Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

Edmund Spenser was an English poet who lived for less than 50 years. He was best known for Faerie Queen, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor Dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsman of Modern English verse in its infancy. He is considered as one of the greatest poets in the English language.

Spenser first major poetic work was The Shepherds Calendar. It was published in 1579; in competition of Virgil’s first work Eclogues. Spenser wrote this series of pastorals to begin his career. There are 6 different kinds of poems in Calendar and 13 different meters.

Faerie Queen is his most recognised poem. In this poem the allegory exists on several levels: religious, historical, and mythological. The purpose of allegories of Faerie Queen is to give material shape to that which is immaterial, that are abstraction i.e. truth. It is not the allegory of life rather than the allegory of love.

The religious sources of Faerie Queen are the Bible. He was a devoted protestant. The twelve virtues discussed in the poem are actually the Christian virtues. Thus, Christianity has a prominent influence over him and his work. The influence of mythology is very evident in his works. In Faerie Queen one can clearly seen the use of Classical Greek mythology. Greek myths are place side by side with Christian imagery and legends. Spenser chose to set his epic in a romanticized medieval fantasy world; a world full of knights, monsters, and damsels in distress. He used this environment to give power to his allegorical statements.

The language of Edmund Spenser was not the language of the time at which he was living. At his time language was more developed. In his work, Spenser uses the archaic language of Chaucer as a way to pay homage to the medieval poetry. Spenser used old language as he was writing about old times. The people of his age had difficulty to understand hi work. He tried to imitate the ancient writers. In his attempt to copy the old diction, his work lacks the true essence of either old or current poetic diction.

Apart from few flaws in his poetry, he was an extraordinary man with his poetic expertise. His works are still considered as the masterpieces of English literature.

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