skip to main | skip to sidebar
Home » , » Consider whether The Faerie Queene is an epic or a romance?

An epic centres round the activities of a single hero of national importance; the romance, on the other hand, records the activities of several characters. The hero of an epic is a person of historical and national importance, while the characters of the romance are fictitious persons, created by the fertile imagination of the writer. An epic generally maintains the unity of structure, while in a romance the structure is often loose. The Faerie Queene is neither an epic nor a perfect romance but, in fact, it combines the qualities of both romance and epic.

The attention of the readers of The Faerie Queene is focussed not on the activities of one man, but on the achievement of many persons. In depicting the actions of many men, The Faerie Queene becomes a romance rather than an epic. But Spenser has given it the air of an epic by interweaving the various actions of various characters round the figure of Prince Arthur, the single hero. Since King Arthur, unlike the hero of a romance, is a historical figure, Spenser, by presenting his activities makes The Faerie Queene an epic.

Some critics have raised questions regarding the central figure of Arthur, the hero of the epic. Warton, a critic, says that not the Red Cross Knight but Arthur should have slain the Dragon, as we find in Book-I. But we have seen in the classical epic, e.g. The Iliad several heroic characters. In The Iliad although Achilles is its chief hero, there are several other heroes like Diomedes, Agamemnon and Hector. Similarly, we have in The Faerie Queene separate books, each with its separate hero. But Arthur like Achilles in The Iliad has eclipsed all other Knights and has proved himself worthy of Gloriana.

Epic similar is one of the important technical devices of epic and Spenser has introduced epic similes which are broad in their comparisons and bring the pictures clearly before our eyes. In Canto I, stanza 21 of The Faerie Queene, the poet uses an epic simile to describe the evil impact of the Roman catholic priests, symbolised by the monster Error's offsprings, as compared to the ugly creatures who are brought to life by the fertile mud of the Nile after the flood.

"As when old father Nilus gins to swell With timely pride above the Aegyptain vale, His fattie waves do fertile slime outwell,And overflow each plaine and lowly dale ............................................... Such ugly monstrous shapes elsewhere may no man reed."

Spenser has introduced supernatural machinery of dream and fancies. Archimago the wicked magician sends a,spirit to the house of Morpheus, the god of sleep, who lives in the subterranean world. Archimago obtains from Morpheus a particular kind of dream which is brought to him by the spirit. Thus this is a technical device adopted by Spenser to The Faerie Queene as an epic.

But although The Faerie Queene has been written in the style of an epic, it cannot be denied that it also has qualities of romance in it. By combining romance and epic, Spenser has created the romantic epic such as Ariosto has produced in Qrlando Furioso.

In the Elizabethan Age, the epic writer was morally bound to give some moral lesson in his story. Spenser has done the same thing. The object of The Faerie Queene is to discipline a young man in noble virtues.

Further, the unity of the poem which is an important characteristic of the epic, is not well maintained. The structure of The Faerie Queene is loose and rambling, as the poet advances in the latter books. There are digressions which create variety but they have proved to be a hindrance in the way of the epic. They lead us to a land of dreams which suit more for romance rather than for the epic.

To sum up, we can say that The Faerie Queene is not an epic like the classical epics of Homer and Virgil, but it is a romantic epic based on the style and method of Ariosto's Orlando Furiose but Spenser differs from him in his moral tone.


Post a Comment

Back To Top