The Art of The Faerie Queene is the first book centrally focused on the forms and poetic techniques employed by Spenser. Though much scholarly attention in recent years has been on the relationships between Spenser’s poetry and political and colonial history, the place of his epic in literary history has received less attention. This book aims to rectify that by re-reading The Faerie Queene as poetry which is at once absorbing, demanding, and experimental. The Spenser explored here ingeniously uses the tricks of his poetic style to amplify his symbolic agendas and to deepen the reading experience. One of the book’s particular originalities is the way in which it reframes Spenser’s place in literary history. As opposed to the stylistic conservatism diagnosed by previous generations of scholars, The Art of The Faerie Queene presents the poem as more radical, more edgy, and less conventional, particularly as it appeared to Spenser’s first readers. As such, the book proposes new ways of understanding the Elizabethan poetic Renaissance and the ways in which Spenser is best understood in terms of literary history. The book progresses from the choice of individual words through to questions of metre, rhyme, and stanza form up to the larger structures of canto, book, and the incomplete yet massive poem itself. It will be of particular relevance to undergraduates studying Elizabethan poetry, graduate students, and scholars of Renaissance poetry, for whom the formal aspect of the poetry has been a topic of growing relevance.
This book is the first ever concordance to the rhymes of Spenser’s epic. It gives the reader unparalleled access to the formal nuts and bolts of this massive poem: the rhymes which he used to structure its intricate stanzas. As well as the main concordance to the rhymes, the volume features a wealth of ancillary materials, which will be of value to both professional Spenserians and students, including distribution lists and an alphabetical listing of all the words in The Faerie Queene. The volume breaks new ground by including two studies by Richard Danson Brown and J. B. Lethbridge, so that the reader is given provocative analyses alongside the raw data about Spenser as a rhymer. Brown considers the reception of rhyme, theoretical models and how Spenser’s rhymes may be reading for meaning. Lethbridge in contrast discusses the formulaic and rhetorical character of the rhymes.
The Bondage of Rhyme in TheFaerieQueene:
Moderate ‘this Ornament of Rhyme’*
On the whole, then, it appears that the more complicated the correspondences the less obtrusive and absolute are the rhymes. Or, in other words, whatever objections may be urged against
a rhymed translation of Homer, diminish in weight precisely as the correspondences become more
and more involved; though it is doubtful whether such involution could be safely carried beyond
the limits laid down by Spenser. For the power of preserving the charms, while veiling the
The soul then ought to conduct the body,
and the spirit of our minds the soul.
Among the many structural
interpretations of Spenser’s allegory in TheFaerieQueene , there has been no comprehensive investigation of his
The presence of Chaucer’s Troilus
and Criseyde in Spenser’s Amoretti , as well as in TheFaerieQueene , and the kind of presence it is in both are my major concerns in
this chapter, but I will start by summoning what we already know about the
relationship of this particular poem by Chaucer to Spenser’s poems more
generally. The few references in the Spenser canon that indubitably involve
Troilus and Criseyde include, first, the phrase ‘Uncouthe unkiste’,
in E.K.’s epistle to The Shepheardes Calender , which
Edmund Spenser and the first readers of The Faerie Queene routinely heard their national concerns—epidemics, political plotting, recent Tudor history—discussed in biblical terms. This book samples contemporary sermons, homilies, and liturgies to demonstrate that religious rhetoric, with its routine use of biblical types (for Elizabeth, the Spanish threat, and Mary Stuart, among many others) trained Spenser’s original readers to understand The Faerie Queene’s allegorical method. Accordingly, the first three chapters orient the reader to allegorical and typological reading in biblical commentary, occasional liturgies, and sermons. This pulpit literature illuminates many episodes and characters within the poem, and subsequent chapters discuss some of these. For instance, the genealogies Guyon and Arthur discover in Book Two parallel sermon lists of Elizabeth’s kingly forebears as well as biblical commentary on the genealogies provided for Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Florimell’s adventures in Books Three and Four, like contemporary marriage sermons, develop an allegory of the superiority of marriage over the single state. Likewise, the preachers’ treatment of the Northern Rebellion and the threat posed by Mary Stuart show biblical typology in the service of nationalism, much as the allegory of Book Six finds a way to celebrate Elizabeth’s execution of her cousin. In these cases, as in the Souldan episode, Book Six’s analysis of courtesy, and the Mutability Cantos, Elizabethan religious rhetoric lends support to traditional readings of the poem, indicating that Spenser’s original readers probably found The Faerie Queene less conflicted and subversive than many do today.
Ralph Knevet's Supplement of the Faery Queene (1635) is a narrative and allegorical work, which weaves together a complex collection of tales and episodes, featuring knights, ladies, sorcerers, monsters, vertiginous fortresses and deadly battles – a chivalric romp in Spenser's cod medieval style. The poem shadows recent English history, and the major military and political events of the Thirty Years War. But the Supplement is also an ambitiously intertextual poem, weaving together materials from mythic, literary, historical, scientific, theological, and many other kinds of written sources. Its encyclopaedic ambitions combine with Knevet's historical focus to produce an allegorical epic poem of considerable interest and power. This new edition of Knevet's Supplement, the first scholarly text of the poem ever published, situates it in its literary, historical, biographical, and intellectual contexts. An extensive introduction and copious critical commentary, positioned at the back of the book, will enable students and scholars alike to access Knevet's complicated and enigmatic meanings, structures, and allusions.
Once a byword for Protestant sobriety and moral idealism, Spenser is now better
known for his irony and elusiveness. Yet his sense of humour is still
underestimated and misunderstood. Challenging the bias behind this neglect, this
study shows that humour, far from being peripheral or superficial, goes to the
heart of Spenser’s moral and doctrinal preoccupations. It explores rifts between
The Faerie Queene’s ambitious and idealising postures and its Protestant vision
of corruptible human nature. Figures to be comically ‘undone’ include the hero,
the chivalric lover, the virgin, and the ideal monarch – as well as Spenser’s
own epic-poet persona. Yet bathos has a positive significance in Christian
theology, and Spenserian humour proves to be an expression of tolerance and
faith as well as an instrument of satire. On this basis, Comic Spenser contends
that the alliance of humour and allegory in The Faerie Queene affirms the value
of the creative and ‘errant’ imagination.
It would obviously be a paradox to find a humorist in Spenser.
Louis Cazamian, The Development of English Humor 1
Spenser’s conspicuous ambition and seriousness of purpose in TheFaerieQueene inhibited recognition of the poem’s comic dimension for centuries – from its first publication in 1590 until at least the 1960s. Milton’s famous compliment to the ‘sage and serious Poet Spencer ’ captures the powerful equation of morality and sobriety that once dominated the critical landscape. 2 Of today, it may be said that irony has largely displaced
My greatest wish – other than salvation – was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One I could read again and again, with new eyes and a fresh understanding each time. 1
Though the Letter to Raleigh is Spenser's most debated discussion of ‘his whole intention in the course of this worke ’ ( FQ , 714), the first stanza of the Proem to Book VI is perhaps a subtler evocation of TheFaerieQueene 's emergent, dynamic structure