CliffsNotes on Spenser's The Faerie Queene

CliffsNotes on Spenser's The Faerie Queene

CliffsNotes on Spenser's The Faerie Queene

CliffsNotes on Spenser's The Faerie Queene

Synopsis

Through stories of chivalric adventures, this poem is intended to present the profile of "the perfect gentleman" of the 16th century. Both as a narrative of these adventures and as an allegory, this literary masterpiece has remained a favorite of millions.

Excerpt

Diverse admirers have applied various well-meaning labels to Spenser. To some he is the poet-painter, to some the poet-musician, to some the poet’s poet. The first two epithets point up aspects of his genius which deserve attention. The last term, “poet’s poet,” ought to suggest that he deserves serious attention, even though on short acquaintance he impresses one as difficult to read and foreign to our customary literary diet.

Several uncommon aspects of Spenser’s poem present obstacles to the uninitiated reader. His vocabulary and his system of spelling are quaintly archaic, even for his time, and require becoming accustomed to. His story treats of fantastic adventures of knights and dragons in Fairy Land. The significance of the adventures is loaded with a complicated system of allegorical interpretations. And he introduces a myriad of episodes which are imitations of famous earlier works of literature.

It is perfectly possible to read The Faerie Queene for its colorful romantic action and for the sheer delight of its imagery and harmonious verse, paying no attention to the allegorical undercurrents or to the mosaic of literary adaptations; but to follow this procedure is to deprive oneself of important dimensions of the poem. It is like studying great paintings by viewing black-and-white reproductions. For this reason, explanatory notes and commentaries are indispensable to the modern reader of The Faerie Queene.

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