E 316K - Spenser and Elizabeth

E 316K - Spenser and Elizabeth - Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)...

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Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) Born in London (parents unknown), Spenser received an excellent classical education at the Merchant Taylors’School and at Pemroke College, Cambridge as a “sizar” or poor scholar Served as personal secretary to the Bishop of Rochester and then Queen Elizabeth’s favorite courtier, the earl of Leicester His first published work of poetry, The Shepheardes Calendar (1579), sought to recapture a native English style in the manner of Chaucer, but wedded to the classical form of pastoral poetry Spenser was unusual for his time in that he sought to become a great “national” poet In 1579 he went to Ireland as secretary to the lord deputy of Ireland; he spent the rest of his life there holding minor government offices and participating in Elizabeth’s attempts to put down agrarian unrest and rebellion; Spenser’s famous justification for the Queen’s repressive policies, A View of the Present State of Ireland, was anonymously published With the backing of another powerful courtier, Sir Walter Ralegh, Spenser returned to England in 1590 to publish the first three books of his epic poem, The Faerie Queene This bid for the Queen’s patronage was rewarded with a lifetime pension, but Spenser’s attempts to gain office in England came to nothing and he returned to Ireland Spenser’s Irish estate in Munster was burned during the 1598 uprising; Spenser and his new wife fled, while their newborn child perished in the fire He returned to England with messages from the besieged garrison, but died on January 13, 1599; he is buried opposite Chaucer in Westminster Abbey
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The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) The poem is an “allegory,” a story with “a second distinct meaning partially hidden behind its literal or visible meaning” ( Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms ) Allegory uses “personification,” in which abstract qualities are represented in human shape For example, in The Faerie Queene the Redcrosse Knight is the knight of Holiness, as well as St. George the patron saint of England; Gloriana, the fairy queen, embodies the ultimate triumph of good over evil, the Protestant English nation over its Catholic enemies, and Queen Elizabeth’s victory over her domestic foes, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and her followers Spenser drew on a vast repository of biblical and classical texts and figures, as well as the great Italian romance epics Orlando furioso (Ariosto, 1516) and Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata (1575) The poem is written in a unique nine-line stanza of interlocking rhymes (ababbcbcc), the first eight lines with five stresses each (the iambic pentameter of Chaucer’s verse) and the final line with six stresses (iambic hexameter or alexandrine) Book 1, the story of the Redcrosse Knight, is a spiritual allegory in which the Christian soul struggles against evils and temptations: doctrinal error, the Seven Deadly Sins, hypocrisy, and loss of faith; it ends with the knight’s purification and redemption
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E 316K - Spenser and Elizabeth - Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)...

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