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Like Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Spenser's The Faerie Queene, which is next to it, before Shakespeare, is not a complete and finished work. Of the Twenty Four Books, projected originally by Spenser, only six were published during his life time and some portion after his death. Even then, as it stands now, it is one of the longest as also mightiest literary works before Shakespeare. Spenser is found to have achieved a rare distinction to bring together in one rich pattern all the various strands of life and literature of his age, with which he was acquainted.
The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene cannot be really classed as a particular kind of poetry. It is, in fact, epical, romantic, didactic as well as symbolic. In reality, it seems to combine medieval romances, Christian morality and the allegorical spirit of French poetry, along with the classical epic and English patriotism.

The Faerie Queene appears a romantic epic with the traditional materials of chivalry, giants, dragons, battles, witchcraft, and so on. Spenser's attachment both to Elizabethan romanticism and to medieval romances is well borne out here.

But The Faerie Queene is not simply a romance. It is a didactic romance. The romantic stories and different episodes are well employed by the poet to have a symbolic significance and a didactic effect. The final emphasis is found laid on the profound Christian virtue.

The Faerie Queene is an allegory. Spenser's genius, as an allegorist, vividly comes out here. Of course, The Faerie Queene is not as clear and convincing as The Canterbury Tales. Consequently its allegorical truth sometimes appears rather inconsistent and obscure. This is more artistic than comprehensive.

The Faerie Queene also strikes Spenser's patriotic spirit. It treats poetically the very remote history of England and Wales and mythologies related to this. The Faerie Queene is almost a saga of the British people and remains essentially British in inspiration. Spenser demonstrates here his love for his land and his regard for his august Queen.

What, however, gives The Faerie Queene its enduring charm is its music the poet's marvellous command over the metre. The poem is written in the famous Spenserian Stanza, invented by the poet for his epic, with its characteristic rhyme-scheme. The extraordinary skill and the unique variety with which the rhyme is handled here, have done away much with the monotony of such a romantic epical theme. The spontaneous flow of a sonorous harmony graces the poem and makes it appealing to all ages and English knowing peoples.


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