The Faerie Queene

The Task of Interpreting the Allegory in Spenser's Faerie Queene

In many ways The Faerie Queene presents a unique challenge to the English reader. It can be described as epic, romance or fantasy and covers a wide range of topics religious and romantic, political and spiritual, Christian and Pagan. It is also incomplete, leaving the resolution of the separate narrative open for conjecture. Moreover, it is a poem that refuses to reveal itself in one sitting; demanding more of the reader than usual. MacCaffrey describes the challenge to the reader as

"The characters, including the heroes, move primarily in the horizontal plane, but Spenser's readers have their attention repeatedly drawn to the upper and lower limits of reality which are also the sources of the poem's truth. This vertical dimension is ordinarily beyond the horizon of the characters, but visible to us; as always when a distance develops between fiction and reader, the effect is to make us aware of fictiveness itself and to ponder the nature and relevance of fictions"

Interpreting the allegory in The Faerie Queene is not simply a task of deciphering a code, but a matter of relating to the Spenserian, Elizabethan and Fairy worlds in order to make sense of and then bring together the carefully structured layers and...

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