Spenser wrote a letter to Walter Raleigh (above excerpted) to explain this strange cacophony of FQ, a mixture of ancient mythology, Renaissance Christian morality and enough obscure symbolism for an academic brigade; a tribute to country and queen. Knights from the court of the Faerie Queen conduct a search and destroy mission against evil in the form of a pack of minor villains pecking away at the heroes of the poem, but each one perpetually foiled. Such as Archimago, the witch Hectate, the philanderer Malbecco receive comeuppances in jousts, internecine squabbles or palace tours, with this type of constant action occupying canto after canto that at some point the content aspect becomes a bit wearisome. Amid this "action" are endless lists of virtues allegorized in each book, the reader being skewered to a Platonic ideal especially evident in females with such as the knight Britomart representing strenght and accomplishment in women, Una, the ultimate fantasy chick, and several others with such heights of description one does expect something mind blowing ahead, perhaps at last the perfect woman, to which in FQ Spenser comes close without cigar. The joust with the evil forces of nature seems unique to Spenser, who seizes the reader by the lapels with an in one's face style of optimism such that worst elements suffer defeat by contrast with more worthy opponents.Read more ›
Although everyone has heard of Edmund Spenser's amazing narrative poem, 'The Faerie Queene,' it's a pity that few seem to read it. To a superficial glance it may appear difficult, although the truth is that it's basically a fascinating story that even an intelligent child can follow with enjoyment and interest.
It appears difficult only because of Spenser's deliberately antique English. He needed such an English because he was creating a whole new dimension of enchantment, a magical world, a land of mystery and adventure teeming with ogres and giants and witches, hardy knights both brave and villainous, dwarfs, magicians, dragons, and maidens in distress, wicked enchanters, gods, demons, forests, caves, and castles, amorous encounters, fierce battles, etc., etc.
To evoke an atmosphere appropriate to such a magical world, a world seemingly distant in both time and place from ours, Spenser created his own special brand of English. Basically his language is standard Sixteenth Century English, but with antique spellings and a few medievalisms thrown in, along with a number of new words that Spenser coined himself. The opening lines of the poem are typical :
"A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plain, / Y cladd in mightie armes and siluer shielde, / Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remain, / The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde...." (page 41).
If, instead of reading with the eye, we read with the ear or aloud, the strange spellings resolve themselves into perfectly familiar words such as clad (clothed), mighty, arms, silver, shield, deep, cruel, marks, bloody, field.Read more ›