Edmund Spenser- life and works

Edmund spencer
Categories : Uncategorized
Edmund spencer
Edmund Spenser- life and works 4

Edmund Spenser was an English poet and writer who is best known for his epic poem, “The Faerie Queene.” He was born in 1552 or 1553 in London, England, and died on January 13, 1599, in Kilcolman, Ireland. Spenser’s life and works played a significant role in the development of English literature during the Elizabethan era.

Early Life and Education:

Edmund Spenser attended the Merchant Taylors’ School in London, where he received a classical education. Later, he enrolled at Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1569, where he studied Latin, Greek, and English literature. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1573 and proceeded to receive a Master of Arts degree in 1576.

Career and Royal Service:

After completing his education, Spenser entered the world of literature and became associated with a group of poets known as the “Surrey-Herbert” circle. In 1579, he published his first significant work, “The Shepheardes Calender,” a pastoral poem written in a complex form of verse known as Spenserian stanza.

In 1580, Spenser moved to Ireland as part of the English colonization effort. He was appointed as the secretary to Lord Grey of Wilton, the Lord Deputy of Ireland. During his time in Ireland, Spenser acquired land and settled in County Cork. He held various administrative positions, including the position of sheriff of Cork.

Major Works:

Spenser’s most famous work is “The Faerie Queene,” an epic poem that he began writing around 1579 and continued working on until his death. The poem, which consists of six books (with two additional books left incomplete), is a complex allegory celebrating Queen Elizabeth I and exploring themes of virtue, chivalry, and religious and political allegiances.

In addition to “The Faerie Queene,” Spenser wrote other significant works, including the sonnet sequence “Amoretti” and the pastoral elegy “Astrophel.” He also composed a prose work titled “A View of the Present State of Ireland,” which provides a detailed account of the political and social situation in Ireland during his time.

Style and Influence:
Spenser’s writing style was characterized by elaborate language, intricate rhyme schemes, and vivid imagery. He introduced and popularized the Spenserian stanza, a nine-line verse form consisting of eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a concluding Alexandrine (a line of twelve syllables). His poetic style influenced many later writers, including John Milton and the Romantic poets.

Edmund Spenser’s works had a significant impact on English literature and continue to be studied and celebrated. His poems, particularly “The Faerie Queene,” played a crucial role in the development of the epic genre in English literature. His imaginative and symbolic approach to poetry, along with his mastery of verse, has secured his place as one of the most important figures of the Elizabethan era.

Also read : Sir Philip Sidney: An Apology for Poetry, Shakespeare history : Part one

The Shepheardes Calender

The Shepheardes Calender” is a pastoral poem written by Edmund Spenser and published in 1579. It is one of Spenser’s earliest and most famous works, consisting of 12 eclogues or poems, one for each month of the year. The poem follows the conventions of the pastoral genre, depicting the lives and conversations of shepherds in a rustic setting.

Each eclogue features a different shepherd, representing different aspects of the human condition or addressing specific themes. The shepherds engage in dialogue, discussing love, politics, religion, and other topics. The poem also includes allegorical elements and references to classical mythology and literature.

The Shepheardes Calender” is notable for its intricate structure and rich use of language. Spenser employs a variety of poetic forms, including sonnets, ballads, and other verse forms, showcasing his skill as a poet. The poem also reflects Spenser’s political and religious views, as he addresses contemporary issues and events through his characters.

One of the most significant aspects of “The Shepheardes Calender” is the presence of a character named Colin Clout, who appears in several of the eclogues. Colin Clout is often regarded as a poetic persona for Spenser himself, representing the poet and his aspirations within the pastoral world.

The Shepheardes Calender” was well-received upon its publication and helped establish Spenser’s reputation as a poet. It demonstrated his mastery of poetic techniques and his ability to tackle complex subjects within the framework of pastoral verse. The poem also foreshadows the themes and style that Spenser would further develop in his epic work, “The Faerie Queene.”

Overall, “The Shepheardes Calender” is an important work in the English literary tradition, showcasing Spenser’s talent and contributing to the development of pastoral poetry.


The Faerie Queene

0161 1
Edmund Spenser- life and works 5

“The Faerie Queene” is an epic poem written by Edmund Spenser in the late 16th century. It is divided into six books, each representing a different virtue and featuring various allegorical characters and adventures. Here is a list of the books along with a brief summary of each:

Book 1: The Legend of the Knight of the Red Cross (Holiness)

In this book, the Red Cross Knight, also known as Saint George, embarks on a quest to free the land of Faerie from the dragon named Error. Along the way, he encounters various trials and temptations, including the seductive witch Duessa, but ultimately emerges victorious.

Book 2: The Legend of Sir Guyon, or of Temperance (Temperance)

The focus shifts to Sir Guyon, a knight representing the virtue of temperance. He is accompanied by the Palmer, a wise and elderly figure. Together, they encounter the Bower of Bliss, a place of pleasure and indulgence, and overcome the challenges posed by the sorceress Acrasia.

Book 3: The Legend of Britomartis, or of Chastity (Chastity)

Britomart, a female knight, is the central character of this book. Disguised as a knight, she embarks on a quest to find her beloved, Artegall. Along the way, she faces various challenges, battles with knights, and finally reunites with Artegall.

Book 4: The Legend of Cambell and Triamond, or of Friendship (Friendship)

This book tells the story of two knights, Cambell and Triamond, who embody the virtue of friendship. They are separated and face several trials, including conflicts with other knights and overcoming the seductive enchantress Acrasia. Ultimately, they are reunited and their friendship triumphs.

Book 5: The Legend of Artegall, or of Justice (Justice)

Artegall, a knight representing justice, is the protagonist of this book. He is sent on a mission by Queen Gloriana to uphold justice and eliminate tyranny. He faces various adversaries, including the wicked sorceress Radigund, and plays a crucial role in restoring order and fairness.

Book 6: The Legend of Calidore, or of Courtesy (Courtesy)

Calidore, a knight of courtesy, is the central figure in this book. He embarks on a series of adventures, encountering various characters and witnessing different situations that test his ideals of courtesy. The book explores the complexities of courtly behavior and the importance of noble conduct.

Each book of “The Faerie Queene” showcases a different virtue and explores various moral and ethical themes. Through its allegorical storytelling and vivid imagery, the poem offers a complex and multifaceted examination of human virtues and vices.

More Source: https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/the-faerie-queene-by-edmund-spenser-1590, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Faerie-Queene

Sonnet sequence “Amoretti”

Amoretti” is a sonnet sequence written by Edmund Spenser, published in 1595. It consists of 89 sonnets, chronicling Spenser’s courtship and eventual marriage to his wife, Elizabeth Boyle. The word “amoretti” is derived from the Italian word “amore,” meaning “love.” Here is a brief overview of the sequence:

The sonnets in “Amoretti” follow the traditional structure of the English sonnet, comprising 14 lines with a rhyme scheme of abab bcbc cdcd ee. Spenser’s sonnets in this sequence are known for their lyrical beauty and poetic craftsmanship.

The sequence begins with Sonnet 1, in which the poet introduces the theme of love and expresses his desire to find a suitable muse to inspire his verse. The subsequent sonnets explore the poet’s emotions as he falls in love, experiences moments of doubt and despair, and ultimately finds joy and fulfillment in his beloved’s love.

Throughout “Amoretti,” Spenser employs rich imagery, metaphors, and allusions to classical mythology to express his feelings and capture the stages of his courtship. He portrays his beloved as a paragon of beauty, virtue, and grace.

The sonnets in the sequence reflect the progression of the poet’s relationship with his beloved. They depict moments of courtship, the challenges they face, the longing for union, and the eventual triumph of love.

The last few sonnets in “Amoretti” celebrate the poet’s successful courtship and impending marriage. Sonnet 75, in particular, is well-known and often studied for its exploration of the power of poetry to immortalize love.

Overall, “Amoretti” is a sonnet sequence that explores the theme of love and portrays the journey of a poet’s courtship and union with his beloved. It showcases Spenser’s poetic skills and his ability to convey deep emotions and experiences through the sonnet form.


Edmund Spenser did indeed write a renowned poem titled “Epithalamion.” It is a marriage hymn or ode that celebrates his own wedding to Elizabeth Boyle, which took place on June 11, 1594. “Epithalamion” is considered one of the most beautiful and accomplished poems in the English language. Here’s an overview of the poem:

Epithalamion” is composed of 365 stanzas, following a complex structure of alternating 18-line stanzas (composed of three interlocking quatrains and a concluding couplet) and 19-line stanzas (composed of three interlocking quatrains and a final quatrain).

The poem begins in the early morning hours before the wedding ceremony, and Spenser describes the natural world awakening to herald the joyous occasion. He personifies various natural elements, such as the rivers, flowers, birds, and celestial bodies, as they celebrate the union of the poet and his bride.

Throughout the poem, Spenser uses rich imagery, vivid descriptions, and intricate metaphors to convey his deep love and devotion for his bride. He expresses his anticipation, desires, and hopes for their future together.

As the poem progresses, it moves through the various stages of the wedding day, capturing the joyous atmosphere, the ceremonial rituals, and the consummation of the marriage. Spenser’s language becomes increasingly passionate and sensual, depicting the intimate moments between the newlyweds.

Epithalamion” concludes with a prayer for fertility and blessings upon the couple. Spenser asks for their love to be everlasting and for their union to bring forth virtuous and noble offspring.

The poem is known for its musicality, with Spenser skillfully employing rhyme, rhythm, and repetition to create a melodic and harmonious composition.

“Epithalamion” stands as a remarkable celebration of love, marriage, and the beauty of the natural world. It showcases Spenser’s mastery of poetic form and his ability to evoke deep emotions through his exquisite language and imagery.


“Prothalamion” is another notable poem written by Edmund Spenser. It is an ode or a wedding song that celebrates the double marriage of two daughters of the Earl of Worcester. Here’s an overview of the poem:

“Prothalamion” was published in 1596 and is composed of 108 stanzas. It follows a similar structure to Spenser’s “Epithalamion,” consisting of alternating 18-line and 19-line stanzas.

The poem begins with a description of the River Thames, where the marriage celebrations are to take place. Spenser vividly portrays the beauty of the river, its surroundings, and the enchanting atmosphere as the wedding day approaches.

As the poem progresses, Spenser addresses the brides-to-be directly, offering them blessings and expressing his wishes for their happiness and prosperity in their marriages. He praises their beauty, virtue, and noble lineage.

Spenser incorporates classical mythology into the poem, referencing various Greek and Roman gods and goddesses associated with love, marriage, and fertility. These mythological allusions add an elevated and timeless quality to the celebration.

The poem also features the presence of nymphs and other mythological beings who join in the festivities and add to the joyful ambiance.

Throughout “Prothalamion,” Spenser’s language is rich and musical, employing intricate rhyme schemes, alliteration, and descriptive imagery to create a sense of enchantment and celebration.

The poem concludes with a wish for eternal happiness and fertility for the newlywed couples, with Spenser expressing hope that their marriages will bring forth virtuous and noble offspring.

“Prothalamion” is celebrated for its lyrical beauty, the skillful use of imagery, and the overall celebratory tone. It exemplifies Spenser’s talent for creating poetic landscapes and his ability to infuse his verse with romantic and mythological elements.

Overall, “Prothalamion” stands as a poetic tribute to love, marriage, and the joyous union of two couples, showcasing Spenser’s mastery of poetic form and his ability to evoke emotions through his eloquent and musical language.

Leave a Reply