A Note on the Renascence Editions text: This HTML etext of The Faerie Queene was prepared from The Complete Works in Verse and Prose of. The Faerie Queene. Disposed into twelue bookes, smeltitherabpigs.cf au/s/spenser/edmund/faerie/smeltitherabpigs.cf Last updated Sunday, March 27, Free PDF, epub, site ebook. The Faerie Queene is an incomplete English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. The first half was published in , and a second.
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Free site book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. First among the poetic geniuses of the Elizabethan period came Edmund Spenser with his Faerie Queene, the allegory of an ideal chivalry. This poem is one of. The Project Gutenberg eBook, Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Book I, by Edmund Spenser, et al, Edited by George Armstrong Wauchope This eBook is for the.
Flattery of a ruler was characteristic of classical literature and even more so of Renaissance literature. Surprisingly, she proves to be an elusive figure, presented, if at all, chiefly through the speeches of other characters. Genre Most of the first proem is taken up in one way or another with genre.
Yet in order to harbor the right expectations, we must know what kind of literature we have in hand. By invoking the Muses Proem, 2 , Spenser announces his present genre to be that of the epic—or so he has usually been understood. Indeed, Spenser translates almost verbatim those autobiographical lines, which were then thought to constitute the beginning of the Aeneid and printed as such see note ad loc.
He thus announces himself to be the English Virgil. Virgil too extolled his ruler, Augustus. Nowadays we can see that the pervasive genre of The Faerie Queene is chivalric romance—adorned with some of the trappings of the epic, such as epic similes and invocations to the Muses.
Cooper, 7— If the romance is long, as is The Faerie Queene, the plot can become extremely complicated by deferrals, flashbacks, and inset narratives, which are themselves short romances. Prince Arthur is the overall hero, whose quest is to find and earn the hand of xiv Introduction Gloriana, the queen of Faerie Land Proem, 2; ix.
Since the poem is unfinished, he never fulfills his quest, but he helps others fulfill theirs. Each book is itself an inset romance, the hero of which exhibits, sometimes imperfectly, a different virtue: Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Friendship, Justice, and Courtesy. The author may shape them into an allegory; author and reader want the entertainment of an emotional rollercoaster ending in wish fulfillment; and society wants a reenactment of its rituals in a glamorous light Benson, 72—4; Frye, 47— Because the aim is entertainment, incidents partake of the erotic, the violent, the coincidental, the mysterious, and in some romances the fantastic.
The best knight and the most beautiful and virtuous lady are meant for each other IV. Romances tend to end happily for the hero and heroine; this is the element of wish fulfillment. To merit this outcome, the protagonists do not have to be perfect. Many romance protagonists, though high minded, commit occasional sins and make occasional mistakes; they are saved in the end by repentance, luck, and mercy. The main characters are aristocrats, however much their birth may be hidden by circumstance; people who are truly lower class are portrayed condescendingly at best.
Romance oscillates between the idyllic world and the nightmare world, between the healthful, beautiful landscape or the harmonious court and the dungeon or the cave Frye, 53, The settings are temporally, spatially, or socially remote; indeed, The Faerie Queene is set almost exclusively in Faerie Land Davis, 5.
Renaissance critics charged the genre romance with a looseness that was moral as well as aesthetic—too much sex and violence. Spenser shows he was aware of such charges when he strangely includes Contemplation, a seemingly reliable spokesman, who categorically condemns Introduction xv both combat and love x. Moreover, Spenser strove to raise Book One above the limitations of romance: the quest is to kill a dragon, not a man; the heroine is pure, inspiring, and religiously symbolic; and extramarital sex is painted in the blackest of terms.
Allegory is difficult to define in a general sense.
It was defined by Spenser and most of his contemporaries so broadly as to include any story that has a moral, and in this sense allegory is almost omnipresent.
Accordingly, Una is said to symbolize Truth as her opponent Duessa symbolizes Falsehood ii. Some of the actions and relations of these two antipodal women make sense only when they are seen politically and precisely as the true and the false churches, or Protestantism and Catholicism. If Duessa did not symbolize something evil, Redcrosse would be sinning only venially in transferring his affections from the supposedly promiscuous Una to her.
Besides good and bad women, Book One also contains other moral oppositions: good and bad wells, cups, books, trees, garlands, dragons, castles, hermits, and fasting. While Elizabethans with their broader definition of allegory probably would have called this pattern allegorical as well, it is not necessarily so, demanding only comparison and contrast.
This habit of using a given image in both a good and a bad sense Spenser found in the Bible, as it was understood from the Middle Ages to his own day, and it is an important clue to meaning throughout The Faerie Queene. For example, Una can be read simply as a typical good woman who redeems her man. Personification is presenting an abstraction as if it were a character. Personification-allegory for example, the personification Despaire is easy to decode, since the subject is stated in the name.
The political allegory, on the other hand, requires knowledge of history; except for that of Duessa and the controversial contrast between the discourse and lifestyles of Britons and Faeries, of the New Jerusalem and Cleopolis, it is a frill, not necessary to the coherence of the plot of Book One. Even less necessary are analogies to specific people in the real world, as in a key-novel; fascinating though it was to Elizabethan readers, the political level is flickering and inconsistent, generating arbitrary equations.
My notes generally avoid the political and biographical allegory, except for the anti-Catholic satire and the rare references to Queen Elizabeth. The Bible, on the other hand, though a vast subject, is a single, physical book and one well supplied over the centuries with interpretive tools. Though as an educated man Spenser read his Bible and commentaries thereon in Latin, he also used English Bibles that were essentially the same as ours today, and one of them included a commentary in English: the Geneva gloss.
Even without much background, one can recognize or look up in a concordance allusions and analogies to the English Bible, though one may need to look at unfamiliar parts of it or even its apocrypha. Redcrosse and Arthur, in their respective duels with the giant Orgoglio vii.
Such analogies with historical personages in the Bible are called figurae, or types; another instance is when Redcrosse becomes a Christ figure on Day Three, xi. Paul in Ephesians 6. The Bible is not merely a source; it forms a good Introduction xvii clue to the allegorical interpretation of Book One.
It is rarely relevant to succeeding books of the poem, however, because they are broadly humanistic in viewpoint. Spenser explicitly invokes within the text the Arthur story and the St.
George legend preserved most conveniently for us in The Golden Legend, by Jacobus de Voragine ; but he treats them so freely e. George was not interested in marrying the princess that he must have cited them mainly to lend the luster of their famous and nationally prominent names to his two heroes St.
These four romances closely resemble Book One in their addiction to allegory—more closely than do the Renaissance Italian romance-epics. Paul so that he can fight a symbolic dragon in order to win an allegorical princess. On the other hand it was the Italians, and not the English or the Burgundians, who were the first to dignify their romances, as both Spenser and Sidney do, xviii Introduction with many conspicuous classical structures, motifs, and allusions.
The Italians in fact incorporate even more epic elements than does Spenser, chiefly the theme of the destinies of nations decided in large-scale battles and in councils divine and human. As for local sources, Spenser alludes piecemeal to the Bible and the classics throughout The Legend of Holiness in ways too various to mention here for some of them, see the notes. Almost every reference to the classics in the Legend of Holiness is disparaging.
Duessa deviously introduces herself as a romance damsel in distress, but she eventually turns out to be the biblical figure known as the Whore of Babylon Rev. From Cantos Two to Six, Redcrosse is completely deceived, whereas the sixteenth-century Protestant reader could probably identify Duessa from her initial description ii.
At least by Canto Seven she is readily identifiable when she appears with a golden cup, riding on a seven-headed beast as the Whore does in Rev. Spenser thus enriches the love interest of romance with a conflict of creeds. Three bad female characters are analogues, unfoldings, refractions, or conditional parallels of Duessa.
Lucifera is represented as her friend; like her, she is beautiful in her flashy way and powerful. These occur quite a lot in The Faerie Queene.
Between the textual en content-related epic conventions there is a cross-cutting zone of two characteristics which can both be related to text and content. The first is the use of the epic catalog or a long list of items. This can be an enumeration of several objects of the same class, but can also be a genealogy for example, the latter often paying homage to the nation and its heroes. Spenser utilizes both. The first catalog we encounter in The Faerie Queene is the list of trees in stanzas 8 and 9 of Book I.
Still in Book I there is a list of armour given and, in Canto V, stanzas , a list of the men and women whose bodies lie in the dungeon of the House of Pride. In Book II there is also a genealogic part which shows that Elizabeth I comes forth from the line of King Arthur, thus adding yet another element of glorification of the Queen to his epic. The second cross-cutting epic convention is the statement of the theme.
We find this at the beginning of every canto in Spenser's epic poem: the canto commences with a four-line sentence, stating briefly what is about to happen, thus reducing the surprising element — which I find is rather a pity, as you already know what is going to happen.
Fortunately, the magnificent poetic skills of Spenser and his incredible way of telling compensate for this small matter. These epic conventions, covering both text and content, bring us to the third type, the content- related characteristics.
A first one, and perhaps the most important deals with the hero of the epic. In the epic there is always a clear hero and the theme of the epic is mostly focussed on the adventures of this hero. The hero, of course the main character of the story, is always human - not a god or whatsoever - but most of the time he possesses some supernatural powers or qualities. He traditionally embodies the values of a particular civilization and is in regards to this a national hero.
These heroes often recur in other legends of a native culture. Another characteristic of the hero is that always engages in some sort of cyclical journey or quest. On his way, he stumbles on adversaries who try to defeat him or lead him from his path, but which he overcomes in battle, proving his heroism. At the end of his quest, there always awaits the hero a reward, be it a treasure, inheritance or high position, and he returns home transformed in a positive way.
If we apply this concept of the hero to Spenser's The Faerie Queene, then it is not difficult at all to find these matters. I will take Book I as example, which is in itself already a miniature epic.
Like an elaborate dish, a literary genre consists of multiple necessary 'ingredients', called conventions, which classify a text into a particular genre. In The Faerie Queene this is no different: by wielding the typical characteristics of the genre of the epic Spenser works in the tradition of both classical and medieval epic writers such as respectively Homer and Virgil, and Ariosto and Tasso, a topic on which we will come back later.
For structural reasons, I have made a distinction between two kinds of epic conventions: the textual-related and the content-related and some conventions that overlap these two distinct domains of text and content.
Spenser's The Faerie Queene
By using this division, I will deal with the textual-related first and subsequently with the context-related conventions, describing the general concept of the characteristic and at the same time indicating where and how Spenser applies and integrates it in his magnificent epic poem, for epic it is and there will be no doubt about that at the end of this essay.
There are about five epic conventions involving the text of the epic.
A first one concerns the way an epic text commences: in medias res Lat. This is a narrative technique which plunges the reader straight into the middle of the story, rather than at the beginning.
The setting, characters and main theme or conflict are not presented to the reader in advance, but they are established later on in the story by flashbacks and expository discourse relating to the past, i.
The Faerie Queene: Books I-VI
A second epic convention in terms of the textual aspect is the invocation of the Muse at the beginning of an epic poem. This serves for two matters: by invoking the Muse, the poet declares his symbolic source of inspiration and indicates that he works in the poetic tradition.
In the epic genre it is mostly Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry, who is invoked. In The Faerie Queene, Spenser remains true to this tradition as we can see in the first four stanzas and again in Canto XI, stanzas 5 and 6, though scholars have debated whether the reference is to Clio, the Muse of history, or to Calliope, the latter seeming the most probable. Epic similes, also called Homeric simile, are a third textual epic convention. They involve long, elaborate, ornate, detailed and complex comparisons - usually between a character and his environment — used to make vivid an image and to describe or clarify.
There are many examples of this convention in The Faerie Queene. In the Error part there are two of these epic similes: the first takes up all of stanza 21, comparing Error's defiling 'quality' to the flooding of the Nile and the mudd it leaves, and the second all of stanza 23, where the swarming of Error's brood around the Knight of the Redcrosse is compared to a shepherd, who at sunset is overcome by a cloud of gnats, trying to sting him.
The fourth epic convention with regards to the textual aspect, is the use of frequent, long speeches in elevated tone. The last epic convention in terms of text is the frequency of epithets, re-namings of, mainly, characters by stock phrases. These occur quite a lot in The Faerie Queene.
Between the textual en content-related epic conventions there is a cross-cutting zone of two characteristics which can both be related to text and content. The first is the use of the epic catalog or a long list of items. This can be an enumeration of several objects of the same class, but can also be a genealogy for example, the latter often paying homage to the nation and its heroes.Behind her farre away a Dwarfe did lag, That lasie seemd in being euer last, Or wearied with bearing of her bag Of needments at his backe.
Paul in Ephesians 6. Redcrosse and Arthur, in their respective duels with the giant Orgoglio vii. These epic poets all had direct textual and content-related influence on Spenser which is clearly visible in The Faerie Queene. It was defined by Spenser and most of his contemporaries so broadly as to include any story that has a moral, and in this sense allegory is almost omnipresent.
Just as a watchman on the castle tower heralds Redcrosse xii.
Every knight aspires to prove himself. The Italians in fact incorporate even more epic elements than does Spenser, chiefly the theme of the destinies of nations decided in large-scale battles and in councils divine and human.
The last epic convention in terms of text is the frequency of epithets, re-namings of, mainly, characters by stock phrases. Thus Spenser elevated the love interest of romance; he portrayed a good, redemptive, and symbolic damsel; furthermore, he added a biblical symmetry and an apocalyptic contrast by balancing her with a bad damsel symbolizing the false church.