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11/09/2018

Edmund Spenser's purpose of writing "The Faerie Queene".

“The Faerie Queene” is an allegorical romance which was designed in 12 books each portraying one of the 12 virtues. But only six were completed, dealing with Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Fidelity, Justice and Courtesy. Each virtue is represented by a knight, it has been called by some , an epic of chivalry. It is written in a new 9 line stanza invented by Spenser and named after him as “Spenserian Stanza”. It consists of 10 syllabled iambic lines rhyming as ab, ab, bc, bc, c the last line being an Alexandrian (twelve syllabled line).


“The Faerie Queene” is an allegorical romance which was designed in 12 books each portraying one of the 12 virtues. But only six were completed, dealing with Holiness, Temperance, Chastity, Fidelity, Justice and Courtesy. Each virtue is represented by a knight, it has been called by some , an epic of chivalry. It is written in a new 9 line stanza invented by Spenser and named after him as “Spenserian Stanza”. It consists of 10 syllabled iambic lines rhyming as ab, ab, bc, bc, c the last line being an Alexandrian (twelve syllabled line).

Intention of the poet,  as he declares in a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, is to present through a historical poem the example of a perfect gentleman and noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. He speaks of twelve virtues of the private gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline. He speaks of twelve virtues of the private gentleman, according to Aristotle , (as distinguished from the virtues of a noble ruler , the private virtues). Each of the twelve books as per his original design, has a different hero distinguished for one of the private virtues. With such a plan, there is a danger of the break of unity. However, the hero of heroes , who possess all of these virtues is Arthur. As Prince Arthur (that is Arthur before he became a king) he is to play the role in each of the twelve major adventures. Consequently, though each of the adventures has its individual hero , the recurring appearances of Arthur serve as unifying factor for the poem as a whole. Another character who contributes to the unity of the work is Gloriana , the Faerie Queene. It is from her court and at her budding that each of the heroes sets out on his particular adventure. Prince Arthur's great mission is his search for the Faerie Queene whom he has fallen in love through a lovely vission.

However, the grandiose plan of “The Faerie Queene” was never completed. The first three books were published in 1590 and in 1596, a second edition appeared with a total of six books. In a posthumous edition an additional fragment of a seventh book was included. Even in it’s unfinished state , it is one of the longest poems ever published. Each of the books contains average 6000 lines.

Spenser says quite explicitly that his poems is not to be read merely as a narrative of wonderful chivalric adventures but that it is also continued allegory, or dark conceit. He doesn’t, however, give the readers detailed clues as to the interpretation of the allegory beyond a statement that the Faerie Queene represents glory but also “the most excellent and glorious person of our sovereign the queen” and that at certain points in the story another character may also represent the queen; for example , Una who represents truth and innocence in book I . But the detailed interpretation of the allegory has been left to the readers.

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