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Thread by @bodleianlibs: "The Faerie Queene is an epic poem by Edmund Spenser that pleased Elizabeth I so much that she awarded Spenser a lifelong pension of £50 per […]"

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The Faerie Queene is an epic poem by Edmund Spenser that pleased Elizabeth I so much that she awarded Spenser a lifelong pension of £50 per year. Here's a little thread about it. The title page of The Faerie Queene, as 'disposed into twelve books.'
(The poem weaves many allegories together, including praise for the Tudors and Elizabeth I. Maybe this casts some light on the generous pension.)
One of the key influences on The Faerie Queene was Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. At the most basic level, they are both epics about knights, packed with romance and fantastical encounters, but they are also similar in language and style. medievalromance.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/Ariosto_Orland… A detail from the illustrations of Orlando Furioso featuring men on horseback and others fallen on the ground.
In a letter to Sir Walter Raleigh, Spenser said that he intended 24 books: 12 about 12 different knights and their virtues "as Aristotle hath devised" and then 12 more focused on virtues as displayed by King Arthur. Only six books were completed. (cc. @jjabrams)
The Faerie Queene was banned in Scotland due to Spenser's allegorical retelling of Mary Queen of Scots' trial and execution in Book V. (Image: the @bodleianlibs in the new Mary Queen of Scots movie, because we're still really excited to be a movie star.) A frame from Mary Queen of Scots showing the Divinity School.
Spenser invented a new form of fixed verses for The Faerie Queene, now known as the Spenserian stanza: eight iambic pentameters and then an alexandrine. The rhyming scheme is ABABBCBCC. Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske, <br />
As time her taught in lowly Shepheards weeds, <br />
Am now enforst a far unfitter taske, <br />
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds, <br />
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds; <br />
Whose prayses having slept in silence long, <br />
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds <br />
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng: <br />
Fierce warres and faithful loves shall moralize my song.
Spenser's poetic form went out of favour for several centuries but was revived in the 19th century by the Romantic poets. Shelley's Adonais was written in Spenserian stanza. Shelley's infamous 'drowned notebook' contains a water-damaged draft: shelleysghost.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/the-drowned-no… A page of Shelley's drowned notebook.
The @bodleianlibs hold a copy of The Faerie Queene that was once owned by Thomas Posthumous Hoby, who matriculated from Oxford at the age of 8 and, in later years, may have been Shakespeare's inspiration for Malvolio. You can see his annotations in the margins: Two pages of The Faerie Queen, showing annotations.
Thank you for following our thread. Here's a pointer to another poetic thread from last week that you may enjoy:
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