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The Faerie Queene, Book 1

By: Edmund Spenser

The Faerie Queene is an English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I–III were first published in 1590, then republished in 1596 together with books IV–VI. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: at over 36,000 lines and over 4,000 Stanzas it is one of the longest poems in the English language; it is also the work in which Spenser invented the verse form known as the Spenserian stanza. On a literal level, the poem follows several knights as a means to examine different virtues, and though the text is primarily an allegorical work, it can be read on several levels of allegory, including as praise (or, later, criticism) of Queen Elizabeth I. In Spenser's "Letter of the Authors", he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in Allegorical devices", and that the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline".

Book I is centered on the virtue of holiness as embodied in the Redcrosse Knight. Largely self-contained, Book I can be understood to be its own miniature epic. The Redcrosse Knight and his lady Una travel together as he fights the monster Errour, then separately after the wizard Archimago tricks the Redcrosse Knight into thinking that Una is unchaste using a false dream. After he leaves, the Redcrosse Knight meets Duessa, who feigns distress in order to entrap him. Duessa leads the Redcrosse Knight to captivity by the giant Orgoglio. Meanwhile, Una overcomes peril, meets Arthur, and finally finds the Redcrosse Knight and rescues him from his capture, from Duessa, and from Despair. Una and Arthur help the Redcrosse Knight recover in the House of Holiness, with the House's ruler Caelia and her three daughters joining them; there the Redcrosse Knight sees a vision of his future. He then returns Una to her parents' castle and rescues them from a dragon, and the two are betrothed after resisting Archimago one last time.

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

Early Modern English

Published In

1590

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Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier craftsm...

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