Spenser Prothalamion Essay Writer

Edmund Spenser 1552?–1599

English poet and essayist.

The following entry contains critical essays on Sidney's role in his own time. See also The Faerie Queene Criticism.

Spenser is known as "the poet's poet" for his delight in the pure artistry of his craft: his pictorial imagery, sensuous description, and linguistic richness combine to establish him as one of the greatest of English poets. His work has earned the approbation and respect of some of the most illustrious names in poetry: John Milton spoke of "our sage and serious poet, Spencer"; John Dryden acknowledged him as his "master" in poetry; James Thomson referred to him as "fancy's pleasing son"; John Keats characterized him as "Elfin Poet"; and William Wordsworth envisioned "Sweet Spenser, moving through his clouded heaven / With the moon's beauty and the moon's soft pace…." Such praise refers primarily to Spenser's epic allegorical poem The Faerie Queene (1590-96), which, though unfinished, is indisputably a masterwork of English literature. In this poem of chivalric romance and adventure, Spenser created a poetic world which has captured the imaginations of centuries of readers and a complex allegory which continues to fascinate critics.

Biographical Information

Spenser was born into a tailor's household in London. His early schooling took place at the Merchant Taylors' Free School, where he received an education considered quite progressive by the standards of the day. He studied a humanist curriculum that included the study of English language and literature—an unusual innovation at the time. In 1569 Spenser entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1573 and his master's in 1576. Upon finishing his education, Spenser was determined to be a poet, but, as a "gentleman by education only" he needed to work to support himself. In 1578 he served as Secretary to the Bishop of Rochester and in 1579 went to work for the Earl of Leicester. The latter position brought him into proximity of the court of Queen Elizabeth I, where he met Philip Sidney and others. In Renaissance England, the court was the center of social life and power and poetry was one means by which courtiers gained recognition and promotion. While

Spenser was friends with some established courtiers, he was never part of the court himself. His social distance from the court elite was exacerbated by geographical distance when he was sent to Ireland in 1580; some biographers have regarded this as a benign transfer, but others have interpreted it as punishment for critical ideas expressed in the poem "Mother Hubberd's Tale," which was privately circulated in 1579, but was not published until 1591 in Complaints: Containing Sundrie Small Poemes of the Worlds Vanitie. In any case, Spenser became secretary to Lord Grey de Wilton, and took up residence in Ireland, where a series of increasingly important positions and the acquisition of land kept him for nearly twenty years. A turning point in his career came in 1589, when he spent one more year at court under the patronage of his friend Walter Raleigh, who helped him publish the first books of The Faerie Queene in 1590. In 1594 Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle; their courtship and marriage are immortalized in Spenser's sonnet sequence, the Amoretti, and his wedding ode, the "Epithalamion" (1595). In 1598 political unrest in Ireland forced Spenser and his family to flee the country; his Irish estate, Kilcomen Castle, was destroyed in Tyrone's Rebellion. They went to London, where Spenser died soon after. He is buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. At his burial the leading poets of the day gathered in a ceremony to toss commendatory verses into his tomb.

Major Works

By all accounts, Spenser's most important work is The Faerie Queene, a narrative epic of legends and romance, purportedly medieval in conception but actually more closely related to the sixteenth-century Italian romantic epic, particularly Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso (1532) and Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata (1581). Like these works, The Faerie Queene is a series of chivalrous adventures, replete with tales of knightly honor, damsels in distress, and evil forces to be conquered. Spenser conceived of The Faerie Queene on an ambitious scale, outlining his design in a letter to Raleigh which appeared as a prefix to the first three published books of the poem. His intent was to write twelve books, each featuring a central hero or heroine representing one of twelve virtues. Spenser died before he could complete his task; as it stands, The Faerie Queene consists of six books and a fragment of a seventh, commonly referred to as the "Cantos of Mutabilitie." Spenser planned his poem as a "continued Allegory, or darke conceit," and critics agree that the pervasive allegory of The Faerie Queene is one of its most remarkable aspects. The allegory works principally on two levels—moral and political—although subsidiary spiritual, historical, and personal allegories have also been studied. The moral allegory is the most consistent as well as the most clear and accessible. The political allegory is the more obscure for the modern reader given the political complexities of the Elizabethan court. There is no doubt that the poem was written both to represent a model of gentlemanly virtu and to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth. While Spenser was never more than a marginal figure in the world of the court, he certainly sought favor and notice there, and The Faerie Queene was a major project to that end. At the same time, his distance from the inner circles of the court allowed him to be more critical and ambivalent, especially in the later books of the epic. After 1590 most of his close associates in the court were dead or out of favor and so his connection to the court was especially weak by the time the later books of The Faerie Queen were published in 1596. The value of the allegory has been a contested issue for critics. While many have noted that a reader's lack of knowledge of the allegorical aspects does not prevent enjoyment of the poem, others insist that an understanding of the allegory is essential to a true appreciation of the work. Some maintain that, in either case, the allegory is cumbersome and unappealing; moreover, it is inconsistent and the narrative in places disjointed and careless as well. With regard to the poetry, critics are virtually unanimous in praising the originality and freshness of Spenser's technical style. Perhaps most striking in The Faerie Queene is Spenser's metrical innovation, which has come to be called the Spenserian stanza. Composed of eight iambic pentameters and a final alexandrine, the stanza has the rhyme scheme ABABBCBCC. Spenser's choice of meter is appropriate and the sonorous, stately rhythm helps to establish the dreamlike ambiance of the poem. Other aspects of Spenser's style complement the overall impression the poem creates: repeated alliteration and assonance contribute to the fluidity and grace that characterize The Faerie Queene's romantic milieu. To heighten the sense of old-fashioned quaintness and to emphasize the poem's claim to legendary stature, Spenser adopted a quasi-medieval diction. To a liberal application of archaic words and phrases he added English adaptations of foreign words as well as a few ancient-sounding neologisms. Crowning all is Spenser's unique orthography, whereby he was able to make even the simplest words appear interestingly archaic. Compared with the magnitude of his achievement in The Faerie Queene, all of Spenser's other work is minor, though it shows a considerable range and diversity. The Shepheardes Calender: Conteyning Twelve Æglogues Proportionable to the Twelve Monethes (1579) is a series of twelve eclogues, one for each month of the year, written in the pastoral tradition. In The Shepheardes Calender and in Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595), a later poem in which Spenser resurrected many of the themes and characters of the Calender, Spenser revealed his attitudes toward art, pastoral idealism, and the sociopolitical world of the Elizabethan court. Spenser's sequence of love sonnets, the Amoretti, is fairly conventional in conception, based on the Petrarchan tradition. Yet where the Petrarchan sonnet ends in death or unfulfilled longing, Spenser's Amoretti quite remarkably ends with union. The "Epithalamion," an ode celebrating his marriage, is generally thought by modern critics to be Spenser's best work, with the sole exception of The Faerie Queene. Spenser's most notable prose piece is his A View of the State of Ireland, Written Dialogue-wise, betweene Eudoxus and Irenœus (1633), an essay describing and approving the harsh English policies of subjection in sixteenth-century Ireland.

Critical Reception

From the sixteenth century to the twentieth, Spenser's work has maintained a place of distinction in English literature. His masterpiece, The Faerie Queene, was very favorably received upon its publication and has remained popular ever since. However, since it is a work that elicits strong reactions, the poem has also had its detractors. Its length and complexity have daunted many readers; Francis Thompson has stated flatly that The Faerie Queene "is in truth a poem no man can read through save as a duty, and in a series of arduous campaigns (so to speak)." But most critics have focused on the lushness of The Faerie Queene as its most admirable aspect; Edward Dowden in 1910 described the poem as "a labyrinth of beauty, a forest of old romance in which it is possible to lose oneself more irrecoverably amid the tangled luxury of loveliness than elsewhere in English poetry." Spenser's series of twelve eclogues, The Shepheardes Calender, was also praised by early critics, among them Sidney, to whom it was dedicated. In his The Defence of Poesie (1595) Sidney remarked that Spenser "hath much Poetrie in his Eglogues; indede worthy the reading, if I be not deceived." He disapproved, however, of Spenser's "framing …. his stile to an old rustick language." The enthusiastic praise accorded The Shepheardes Calender has waned in recent times and the poem is now accorded minor status. Nonetheless, Spenser's importance and his impact on the development of English poetry have been judged incalculable. He was not only a notable figure in his own time, but proved a profound influence on subsequent generations of English poets, earning a firm and permanent place in the tradition of English letters. He is still considered by many scholars the greatest nondramatic English poet of the Renaissance. Much of the criticism of his work has concentrated on its allegorical aspects and on Spenser's role as a stylistic innovator. Still, each generation of critics finds new aspects of his work to examine. In recent years attention has turned to analyses of the handling of gender (especially as it comments on Queen Elizabeth) in his works and to the historical and cultural context that makes his alllegory so rich.




The Faerie Queene

Spenser's Narrative Imagery: The Visual Structure of The Faerie Queene - Josephine S. McMurtry [.pdf]
Imperialistic Myth and Iconography in Books I and II of The Faerie Queene - Barbara-Maria Bernhart [.pdf]
Spenser's Goodly Frame of Temperance: Secret Design in The Faerie Queene, Book II - Cheryl D. Calver
Providence and the Problem of Evil in The Faerie Queene - Lorena A. Henry [.pdf]
Emergent Discourses of Difference in Spenser's Faerie Queene - Jean N. Goodrich [.pdf]
"What the lyon ment": Iconography of the Lion in the Poetry of Edmund Spenser - E. F. AlKaaoud [.pdf]
Willing Shape-shifters: The Loathly Lady from Irish Sovranty to Spenser's Duessa - Susan Carter [.pdf]
"Coloured with an historicall fiction": The Topical and Moral Import of Characterization
          in Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene - Nadya Q. Chishty-Mujahid [.pdf]
Martial and Marital: Representing Masculinity in The Faerie Queene and The New Arcadia - L.A. Celovsky
A Defense of Prince Arthur's Position as Magnificence in Spenser's The Faerie Queene - J. M. Myatt
The Figure of the Poet in the Poems of Spenser - Linda Hedy Cooper [.pdf]
Psychomachia and Book I of Spenser's Faerie Queene - Viviana Comensoli [.pdf]
Spenser as a Sensuous Poet in Book II of The Faerie Queene - Martha Pfaff [.pdf]
The Gentleman and the Circle of Courtesy in Spenser's The Faerie Queene - Peter B. Murphy [.pdf]
Re-Presenting "The Legende of Holinesse": An Explication of The Faerie Queene I.12 - Rachel Colle [.pdf]
Land in Fairyland: Edmund Spenser and Emerging Perceptions of Ecology
          and Gender in the Faerie Queen - Megan Angela Sieverts
(Un)veiling Nature: A Comparative Study of Spenser's Poetics
          in Mutabilitie Canto Seven - William Walters
The Poem, the Dream and the Pastoral Landscape: A Prologue to Spenser's
          Red Crosse Knighte - Stephen L. Karcher [.pdf]
The Lady of the Bower: A Study of Spenser's Bower of Bliss in Relation to the Gardens of Alcina and
          Armida in the Orlando Furioso and in the Gerusalemme Liberata - Ermes Primiano Culos [.pdf]
"Graunt me that Sabaoths sight": An Examination of Artegall and Britomart's Place
          in Spenser's Vision of Wholeness - Jill Doris Rouke [.pdf]
The "Roote of ciuil conuersation": Redefining Courtesy in Book VI of The Faerie Queene - Michelle Golden
William Hazlitt on Edmund Spenser
Looking at Britomart Looking at Pictures - Adam McKeown
Spenser's Theology: The Sacraments in The Faerie Queene - Margaret Christian [.pdf]
Spiritual Warfare and The Faerie Queene - Sara Litwiller
The Prince of Rays: Spectacular Invisibility in Spenser's The Faerie Queene - Lisa Dickson
"Another game in view": The Representation of the Poet in The Faerie Queene - José Ángel García Landa
Poetic Parthenogenesis and Spenser's Idea of Creation in The Faerie Queene - Elizabeth A. Spiller
Displacing Feminine Authority in The Faerie Queene - Mary Villeponteaux
"Wise Handling and Faire Governance": Spenser's Female Educators - Sarah Plant
Women's Friendship and the Refusal of Lesbian Desire in The Faerie Queene - Tracey Sedinger
Medusa: Ekphrasis and Iconography in The Faerie Queene - Lisa Kellerby [.pdf]
The Old Woman in the Cave of Lust: Edmund Spenser's Silenced Feminine Voices
          in The Faerie Queene - Colleen E. Kennedy [.pdf]
Blurred Contours: An Attempt to Deconstruct the Female Character in Books I and III
          of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene - Ana María Sánchez Mosquera [.pdf]
The Mummers' Play St. George and the Fiery Dragon and Book I of The Faerie Queene - J. C. Vaught [.pdf]
Spenser's Dialogic Voice in Book 1 of The Faerie Queene - Jennifer C. Vaught
Archimago: Between Text and Countertext - Harry Berger, Jr.
Redcrosse's 'springing well' of Scriptural Faith - Thomas A. Dughi
Spenserian Paralysis - William A. Oram
The Charmes Backe to Reverse: Deconstructing Architectures in
          Books II and III of The Faerie Queene - Crystal Nelson Downing
The Bower of Bliss and The Garden of Adonis - Ian Mackean
Britomart and "Venus's Glas": The Mirror in Book III of The Faerie Queene - Lynn Moorhead Morton [.pdf]
Britomartis' Heroic Love in The Faerie Queene, Book 3 - Hoyoung Kim
"Goodly Woods": Irish Forests, Georgic Trees in Books 1 and 4 of The Faerie Queene - Thomas Herron [.pdf]
Reading Gender into the Virtue of Courtesy in Book 6 of The Faerie Queene - Jin-Ah Lee
Narrative Time-Out: Anagnorisis in Book VI of The Faerie Queene - Jorge Casanova [.pdf]
To (Re)fashion a Gentleman: Ralegh's Disgrace in Spenser's Legend of Courtesy - Jeffrey B. Morris
Courteous virtu in Spenser's Book 6 of The Faerie Queene - Bruce Danner
Sir Calidore, Melibee et Colin Clout: Mélancolie et émergence de la voix du poète
          dans The Faerie Queene d'Edmund Spenser, Livre VI, chants 9 et 10 - Nathalie Fauré[.pdf]
Hellish Work in The Faerie Queene - Maurice Hunt
The Lovesick Womb's Monstrous Births in Edmund Spenser's Poetry - Frank Swannack [.pdf]
Vision, Metamorphosis, and the Poetics of Allegory in the Mutabilitie Cantos - Louise Gilbert Freeman
Chaucer's Mutability in Spenser's Mutabilitie Cantos - Glenn A. Steinberg
Borrowed Armor/Free Grace: The Quest for Authority in The Faerie Queene 1 and
          Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas - Craig A. Berry
"The reliques and ragges of popish superstition": The Effect of Richard Hooker's
          Of the Lawes of Ecclestiacall Polity on Book V of The Faerie Queene - Vince P. Redder [.pdf]
Milton's "sage and serious Poet Spencer": Error and Imitation in
          The Faerie Queene and Areopagitica - George F. Butler
"Thy temperance invincible": Humanism in The Faerie Queene and Paradise Regained - Sung-Kyun Yim
Spenser's Defence of Queen Elizabeth I and the Church of England in "The Faerie Queene" - Jennifer Sinclair
Spenser and Sin - K. Waddington



Shepheardes Calender

The Figure of the Poet in the Poems of Spenser - Linda Hedy Cooper [.pdf]
The Poem, the Dream and the Pastoral Landscape: A Prologue to Spenser's
          Red Crosse Knighte - Stephen L. Karcher [.pdf]
Addressing Formulæ and Politeness in The Shepheards Calender - F. Martín Miguel & S. González
The Death of the 'new Poete': Virgilian Ruin and Ciceronian Recollection in The Shepheardes Calender - R. Helfer
Skeltonic Anxiety and Rumination in The Shepheardes Calender - Kreg Segall
The Politics of Time in Edmund Spenser's English Calendar - Alison A. Chapman
Spenser Out of his Stanza - Paul J. Hecht



Complaints

Orderly Disorder: Rhetoric and Imitation in Spenser's Three Beast Poems
          from the Complaints Volume - Amanda R. Jones [.pdf]
Translated Geographies: Edmund Spenser's "The Ruines of Time" - Huw Griffiths
The Transformation of Complaint in Spenser's The Ruines of Time - Richard Danson Brown



Amoretti

Edmund Spenser's Bestiary in the Amoretti (1595) - Joan Curbet [.pdf]
"Her cruell hands": Love as Predation in Amoretti - Inju Chung [.pdf]
Platonism and the Idea of Love in Spenser's Minor Poems - Santiago Fernández-Corugedo
The Lovesick Womb's Monstrous Births in Edmund Spenser's Poetry - Frank Swannack [.pdf]
Notes on Sonnet 75 from Amoretti



Epithalamion

The Figure of the Poet in the Poems of Spenser - Linda Hedy Cooper [.pdf]
The Poetics of Accommodation in Spenser's "Epithalamion" - Judith Owens
The Mystery of the Missing Line: Spenser's Epithalamion stanza 15 - John Hale and Stefan Lane



Prothalamion

The Figure of the Poet in the Poems of Spenser - Linda Hedy Cooper [.pdf]
Commerce and Cadiz in Spenser's Prothalamion - Judith Owens
Spenser's Prothalamion and the Catullan Epithalamic Tradition - Sandra R. Patterson



A View of the Present State of Ireland

A View of the Present State of Ireland: Sovereignty, Surveillance, and Colonialism - J. W. Daems [.pdf]
Edmund Spenser and English Policy in Ireland - Howard Amos
From a View to a Discovery: Edmund Spenser, Sir John Davies, and
          the Defects of Law in the Realm of Ireland - D. Alan Orr
Significant Spaces in Edmund Spenser's View of the Present State of Ireland - Joanne Woolway Grenfell



Colin Clout's Come Home Again

Who is Colin Clout? - Jim Nielson



Fowre Hymns

Platonism and the Idea of Love in Spenser's Minor Poems - Santiago Fernández-Corugedo



Spenser & Other Writers

Book: Sonnet Literature: Sidney, Spenser, Drayton, Daniel - Richard Firestone [.pdf - ff. p194]
Spenser's Use of Ariosto for Allegory - Susannah Jane McMurphy [.pdf]
Martial and Marital: Representing Masculinity in The Faerie Queene and The New Arcadia - L.A. Celovsky
Time, Death, and Mutability: A Study of Spenser, Shakespeare, and Donne - Jean Miriam Gerber [.pdf]
The Lady of the Bower: A Study of Spenser's Bower of Bliss in Relation to the Gardens of Alcina and
          Armida in the Orlando Furioso and in the Gerusalemme Liberata - Ermes Primiano Culos [.pdf]
Cry of Curs: Language, Class and the Mob in Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare - Jason J. Zirbel [.pdf]
Reaping What Was Sown: Spenser, Chaucer, and The Plowman's Tale - M.A. Thesis by David Paul Clark
Gallimaufray and Hellebore: Spenser and Jonson in Dialogue with the Past - Ruth M. McAdams [.pdf]
Masters of the Genre: Dante, Spenser, and the Allegorical Tradition - Josh Reid
The Death of the 'new Poete': Virgilian Ruin and Ciceronian Recollection in The Shepheardes Calender - R. Helfer
Androgyny and the Epic Quest: The Female Warrior in Ariosto and Spenser - Elizabeth J. Bellamy [.pdf]
Spenser's Poetics of Ultima Britannia — Or, Mapping Elizabeth in Ariosto's Hebrides - E. J. Bellamy [.pdf]
"Her filthy feature open showne" in Ariosto, Spenser, and 'Much Ado about Nothing' - Melinda J. Gough
Borrowed Armor/Free Grace: The Quest for Authority in The Faerie Queene 1 and
          Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas - Craig A. Berry
Chaucer's Mutability in Spenser's Mutabilitie Cantos - Glenn A. Steinberg
The Mummers' Play St. George and the Fiery Dragon and Book I of The Faerie Queene - J. C. Vaught [.pdf]
Skeltonic Anxiety and Rumination in The Shepheardes Calender - Kreg Segall
English Court Poets and Petrarchism: Wyatt, Sidney and Spenser - Matthew Griffiths
The Influence of Spenser's Faerie Queene on Kyd's Spanish Tragedy - Frank Ardolino
To (Re)fashion a Gentleman: Ralegh's Disgrace in Spenser's Legend of Courtesy - Jeffrey B. Morris
Who Knows Not Southwell's Clout? Assessing the Impact of Robert Southwell's
          Literary Success upon Spenser - Gary M. Bouchard
"The reliques and ragges of popish superstition": The Effect of Richard Hooker's
          Of the Lawes of Ecclestiacall Polity on Book V of The Faerie Queene - Vince P. Redder [.pdf]
Spenser, Donne, and the Theology of Joy - Adam Potkay
Edmund Spenser, Mary Sidney, and the Doleful Lay - Pamela Coren
"In sort as she it sung": Spenser's "Doleful Lay" and the Construction of Female Authorship - Danielle Clarke
Waiting for Hymen: Literary History as "Symptom" in Spenser and Milton - Elizabeth J. Bellamy
"Thy temperance invincible": Humanism in The Faerie Queene and Paradise Regained - Sung-Kyun Yim
Milton's "sage and serious Poet Spencer": Error and Imitation in
          The Faerie Queene and Areopagitica - George F. Butler
Studied Barbarity: Johnson, Spenser, and Literary Progress - Jack Lynch



General & Miscellaneous

Spanish lessons: Spenser and the Irish Moriscos - Barbara Fuchs
Critical Thumbprints in Arcadia: Renaissance Pastoral and the Process of Critique - Michael Everton
Reflections on "Imitatio" as an Educational Ideal of English Humanism - Jin Sunwoo
Spenser and the Historical Revolution: Briton Monuments and the Problem of Roman Britain - John E. Curran, Jr.
Youth Against Age: Generational Strife in Renaissance Poetry -Steven Marx
The Homosexual Pastoral Tradition: Spenser - Rictor Norton
Spenser and the Culture of Place - Joanne Woolway









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