Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)
Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

Edmund Spenser, ‘The Prince of Poets in his Tyme’  and later referred to by Charles Lamb as ‘The poets’ poet’, was born in East Smithfield, London around the year 1552 and educated at The Merchant Taylors School where Richard Mulcaster, the Headmaster did much to inspire Spenser’s achievements in diction and the use of the richness of the English language. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and is often considered one of the greatest poets in the English language. Later he entered Pembroke College at Cambridge and received the Bachelor degree in 1573 and his Master of Arts degree in 1576. He wrote The Faerie Queene, the first english epic, in the broad framework of Renaissance literary theory . Besides the epic, he wrote sonnets (Amoretti), pastorals (The Shepherdes Calender), satires (Mother Hubbard’s Tale), wedding songs (Epithalamion and Prothalamion). Among his many friends were Gabriel Harvey, Walter Raleigh and Ben Jonson. After a fruitful literary career spenser died suddenly on January 16, 1599 at the age of fortyseven and was buried at westminster, near Chaucer’s tomb.The overall didactic purpose of his poetry won for him from John Milton the appellation of ‘our sage and serious poet spenser’.

The Faerie Queene is a romantic epic in the framework of an allegory specifically designed for moral instruction. In a letter to his patron, Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser disclosed its intention or meaning: ‘The general end therefore of all the books is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle disciple.’ Arthur’s quest for Gloriana, the Faerie Queene, is the binding thread as she appears in each book. Spenser invented a particular stanza for The Faerie Queene. It is called the Spenserian stanza. It is composed of nine lines; the first eight lines have an uneven length of nine or ten syllables, and the last line is a hexameter, called Alexandrine. the rhyme-scheme is interlinked in an a b a b b c b c c pattern.

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