Edmund Spenser

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A biography of the author of The Faerie Queene.

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Edmund Spenser

  1. 1. Edmund Spenserauthor of The Faerie Queene<br />Compiled by Mrs. Sara Dagen, Cornerstone Academy<br />
  2. 2. Early years and education<br />Edmund Spenser was born around 1553 in London.<br />He was classically educated at the Merchant Taylors School.<br />He attended college at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge University.<br />He got his Bachelor of Arts in 1573 and his Masters of Arts in 1576.<br />
  3. 3. Work life<br />Spenser first worked for the Bishop of Rochester, then served under the Earl of Leicester.<br />In 1580, he became secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland.<br />In 1581, he made Ireland his home, eventually acquiring Kilcolman, an estate with a castle, near the cities of Cork and Limerick.<br />
  4. 4. Married life<br />Spenser married twice.<br />He married MachabyasChylde in 1579; she died in 1594.<br />He then married Elizabeth Boyle.<br />
  5. 5. Published works<br />He published his first personal work, The Shepheardes Calendar, a pastoral poem, in 1579.<br />He was actually a well-known poet before he wrote The Faerie Queene, but that work has overshadowed all his others.<br />
  6. 6. The Shepheardes Calendar<br />Written in imitation of Vergil’s Ecologues, the Calenderhas an ecologue for each month of the year. <br />An ecologue is a short, pastoral poem written as a dialogue or soliloquy, including conversations among shepherds and rustic folk.<br />Most of the ecologues concern good or bad shepherds (pastors) of Christian congregations.<br />Spenser uses 13 different verse forms.<br />
  7. 7. The Faerie Queene<br />He began the epic poem in 1580 and spent 10 years writing the first three books. It was published in 1591.<br />He planned to write 12 books, but he only managed 6 before his death.<br />
  8. 8. The Faerie Queene<br />The twelve books were to represent the twelve personal moral virtues of Aristotle that Arthur represents.<br />In each book, a new hero represents a different virtue.<br />Arthur appears, disappears, and reappears throughout the poem, searching for his love, Gloriana (representing Queen Elizabeth).<br />Arthur represents “magnificence,” the sum total of all the virtues.<br />
  9. 9. Epic details<br />Each of the six books contains 12 cantos, each with at least 40 stanzas.<br />Spenser invented the 9-line stanza:<br />Lines 1-8 are in iambic pentameter (five stresses).<br />Line 9 is in iambic hexameter (six stresses; alexandrine)<br />Each line rhymes in ababbcbcc pattern.<br />This unique form came to be called Spenserian stanza. <br />
  10. 10. Heroes book-by-book<br />Book I is devoted to the virtue of holiness; Redcrosse Knight is the hero.<br />Book II is temperance; Sir Guvon is the hero.<br />Book III is chastity; Britomart , the virgin, female warrior is hero.<br />Book IV is friendship; Cambel and Triamond are the heroes.<br />Book V is justice; Artegal is hero.<br />Book VI is courtesy; Calidore is hero.<br />
  11. 11. The Faerie Queene<br />Spenser created the setting of the land of Faerie and its queen, Gloriana (representing Queen Elizabeth).<br />Spenser dedicated The Faerie Queene to Queen Elizabeth and earned the title “poet laureate “(premier poet of England) as well as a stipend of 50 pounds annually.<br />
  12. 12. The allegory’s story<br />Spenser used literature as a paradigm of the human experience.<br />The moral life is a quest or pilgrimage, made difficult by an eternal war with an enemy leading to a crisis, and then a moment of illumination.<br />In short, he told an ethical story filled with mystery, terror, love, victory and all the generous virtues. <br />But he did this by presenting an allegory with many levels of meaning.<br />
  13. 13. The allegory’s story within a story<br />Most obvious is the story of the Redcross Knight and his Lady.<br />We related best to his story of a young Christian’s struggles to become more Christ-like.<br />Historically, it tells the story of the Reformation in England.<br />But it is also the story of British politics in the sixteenth century, the great conflict between Protestant England and Roman Catholic Spain.<br />And his vehicle for these messages is the story of great knights and noble deeds and even some romance.<br />
  14. 14. Of interest in Spenser’s day<br />Scholar Graham Hough writes on the importance of The Faerie Queene :<br />“In [Spenser's] own day a large part of the interest in The Faerie Queene was political and dynastic:<br />The celebration of the Tudors, culminating in Queen Elizabeth, as the true continuators of Arthur's line, <br />The allegorical references to the English Reformation in Book I<br />The transformation of the Duessa into Mary Queen of Scots in Book V<br />The many allusions in the same book to events in France, Ireland and the Low Countries <br />Great figures such as Raleigh, Leicaster, Sidney, and Lord Grey appear under a light disguise among Spenser's immense array of characters.”<br />
  15. 15. Now, define epic for me?<br />Spenser followed the poetic models for epic poems.<br />Stanzas are eight lines of perfect iambic pentameter with an “alexandrine” (slightly longer line) closing.<br />It includes classical references and episodes (a trip to the underworld, a giant, etc.)<br />
  16. 16. Medieval rhetoric?<br />Spenser followed the rules of medieval rhetoric:<br />Amplificatio (amplifying his poem) using<br />Expolitio (conveying the same thought in different ways)<br />Circumlocutio (referring to nouns without their proper names)<br />Ornatus (switching the order of words)<br />Diversio (digressing while right in the middle of an exciting part)<br />
  17. 17. His death<br />In 1598, rebels in Ireland rose up in an attempt to rest control from the English.<br />Though the rebellion failed, Spenser’s estate was captured and burned, and he was forced to seek shelter in Cork.<br />Likely in despair, he then carried a bundle of letters about the desperate state of affairs to the queen’s advisors in London, where he died shortly thereafter.<br />
  18. 18. His grave<br />Spenser is buried in Westminster Abby, and inscribed on his tomb are the words, “The Prince of Poets.”<br />He is buried close to the grave of Geoffrey Chaucer.<br />
  19. 19. His grave<br />His funeral was attended by many of his contemporaries, including Shakespeare. <br />It is believed that they threw their elegies along with the pens which wrote them, into the grave. <br />
  20. 20. His legacy<br />1579 The Shepheards Calendar<br />1590, 1596 The Faerie Queene<br />1591 Complaints<br />1595 Amoretti and Epithalamion<br />1595 Colin Clout's Come Home Again<br />1596 Four Hymns<br />1596 Prothalamion<br />1598 A View of the Present State of Ireland<br />
  21. 21. His legacy continues<br />Spenser was considered in his day to be the greatest of English poets, his Faerie Queene glorifying England as Virgil’s Aeneid glorified Rome. <br />Spenser had a strong influence upon his immediate successors.<br />His poetic style and his nine-line stanza form were admired and imitated by such poets as Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Romantic period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. <br />He is considered significant to the English literary Renaissance and a master who embodied in poetic myth a view of the virtuous life of a Christian.<br />
  22. 22. His legacy continues<br />Students all over the world even today are experiencing the joy of reading The Faerie Queene.<br />They are seeing the parallels in their own Christian walks as well as the historical and political significance of the work.<br />And they are counting it all joy—right?<br />

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