The Faerie Queene

Introduction

The Faerie Queene is an English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I to III were first published in 1590, and then republished in 1596 together with books IV to VI. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it is one of the longest poems in the English language as well as the origin of the verse form known as the Spenserian stanza.[1] On a literal level, the poem follows several knights as a means to examine different virtues, and though the text is primarily an allegorical work, it can be read on several levels of allegory, including as praise (or, later, criticism) of Queen Elizabeth I. In Spenser's "Letter of the Authors," he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in Allegorical devises," and the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline."[2]

The Faerie Queene found such favour with Elizabeth I that Spenser was granted a pension for life amounting to £50 a year, though there is no further evidence that Elizabeth I ever read any of the poem. This royal patronage elevated the poem to a level of success that made it Spenser's defining work.[3]


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