FRIENDSHIP. And Arthur/Timias, and Timias/Belphoebe.I want to write a few retellings. Some of these characters are just so alive!

  • Michael
    2019-02-25 12:30

    Don't be scared off by this one. Spenser wrote the greatest poem that emerged from the age of Shakespeare. Surrender yourselve's to his lingo, his rhythm, his abundant humor. There are images in this poem I'll never forget, along with one of the most compelling and admirable female warriors ever realized in a poem, Britomart. What a babe. SeriouslyThe language may be tough at first for contemporary readers, but as recently as 120 years ago, FQ was pretty standard children's reading--the kids read for the exciting stories (dragons, and Elizabethan robot/golem sort of creature, fantastic gardens, fraught old libraries, action, adventure, and unreliable clergy.) Adults dug it for many of the same reasons, but also because of its improving allegory. Spenser's poem can help you to become a better person. That's why he wrote it. Anyone who thinks this poem is impenetrable or boring is a person who gives up too easily. Don't belike that. (Spenser will even teach you not to be like thatl)This edition is superb, with informative and explicative footnotes on which you should not linger too long--drop down to them only when you feel you really have to. The next time you read it, you can make long dives into the notes having already absorbed the epic once. Give it a shot. It's a hoot.

  • Peter
    2019-03-18 06:43

    At first, I read it and thought: what is this? I can barely understand the words coming out of their mouths! Thenne aftere a whille the odde spellungs and clus approxametions of currenntly spellede words becammes understandable. I found the story itself to bee quite interesting, vivid action, big battles, giants swinging clubs made from tree trunks with such force, they bury them in the ground, villains in disguise, noble knights, "ruined" women committing suicide and leaving a still living child to "plashe in the fountain of her bloode"So, as a visual person, it gave me a lot to work with. Reading it as part of a group was key too. If your brain can click over the language gappe, you'll enjoy it. Just don't think if it as one book as much as four (five?). I wanted to complete the whole thing in a weekend...short of mescalene, there is no way to accomplish such a feat.

  • Nicholas Whyte
    2019-03-18 08:27[return][return][return]This is one of the curiosities of the English language, a long poem written in its own peculiar verse structure in which archetypal figures based on myths of many different origins contend for mastery of spoils, women and virtue in a fantasy landscape which resembles the north of County Cork. Some of the allegory is pretty straightforward, as when Prince Arthur springs to the defence of the cruelly oppressed lady Belge; other parts are more layered and/or obscure.[return][return]It has taken me five months to read this. I found I could not proceed faster than one canto every day, and on many days I did not manage any cantos at all; and there are 74 of them, plus the proems and the two concluding verses. It's not that it is particularly difficult to read, compared even to Shakespeare; the style is generally consistent, and a good edition (mine is the Longman edited by A.C. Hamilton) helps you through the more obscure words or usages. But it's dense and moves both rather slowly and rather fast at the same time.[return][return]I found that one of the biggest barriers to my understanding of the poem was Tolkien. Spenser writes of elves and dwarves in a parallel fantasy world, but these are not Tolkien's separate races; the elves are effectively just a fantasy nationality, and the dwarves just short guys (who tend to appear as servants). I was also subliminally expecting some Big Bad villain, but in fact we have a chain of more or less loosely connected stories, with the main linking character Prince Arthur, who is intended to be King Arthur (and yet didn't fit for me too well into my own vision of Arthurian legend). So I found myself unnecessarily distracted by my attempts to fit it into fantasy genres with which I am more familiar.[return][return]What does come over with extraordinary vigour is Spenser's love of the Irish landscape. Subsequent history shows him as one of the many adventurers who descended on Munster to occupy land confiscated from the Desmonds and their affiliates, who then lost it all in a subsequent rebellion; it's worth being reminded that from Spenser's point of view, he had come to stay, and expected his descendants to live on at Kilcolman for many generations. County Cork was his home and the focus of his imagination. It's not too difficult to believe that he died essentially of a broken heart after losing it all.[return][return]As for the actual meaning of it all: I think it is possible to over-analyze. Sometimes the allusions are pretty obvious, or indeed the description may be pretty much what it appears to be (thinking for instance of the house whose chambers correspond to organs of the human body, or the personified rivers of Britain and Ireland). The only one of the six virtues where Spenser has much interesting to show about the virtue itself, for my money, was Courtesy; I felt he let his pen wander aside from the point as his fancy took him elsewhere. The best character in it is Britomart, who is obviously the model for George R.R. Martin's Brienne of Tarth. [return][return]And there's a robot.

  • Roman Clodia
    2019-03-19 10:43

    Spenser is probably the least read of the 'great' Elizabethan writers, and picking up his Faerie Queen it's easy to see why: it's over a thousand pages of poetry (9 line stanzas) written in a kind of cross-over medieval-renaissance English. Even English graduates tend not to have had to read the whole thing, getting away with selected cantos, a kind of edited highlights. But starting at the beginning and reading it straight through is a completely different experience. While it is overtly a moral and political allegory, Spenser is also a supreme story-teller and frequently very funny (in a literary kind of way).Full of knights on chivalric quests, dragons, giants, monsters, the evil arch-magus and the sensually-tempting Duessa, this is like every fairy tale and Lord of the Rings copy-cat you've ever read, but put together by a supreme stylist and written in the most flexible, beautiful language. Some of the stories are very moving, others quite bizarre, and there's some very perverse sexuality on display. Since they often unroll simultaneously the narrative is a multi-layered one.Creating deliberate links with both classical literature (particularly the epics of Homer and Virgil) as well as with medieval (Chaucer, especially) and Spenser's own contemporary Elizabethan age, this is both very different from Sidney and Shakespeare and yet also very close to them at the same time.The best way to read it is to almost forget the fact that it's 'poetry', ignore the stanzas and simply read as if it were prose. Spenser's own sublime sense of rhythm and rhyme asserts itself and the words align themselves exactly as they need to.Roche has edited this well but there is no introduction which is a shame, although the notes do extend beyond a simple glossary. But even so, this is a great edition of a magical and really enthralling classic.

  • Marie
    2019-03-20 13:28

    It doesn't benefit from being read cover-to-cover. This is mostly a series of unrelated adventures and I found it useful to read one canto at a time. Books three and four hang together more than the most and were my favorite part, though that might just be my eagerness at reading of the adventures of a Lady Knight.Spenser writes "Chaucerian" English the way you or I might write Elizabethan English - he substitutes a few key antiquated words and spellings whenever he can. At first it was very jarring, but after a book or two you just start reading U as V, V as U, Y as I, I as J, and so on. It's mostly painless, except when an unfortunate series of substitutions in a row renders a word nigh unrecognizable. (He totally spelled "ivy" "yuy" once!)Still, there's no denying the man's skillz with sonnets, and some parts were actually delightful - the history of the Elven Kings in all it's cute glory, and the flowery-yet-gory battle descriptions in particular. Still, I wouldn't recommend reading the whole dang thing like I just did. Read book 3, and if you can't get enough, read book 4. By then, you'll have had enough, I suspect. ;)

  • Wendy Verkler
    2019-03-25 12:45

    It's really good if you like linguistic puzzles. If medieval English bothers you, you will hate this book. Also, you must like wizards (good and evil), potions, jousting knights, hidden identities, mermaids, jesters, princesses, castles, trap doors, secret passages, dark and dangerous forests, magical/mythical creatures, magic mirrors, women in disguise fighting as knights, nymphs, treasure chests, pagan gods, Merlin, King Arthur, various knights of the round table as well as ones you aren't familiar with, giants, witches, and more.Even if you like the above, if you aren't prepared to read it in part as a sort of almost mathematical deciphering puzzle, if you just want to speed through for the plot and not the language, you really, really will hate it. Still, the going gets easier the more you read. You start to see familiar patterns in the language pop up. If you ever took a romance language, you will see the impact of that as well, since the writing took place when the languages were less differentiated. It is a religious, political and allegorical epic poem.

  • Diana
    2019-03-14 11:40

    I have to admit I liked reading this. Prior to taking this class I never was really thrilled with Spenser's poetry, I have read a few of his sonnets before. This epic just seemed too long to be enjoyable. There is a bias toward his beliefs in the piece, Spenser had Puritan leanings, which made me shake my head a few times. Since Spenser is said to be the poet who the other English poets copy I was happy to have a reason to read the piece. Will I ever read it again? Probably not.

  • Edward
    2019-03-26 08:48

    A Note on the TextTable of DatesFurther ReadingA Letter of the Authors Expounding His Whole Intention in the Course of this Worke: Which For that it Giveth Great Light to the Reader, for the Better Vnderstanding is Hereunto AnnexedCommendatory VersesDedicatory Sonnets--The Faerie QueeneTextual AppendixNotesCommon Words

  • David Cole
    2019-03-08 08:45

    Perhaps the greatest thing ever written in the English language. This masterpiece of medieval symbolism and epic poetry humbles the reader. 5 stars is inadequate.

  • Marty Reeder
    2019-03-17 13:48

    After reading Paradise Lost and loving it, I felt that I had been giving epic poems an unfair treatment by avoiding them. I wanted another, and Edmund Spenser’s The Færie Queene seemed to be the obvious choice as a near contemporary with Milton. Little did I know how difficult it would be to come by. The Færie Queene easily meets the requirements for public domain and it is a title that is fairly well known: this had Project Gutenberg written all over it. But no. Book I, yes, but that’s it. Okay, how about Formatting is often sloppier, but as long as the words are all there … nope! Strike two. I started to despair. I mean, what was I going to have to do, buy the blasted thing?!Then, I listened to the Librivox recording of A Princess of Mars by Thomas Copeland. The man’s sonorous voice hooked me into Edgar Rice Burroughs tale and I knew that if he could get me into that kind of early twentieth century pulp fiction, I could listen to anything else he had recorded. After a bit of research the stars aligned and the book gods smiled down on me. Thomas Copeland had done an entire reading of all six books of The Færie Queene. Several downloads later and I was on track to listen to the whole of Edmund Spenser’s The Færie Queene thanks to the not-quite-professionally-recorded but still professionally pronounced and entrancing voice of Thomas Copeland.Is this a review of Thomas Copeland or The Færie Queene, you ask. Fair enough, I’ll get to the book, but Mr. Copeland’s yeoman’s labor of love should not be ignored and I highly recommend him if you are ever aspiring to tackle this Elizabethan marvel.Which finally gets us to The Færie Queene itself. It is an ambitious, monster tale of a magical land (British Isles-ish) with a revered Queene who never shows herself but whose influence guides the whole process of elvish knights representing different virtues going out in full regalia and complete allegory to tackle both the carefully disguised and easily recognized vices of the world. While I can appreciate the scope of the project, just hearing about it makes it sound tedious: an allegory detailed through lengthy, bordering-on-middle-English-verse? Yet, Spenser is invested as much into the world and the characters as he is to the allegory and what remains is a strong parade of exciting events, visceral characters, and worthwhile moral lessons.The action, and there is plenty of it, is gory and even graphic in its description. Whole stanzas will focus on the spilling of blood or dismembering of body parts. But at the same time, I have not read an action scene with as much thrill to it or clear staging in it as I have with this Renaissance-era piece of poetry, or at least not in recent memory. Spenser really knows how to set the scene of battle, plunge his audience into the thick of it, unshield our eyes from the brutality of it, and then bring it to a physically exhausting conclusion.Then, some of his characters are more than just symbols of virtues or vices walking around in knightly armor or villainous garb (though the villains are usually his most shallow characters). The knights make mistakes, have to learn, repent, redeem … or not. Perhaps most surprisingly for me is that the characters who seem to be the most dynamic are women. Find me a more daring, brave, exciting, independent, beautiful, and yet hampered with tragedy, character than Spenser’s brilliant Britomart. Wow. That is not just a woman of a character, but a character of a character. To those who bemoan the treatment of women in the pre-modern age, perhaps Spenser can offer at least a smidgen of redemption with the strongly feminist (without being feminist) characters of Britomart and the other laudable female, Belphœbe (I’m so proud, in hindsight, to have a daughter named Phœbe now--what a privilege to share it with this goddess of the forest who is wise, capable, also independent, loving, strong, and--of course--still beautiful).Many of the adventures fit neatly into moral parallels (others do not). And some of the conversations that opposing parties have shed some fascinating light on the morals of Spenser’s day. Many of them ring well into the twenty-first century today. Gems of wisdom are littered throughout and, given in the luscious literary form, can be both profound and phonetically pleasing.That is what works, and it is more than enough to make it a worthwhile venture. There is a lot that just plain does not work, though. First of all, I am not sure how thoroughly Spenser outlined this originally-intended-to-be-twelve-books-instead-of-six project. It feels sporadic at best. Books I-III are the most succinctly organized and self-contained, with a virtue per book and a conclusion to match each adventure (kind of). Books IV-VI, while full of interesting material and exciting scenes, feel like they are going all over the place. Characters are dropped and forgotten, only to be picked up many Cantos later, or even Books later (or not at all!). That is not the worse offense. Several Books take the audience down the weary path of lists of mythical characters attending events or traditional, folkloric genealogies (yes, but how long could those possibly be, Marty? Oh, trust me, as someone who has an almost vague tolerance for that sort of quirky detail … they go on for stanza after stanza after Canto after Canto), effectively breaking up the narrative and bringing everything to an uncomfortable halt.Those are not insignificant problems. Structurally, the lack of direction for the whole project is a big problem and is--in my opinion--what has caused The Færie Queene to languish into the background as a title that people might recognize but which very few have sought to tackle outright. But as I walk away from Spenser’s world of weaving allegories, I cannot help but feel satisfaction with the tremendous work that he accomplished, scattered though it may be. A successful allegory is a tricky thing to impress upon an audience, doing so while engaging that same audience into characters and events is what elevates this beyond just a historical piece and makes it both entertaining and relevant today. I do not regret reading The Færie Queene and I would have trudged through several books worth of genealogies or red carpet descriptions of wandering mythical figures just to get more of characters like Britomart, Belphœbe, Florimel, Prince Arthur and even the silly Braggadocio and his company. Throw in Thomas Copeland’s voice and I’d let Spenser pass off the grammar books from his day as a full book in and of itself!

  • Melaniekiara
    2019-03-19 11:32

    Where is my medal? WHERE IS MY MEDAL? Also, yeah it's pretty good.

  • Kerry & naomi
    2019-02-27 06:40

    My love affair with a dead Englishman, Edmund Spenser, continues with The Faerie Queene, his epic poetic allegory of virtues. Spenser’s poetry, especially the gargantuan Faerie Queene, is often colored and enhanced on symbolic levels by his strong dedication to the emerging Protestant church in Elizabethan England. What I find especially intriguing is Spenser’s ability to communicate meaning on several different levels all at once. One can read The Faerie Queene as a straight adventure-chivalric romance; one can read the poem for the allegories of virtues and vices, sin and redemption; one can also read for the myriad references to Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and other classic literary references; or read for some of the political commentary on Elizabeth I’s reign, such as the banishment of Raleigh from court or the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.The PlotScholars dispute whether Spenser finished The Faerie Queene, making an overall plot somewhat difficult to pin down. Some argue that Spenser intended to write 24 books of his epic; others argue 12 books; others argue that the 6 books with two cantos as a fragment for a seventh book are what Spenser planned all along since it wasn’t uncommon for poets to deliberately write fragments during the Renaissance. However, with the six books and fragments, the overarching theme is various knights’ of Faerie Land’s quests to find or render service to the Faerie Queene (Elizabeth I) though she remains remote and elusive. Rather than summarizing the plots of each book, I will give characterization instead since the characters jump from book to book. Though Spenser devotes a canto here and there to the adventures of Arthur, and he’s definitely a main character, a cursory plot summary of each book would not do justice to Arthur who rides to the rescue, invariably, of some sort in each book corresponding with the number of the book (one rescue in Book I, two rescues in Book II, etc.). Spenser has a slippery penchant for symmetry of this sort that’s taken scholars years of research to unlock. But I digress, on to the more interesting characters…Arthur - Arthur is a knight of the Faerie Queene and the embodiment of all the virtues. He first assists Una in freeing Redcrosse from Duessa’s clutches and kills the giant Orgoglio. Arthur acts a Redeemer throughout The Faerie Queene. His appearance in the 8th canto of Book I coincides with the number 8 as the number of regeneration, signifying the regeneration of the Redcrosse’s soul through Arthur’s auspices as the redeeming agent. In Book III, Arthur leaves Britomart to follow Florimell (Beauty/Land) as she flees from evil pursuers, temporarily abandoning his quest to find the Faerie Queene for beauty. Arthur also rescues, or attempts to rescue his squire, Timias (Honor), on various occasions and saves Amoret (Love) and Æmylie from Sclaunder (Slander). Una - Una represents Truth and the “one true church” of united Protestantism (the Church of England); at other times she also represents Elizabeth I. Una’s parents, Adam and Eve, are being held captive by an evil dragon. Una searched far and wide for a knight to kill the dragon and restore her parents to their positions as world rulers. She settled on the untried Redcrosse and promptly fell in love with him. Unfortunately for Una, Redcrosse has some trials ahead of him, which she, with or without assistance, must help him through. Redcrosse - He represents the Christian or Holiness, but one who has yet to learn to deal with temptation, his own sexuality, and to experience spiritual rebirth. After facing Despair, Una takes Redcrosse to the Dame Caelia’s (Heavenly) house where they meet Fidelia (Faith), Speranza (Hope), and Charissa (Charity). The ladies guide Redcrosse through the house where he must also meet Mercie and Contemplation and learn his destiny to serve the Faerie Queene and to go on to the New Jerusalem.Britomart - Britomart represents the virtue of Chastity. She is a knight though many mistake her for a man because she rarely removes her armor. Britomart is on a quest of her own to find Artegall, another knight with whom she is in love and is destined to start the race of English kings and queens (thus Spenser gives a mandate to Elizabeth I). I found Britomart to be one of the most interesting characters especially in her dealings with other knights who would try to defeat her. Britomart is so focused on her quest that she doesn’t notice the effect of defeating Marinell (Sea). Britomart seems to ride into squirmishes, deliver the crucial blow and ride off on her own pursuits. She defeats all the knights at Satyrane’s tournament but refuses the prize of the false Florimell, preferring instead to continue her quest. She stops to help Scudamour (Shield of Love) and her chastity allows her to rescue Amoret from the evil Busyrane, only to lose Amoret to Lust from whom she is rescued by Belphoebe (Virginity and Amoret’s twin) and Timias.Artegall - He represents Justice. Before fulfilling his destiny with Britomart, Artegall must defeat Munera (Rewards/Bribes), fights with Pagan, and basically goes around dispensing justice in Book V, the most boring of Spenser’s epic. At one point, Britomart frees Artegall from the evil Radigund (Conqueror of Men/Reckless Woman). Artegall goes on to more adventures with Arthur.Guyon - He’s my least favorite character, representing temperance. Guyon faces Mammon (Money), Maleger (Lust of the Flesh), and Arcasia’s (Intemperate Pleasure) temptations in the Bower of Bliss. Guyon destroys the bower in a rage that seems rather extreme and reminds me of an over-moralistic convert trying to force his beliefs on everyone else. And Guyon, while needing Arthur’s assistance on two occasions, has a very difficult time keeping his horse, almost as if his horse is smarter than he is (which is the case in a similar incident in Orlando Furioso).Duessa - Duessa represents the Whore of Babylon who plagues several characters throughout the epic until she’s executed in Book V, then representing Mary, Queen of Scots. Duessa first seduces Redcrosse then later schemes with his enemies at the House of Pride and becomes Orgoglio’s mistress when he captures Redcrosse. Duessa also tries to sabotage Redcrosse and Una’s engagement, claiming prior betrothal to Redcrosse. Only when Duessa is stripped of her clothes does Redcrosse recognize her for the hag she really is. By Book IV, Duessa has joined forces with Ate (Discord) when she makes trouble for Britomart and Amoret in search of Scudamour. Duessa and Ate also disrupt Satyrane’s tournament with petty squabbling.Calidore - He is the knight of courtesy; his name is closely related to Calepine’s, who falls somewhat short of Calidore’s shining example of courtliness. Calidore seems to happen upon people in the most awkward situations, like a knight and his lady making love in the forest, but his gentility and manners carry him through. Calidore has the task of defeating the Blatant Beast (Scandal) and in the process falls in love with Pastorella (Pretty Shepherdess) while Spenser treats his readers to a return to the pastoral ideal and even throws in an appearance by Colin Clout of The Shephearde’s Calendar. Cambell and Cambina, Triamond and Canacee - I found these two couples interesting. Cambell and Canacee (his sister) are names taken from Chaucer’s unfinished squire’s tale. In combat, Triamond (Third Born/Three Souls) wins Canacee when Cambina (Change) interrupts the tournament and changes hatred to love. Triamond and Cambell become loyal friends and aid each other in Satyrane’s tournament.Practical MattersSpenser divides each of the six books into twelve cantos. The incomplete Book VII has two “complete” cantos of 55 and 59 stanzas, and one canto with two stanzas. In the first six books, most of the cantos range anywhere from 35 to 60 stanzas per canto. The varying lengths of each canto give me the impression that Spenser planned out exactly what events and action would take place in each canto and then kept writing stanzas until he completed that adventure. Spenser’s poetry is rarely “translated” or updated from the 16th century manuscripts because Spenser purposely antiqued his spellings and language as a tribute, it’s believed, to Geoffrey Chaucer of Canterbury Tales fame. The inconsistencies of non-standardized spelling melded with Spenser’s own variations can make for arduous reading. Spenser exchanges the letter u for v, spelling love as “loue,” the letter i for j, spelling joyous as “ioyous,” and so on. However, once one gets used to the inconsistencies and switched letters, the language does not present a problem.My edition of The Faerie Queene was edited by A.C. Hamilton, and first published in 1977 with corrections published in 1980. The footnotes are legion, placed in the second column next to the poetry itself, but depending on what level the reader wishes to delve into, one can read the footnotes or not. If one is merely reading for the story and the adventure, then one can easily ignore the footnotes except for the occasional vocabulary term. If one is reading for the allegory or the political implications, then read the footnotes for greater clarification and understanding. My 16th century literature professor, for whose class I read The Faerie Queene, is often listed in the footnotes, which was rather disconcerting, along with other scholars, especially when they disagree with each other. One last, little observation: C.S. Lewis “borrows” many an image in The Chronicles of Narnia from The Faerie Queene (and from Milton too, but that’s another epinion). I had the added pleasure of seeing how many things I could pick out in The Faerie Queene that I remembered from Narnia. OverallIf you like King Arthur-style literature, then The Faerie Queene is a must read. Spenser, much like Sidney, provides epic grandeur with romance, dragon-slayings, jousts, a little moralizing, seductions, spells and plot twists galore. One can read The Faerie Queene purely as a romantic adventure or as an allegory, depending upon whether the reader wants light diversion or the challenge of a deeply layered text. I guarantee that you’ll be so caught up in the story that you’ll forget you’re reading 400-year-old poetry.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-24 06:46

    "To looke vpon a worke of rare deuiseThe which a workman setteth out to view, And not to yield it the deserved prise, That vnto such a workmanship is dew. Doth either proue the iudgement to be naughtOr els doth shew a mind with enuy fraught."This has been a summer of pushing the boundaries thus far. Rather than bask in literature that I know I'll breeze through and enjoy, I have been reading a lot of challenging works. The latest trend has been medieval literature, and while The Faerie Queene is not in that category, I can't help but be reminded of medieval themes. Most of the content to be found in Spenser's work deals with magic (both good and evil), monsters, knights and damsels. In a sense, it's like Spenser wanted to give off some Mallory vibes mixed in with a splash of Chaucer and Shakespeare. All in all, it is a difficult but very pretty concoction to drink, just perhaps a bit too much for my full enjoyment.First and foremost, Spenser's language is just great, although I think the mixing-up of "u", "v", "j" and "i" can get a tad irritating at times. To me, it is obvious that the main motivation of the work is for political attention, as it is an epic allegory to Elizabeth I. Now, I admire Spenser's dedication to his beliefs if he was able to pull this work off so very well, because I honestly went in expecting a lot of boredom to come out of it. To my surprise and pleasure, I found myself entertained by Spenser's language as well as the stories, which are highly allegorical as well as reminiscent of Mallory's Arthurian legends. I found out that this work is actually incomplete, which is surprising to me because it is already so long and sprawling, containing six books with twelve cantos each- in addition, there is a bit of an introduction, and invocation, and a sort of epilogue. Basically, it's really, really long. I'm sure my local library noticed how many times I had to recheck this book- I believe it was five or six times. The point of me saying this is that my gripe about The Faerie Queene is that it's brilliant, but very, very long-winded. An eloquent type of long-winded, but long-winded nonetheless.

  • Jefferson
    2019-03-03 10:42

    Sheer Fun and Pure Poetry in a Faerie Fantasy EpicFor decades I avoided Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene (1590-96), fearing that it would be a lengthy poem-allegory-sermon attacking Catholicism and paganism and promoting Protestant Christian doctrine, a proto Pilgrim's Progress (1678) in verse. How happily wrong I was when I finally tried it! Its six books (and incomplete seventh) depict the moral adventures of various knights (Elfin, British, Saracen, chivalrous, discourteous, errant, retired, etc.) in Faerie, an infinite fantasy land teeming with damsels in distress and squires in bondage, love-sick Amazons and free-agent huntresses, wild vegetarians and savage cannibals, newsy dwarves and lustful giants, scheming magicians and vengeful witches, rapacious tyrants and merciful queens, rakehell rabblements and Lincoln green teens, randy satyrs and brigand slavers, iron men and simulacra women, ravaging dragons and Blatant Beasts, Roman and Egyptian gods and goddesses, personifications of Greed, Slander, Lust, Guile, Envy, Detraction, and more. Equipped with magic rings, mirrors, spears, swords, and shields, the knights undertake quests and engage in gory fighting, tender loving, identity mistaking, cross dressing, prisoner liberating, justice meting, marriage celebrating, and more in a variety of settings: lewd castles, bespelled dungeons, pagan temples, inhospitable huts, hellish dens, enchanted groves, submarine caves, and violated monasteries.Apart from timeouts for things like the histories of Britain and Faerie, Spenser's work is non-stop entertaining action: the Redcrosse Knight debating Despair or fighting a vast dragon; Britomart spurning a smitten lady in a castle of pleasure or smiting every man in a tourney; Artegall whacking off Britomart's helm and then making a religion of his wonder; Guyon getting tempted by Mammon; Venus and Diana bickering about Cupid; knights fighting over the false Florimell; Scudamour spending a night in Care's blacksmithy; Braggadocio getting in over his head; Artegall taking up the distaff; Calidore going pastoral; a band of cannibal brigands hungering for Serene's nude body; and much more. Spenser is suspiciously good at evoking sins like greed, lust, and despair. True, in the nick of time he'll recall his Christian moral compass and punish an unknightly knight or save a virtuous virgin. But he usually only moralizes briefly at the start of each Book, after which he pricks on his steed of poesy to adventure through Faerie. And after the first Book about Holiness featuring Una and the Redcrosse Knight, pagan gods and beings and temples far outnumber Christian representatives. In this Spenser's allegory sure differs from Pilgrim's Progress, which, although also full of exciting fantastic events, strictly adheres to Protestant Christian doctrine. Whereas John Bunyan writes mostly about love of Christ, God, and church, Spenser focuses on other kinds of love, "Love, that is the crown of knighthood," romantic, comradely, familial, chivalrous, spiritual, physical--and also its opposite, hate. As Spenser explained to Sir Walter Raleigh in a letter, he wrote The Faerie Queene "to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline" by entertaining his reader with "an historicall fiction" full of a "variety of matter." Thus he imagined King Arthur as a prince possessed of all the moral virtues and then imagined other knights representing specific virtues (Holiness, Temperament, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy) and their opposites, and then set them all adventuring in Faerie. In addition to Spenser's fertile imagination of Faerie and developments comedic or sublime, acts bestial or divine, moods sensual or spiritual, and descriptions foul or beautiful, the pleasure of his epic lies in his poesy, so rich in rhyme, consonance, simile, and diction--despite or because of his restricting himself to his nine-line stanza end rhyming ABABBCBCC. I often found myself chuckling, whether from the outré events in the poem or from its exuberant language and rhymes. After Book I, as I became familiar with Spenser's grammar and idiom, it was surprisingly easy to understand his poetry. He has been taken to task for overusing artificially archaic words, but most of the archaisms are close to our modern forms (e.g., gan/began, eftsoons/soon, brent/burnt) or are easy to figure out from context (e.g., prick/spur, eke/also, dight/clothe, wight/person, weet/know, and--my favorite--shent/ruined). Spenser describes a bloody battle ("That vnderneath his feet soone made a purple plesh"), for instance, so we can enjoy the exotic "plesh" while using the context and the familiar word splash to figure out its likely meaning.Any stanza in the poem is worth savoring, but here's a fine one about the eyes of a dragon:His blazing eyes, like two bright shining shields, Did burne with wrath, and sparkled liuing fyre; As two broad Beacons, set in open fields, Send forth their flames farre off to euery shyre, And warning giue, that enemies conspyre, With fire and sword the region to inuade;So flam'd his eyne with rage and rancorous yre: But farre within, as in a hollow glade,Those glaring lampes were set, that made a dreadfull shade.Spenser's spelling often differs from modern (e.g., u and v switch places, and i stands in for j) and may be inconsistent (e.g., gyant/geante/geaunt), but if you listen to the audiobook the spelling is no problem. About the Naxos audiobook, David Timson's reading makes The Faerie Queene easy to understand and enjoy, because he plays characters and emphasizes phrases and words in just the right ways so as to highlight or clarify meaning. He clearly relishes Spenser's poetry, so we do too.Fans of poetry, fantasy, Faerie, chivalry, classical mythology, and so on, should enjoy Spenser's magnum opus. I've never felt such pleasure and had such fun with any long poem as his. I only regret that he died before he could complete Books VII-XII.

  • Jackson Cyril
    2019-02-25 14:41

    I began the book and enjoyed the opening sections a great deal, but as I kept turning the pages, and the poem showed no signs of ceasing-- and as Spenser never finished it, I suppose the poem has not yet ceased, I found the reading to be largely a chore-- 'here is a masterpiece of extended English verse, which I must read to better understand the rest of English literature, and so I march on'. Spenser's performance, his ability to adhere to a difficult poetic form and structure, is commendable, but to quote Dr Johnson's judgement of Paradise Lost, "none ever wished it longer".