Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser (/ˈspɛnsər/; 1552/1553 – 13 January 1599) 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 craftsmen of nascent Modern English verse, and is often considered one of the greatest poets in the English language.

Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser oil painting
London, England
Died13 January 1599 (aged 46–47)[1]
London, England
Resting placeWestminster Abbey
Alma materPembroke College, Cambridge
Notable worksThe Faerie Queene

Edmund Spenser Signature


Edmund Spenser was born in East Smithfield, London, around the year 1552, though there is still some ambiguity as to the exact date of his birth. His parenthood is obscure, but he was probably the son of John Spenser, a journeyman clothmaker. As a young boy, he was educated in London at the Merchant Taylors' School and matriculated as a sizar at Pembroke College, Cambridge.[2][3] While at Cambridge he became a friend of Gabriel Harvey and later consulted him, despite their differing views on poetry. In 1578, he became for a short time secretary to John Young, Bishop of Rochester.[4] In 1579, he published The Shepheardes Calender and around the same time married his first wife, Machabyas Childe.[5] They had two children, Sylvanus (d.1638) and Katherine.[6]

In July 1580, Spenser went to Ireland in service of the newly appointed Lord Deputy, Arthur Grey, 14th Baron Grey de Wilton. Spenser served under Lord Gray with Walter Raleigh at the Siege of Smerwick massacre.[7] When Lord Grey was recalled to England, Spenser stayed on in Ireland, having acquired other official posts and lands in the Munster Plantation. Raleigh acquired other nearby Munster estates confiscated in the Second Desmond Rebellion. Some time between 1587 and 1589, Spenser acquired his main estate at Kilcolman, near Doneraile in North Cork.[8] He later bought a second holding to the south, at Rennie, on a rock overlooking the river Blackwater in North Cork. Its ruins are still visible today. A short distance away grew a tree, locally known as "Spenser's Oak" until it was destroyed in a lightning strike in the 1960s. Local legend has it that he penned some of The Faerie Queene under this tree.[9]

In 1590, Spenser brought out the first three books of his most famous work, The Faerie Queene, having travelled to London to publish and promote the work, with the likely assistance of Raleigh. He was successful enough to obtain a life pension of £50 a year from the Queen. He probably hoped to secure a place at court through his poetry, but his next significant publication boldly antagonised the queen's principal secretary, Lord Burghley (William Cecil), through its inclusion of the satirical Mother Hubberd's Tale.[10] He returned to Ireland.

In 1591, Spenser published a translation in verse of Joachim Du Bellay's sonnets, Les Antiquités de Rome, which had been published in 1558. Spenser's version, Ruines of Rome: by Bellay, may also have been influenced by Latin poems on the same subject, written by Jean or Janis Vitalis and published in 1576.[11]

By 1594, Spenser's first wife had died, and in that year he married Elizabeth Boyle, who was much younger than him, and originated from Northamptonshire, possibly his native county. He addressed to her the sonnet sequence Amoretti. The marriage itself was celebrated in Epithalamion.[12] They had a son named Peregrine.[6]

In 1596, Spenser wrote a prose pamphlet titled A View of the Present State of Ireland. This piece, in the form of a dialogue, circulated in manuscript, remaining unpublished until the mid-seventeenth century. It is probable that it was kept out of print during the author's lifetime because of its inflammatory content. The pamphlet argued that Ireland would never be totally "pacified" by the English until its indigenous language and customs had been destroyed, if necessary by violence.[13]

In 1598, during the Nine Years' War, Spenser was driven from his home by the native Irish forces of Aodh Ó Néill. His castle at Kilcolman was burned, and Ben Jonson, who may have had private information, asserted that one of his infant children died in the blaze.[14]

Fowre Hymnes by Edmund Spenser 1596
Title page, Fowre Hymnes, by Edmund Spenser, published by William Ponsonby, London, 1596

In the year after being driven from his home, 1599, Spenser travelled to London, where he died at the age of forty-six – "for want of bread", according to Ben Jonson – one of Jonson's more doubtful statements, since Spenser had a payment to him authorised by the government and was due his pension.[15] His coffin was carried to his grave in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey by other poets, who threw many pens and pieces of poetry into his grave with many tears. His second wife survived him and remarried twice. His sister Sarah, who had accompanied him to Ireland, married into the Travers family, and her descendants were prominent landowners in Cork for centuries.

Rhyme and reason

Thomas Fuller, in Worthies of England, included a story where the Queen told her treasurer, William Cecil, to pay Spenser one hundred pounds for his poetry. The treasurer, however, objected that the sum was too much. She said, "Then give him what is reason". Without receiving his payment in due time, Spenser gave the Queen this quatrain on one of her progresses:

I was promis'd on a time,
To have a reason for my rhyme:
From that time unto this season,
I receiv'd nor rhyme nor reason.

She immediately ordered the treasurer pay Spenser the original £100.

This story seems to have attached itself to Spenser from Thomas Churchyard, who apparently had difficulty in getting payment of his pension, the only other pension Elizabeth awarded to a poet. Spenser seems to have had no difficulty in receiving payment when it was due as the pension was being collected for him by his publisher, Ponsonby.[16]

The Shepheardes Calender

Title Page of a 1617 Edition of The Shepherd's Calendar
Title Page of a 1617 Edition of The Shepheardes Calender printed by Matthew Lownes, often bound with the complete works printed in 1611 or 1617.

The Shepheardes Calender is Edmund Spenser's first major work, which appeared in 1579. It emulates Virgil's Eclogues of the first century BCE and the Eclogues of Mantuan by Baptista Mantuanus, a late medieval, early renaissance poet.[17] An eclogue is a short pastoral poem that is in the form of a dialogue or soliloquy. Although all the months together form an entire year, each month stands alone as a separate poem. Editions of the late 16th and early 17th centuries include woodcuts for each month/poem, and thereby have a slight similarity to an emblem book which combines a number of self-contained pictures and texts, usually a short vignette, saying, or allegory with an accompanying illustration.[18]

The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene frontispiece
The epic poem The Faerie Queene frontispiece, printed by William Ponsonby in 1590.

Spenser's masterpiece is the epic poem The Faerie Queene. The first three books of The Faerie Queene were published in 1590, and a second set of three books were published in 1596. Spenser originally indicated that he intended the poem to consist of twelve books, so the version of the poem we have today is incomplete. Despite this, it remains one of the longest poems in the English language.[19] It is an allegorical work, and can be read (as Spenser presumably intended) on several levels of allegory, including as praise of Queen Elizabeth I. In a completely allegorical context, the poem follows several knights in an examination of several virtues. In Spenser's "A Letter of the Authors", he states that the entire epic poem is "cloudily enwrapped in allegorical devises", and that the aim behind The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline".[20]

Shorter poems

Spenser published numerous relatively short poems in the last decade of the sixteenth century, almost all of which consider love or sorrow. In 1591, he published Complaints, a collection of poems that express complaints in mournful or mocking tones. Four years later, in 1595, Spenser published Amoretti and Epithalamion. This volume contains eighty-nine sonnets commemorating his courtship of Elizabeth Boyle. In Amoretti, Spenser uses subtle humour and parody while praising his beloved, reworking Petrarchism in his treatment of longing for a woman. Epithalamion, similar to Amoretti, deals in part with the unease in the development of a romantic and sexual relationship. It was written for his wedding to his young bride, Elizabeth Boyle. Some have speculated that the attention to disquiet in general reflects Spenser's personal anxieties at the time, as he was unable to complete his most significant work, The Faerie Queene. In the following year Spenser released Prothalamion, a wedding song written for the daughters of a duke, allegedly in hopes to gain favour in the court.[21]

The Spenserian stanza and sonnet

Spenser used a distinctive verse form, called the Spenserian stanza, in several works, including The Faerie Queene. The stanza's main meter is iambic pentameter with a final line in iambic hexameter (having six feet or stresses, known as an Alexandrine), and the rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc.[22] He also used his own rhyme scheme for the sonnet. In a Spenserian sonnet, the last line of every quatrain is linked with the first line of the next one, yielding the rhyme scheme ababbcbccdcdee.


Though Spenser was well read in classical literature, scholars have noted that his poetry does not rehash tradition, but rather is distinctly his. This individuality may have resulted, to some extent, from a lack of comprehension of the classics. Spenser strove to emulate such ancient Roman poets as Virgil and Ovid, whom he studied during his schooling, but many of his best-known works are notably divergent from those of his predecessors.[23] The language of his poetry is purposely archaic, reminiscent of earlier works such as The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer and Il Canzoniere of Francesco Petrarca, whom Spenser greatly admired.

An Anglican[24] and a devotee of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, Spenser was particularly offended by the anti-Elizabethan propaganda that some Catholics circulated. Like most Protestants near the time of the Reformation, Spenser saw a Catholic church full of corruption, and he determined that it was not only the wrong religion but the anti-religion. This sentiment is an important backdrop for the battles of The Faerie Queene.[25]

Spenser was called "the Poet's Poet" by Charles Lamb,[26] and was admired by John Milton, William Blake, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, Alfred Tennyson and others. Among his contemporaries Walter Raleigh wrote a commendatory poem to The Faerie Queene in 1590, in which he claims to admire and value Spenser's work more so than any other in the English language. John Milton in his Areopagitica mentions "our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas".[27] In the eighteenth century, Alexander Pope compared Spenser to "a mistress, whose faults we see, but love her with them all."[28]

A View of the Present State of Ireland

In his work A View of the Present State of Irelande (1596), Spenser discussed future plans to subjugate Ireland, the most recent rising, led by Hugh O'Neill, having demonstrated the futility of previous efforts. The work is partly a defence of Lord Arthur Grey de Wilton, who was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1580, and who greatly influenced Spenser's thinking on Ireland.

The goal of this piece was to show that Ireland was in great need of reform. Spenser believed that "Ireland is a diseased portion of the State, it must first be cured and reformed, before it could be in a position to appreciate the good sound laws and blessings of the nation".[29] In A View of the Present State of Ireland, Spenser categorises the "evils" of the Irish people into three prominent categories: laws, customs and religion. These three elements work together in creating the disruptive and degraded people. One example given in the work is the native law system called "Brehon law" which trumps the established law given by the English monarchy. This system has its own court and way of dealing with infractions. It has been passed down through the generations and Spenser views this system as a native backward custom which must be destroyed. (Brehon law methods of dealing with murder by imposing an éraic, or fine, on the murderer's whole family particularly horrified the English, in whose Protestant view a murderer should die for his act.)

Spenser wished devoutly that the Irish language should be eradicated, writing that if children learn Irish before English, "Soe that the speach being Irish, the hart must needes be Irishe; for out of the aboundance of the hart, the tonge speaketh".[30]

He pressed for a scorched earth policy in Ireland, noting that the destruction of crops and animals had been successful in crushing the Second Desmond Rebellion (1579–83), when, despite the rich and bountiful land:

"'Out of everye corner of the woode and glenns they came creepinge forth upon theire handes, for theire legges could not beare them; they looked Anatomies [of] death, they spake like ghostes, crying out of theire graves; they did eate of the carrions, happye wheare they could find them, yea, and one another soone after, in soe much as the verye carcasses they spared not to scrape out of theire graves; and if they found a plott of water-cresses or shamrockes, theyr they flocked as to a feast… in a shorte space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentyfull countrye suddenly lefte voyde of man or beast: yett sure in all that warr, there perished not manye by the sworde, but all by the extreamytie of famine ... they themselves had wrought'"[30]

List of works

  • Iambicum Trimetrum
  • 1569: Jan van der Noodt's A Theatre for Worldlings, including poems translated into English by Spenser from French sources, published by Henry Bynneman in London[31]
  • 1579: The Shepheardes Calender, published under the pseudonym "Immerito"[32] (entered into the Stationers' Register in December[31])




  • Axiochus, a translation of a pseudo-Platonic dialogue from the original Ancient Greek; published by Cuthbert Burbie; attributed to "Edw: Spenser"[31] but the attribution is uncertain[33]
  • Daphnaïda. An Elegy upon the Death of the Noble and Vertuous Douglas Howard, Daughter and Heire of Henry Lord Howard, Viscount Byndon, and Wife of Arthure Gorges Esquier (published in London in January, according to one source;[31] another source gives 1591 as the year[32])




  • 1609: Two Cantos of Mutabilitie published together with a reprint of The Faerie Queene[34]
  • 1611: First folio edition of Spenser's collected works[34]
  • 1633: A Vewe of the Present State of Irelande, a prose treatise on the reformation of Ireland,[35] first published in James Ware's Ancient Irish Chronicles (Spenser's work was entered into the Stationer's Register in 1598 and circulated in manuscript but not published until it was included in this work of Ware's)[34]


  • Edmund Spenser, Selected Letters and Other Papers. Edited by Christopher Burlinson and Andrew Zurcher (Oxford, OUP, 2009).
  • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie-Queene (Longman-Annotated-English Poets, 2001, 2007) Edited by A. C. Hamilton, Text Edited by Hiroshi Yamashita and Toshiyuki Suzuki.


  1. ^ National Archive documents
  2. ^ "Spenser, Edmund (SPNR569E)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ "The Edmund Spenser Home Page: Biography". English.cam.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 2 January 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  4. ^ Hadfield, Andrew. Edmund Spenser: A Life. Oxford University Press. 2012, p110.
  5. ^ Hadfield pp 128 & 140
  6. ^ a b http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/edmund-spenser
  7. ^ Church, R. W. (1879). Spenser. pp. 56–58, 93.
  8. ^ Hadfield, pp200-01
  9. ^ Hadfield, p362
  10. ^ Hadfield, p165
  11. ^ Zarucchi, Jeanne Morgan (1997). "Du Bellay, Spenser, and Quevedo Search for Rome: A Teacher's Peregrination". The French Review. 17:2: 192–203.
  12. ^ Hadfield, pp296, 301, 323
  13. ^ Hadfield, pp 334–43, 365
  14. ^ Hadfield, p 362
  15. ^ Hadfield pp 391 - 393
  16. ^ Hadfield pp 5 & 236
  17. ^ Merritt Yerkes Hughes, "Virgil and Spenser", in University of California Publications in English, vol. 2, no. 3. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1929).
  18. ^ "The English Emblem Book Project | Penn State University Libraries". libraries.psu.edu. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  19. ^ Loewenstein, David; Mueller, Janel M (2003), The Cambridge history of early modern English Literature, Cambridge University Press, p. 369, ISBN 0-521-63156-4.
  20. ^ Spenser, Edmund (1984), "A Letter of the Authors Expounding His Whole Intention in the Course of the Worke: Which for That It Giueth Great Light to the Reader, for the Better Vnderstanding Is Hereunto Annexed", in Roche, Thomas P., Jr, The Fairy Queene, New York: Penguin, pp. 15–16
  21. ^ Prescott, Anne. "Spenser's shorter poems". The Cambridge Companion to Spenser. Ed. Andrew Hadfield. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 143–161. Print.
  22. ^ Spenserian stanza at Poetry Foundation.
  23. ^ Burrow, Colin. "Spenser and classical traditions". The Cambridge Companion to Spenser. Ed. Andrew Hadfield. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 217–236. Print.
  24. ^ https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edmund-spenser
  25. ^ http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/context/
  26. ^ Alpers, Paul (1990). "Poet's poet, the". In Henderson, A. C. The Spenser Encyclopedia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 551. ISBN 0802026761. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  27. ^ Milton, John. Areopagitica.
  28. ^ Elliott, John, ed. The Prince of Poets. New York: New York University Press, 1968. 7–13. Print.
  29. ^ Henley 178
  30. ^ a b http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/E500000-001/
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Web page titled "Edmund Spenser Home Page/Biography" Archived 2 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, "Chronology" section (at bottom of Chronology, Web page states: "Source: adapted from Willy Maley, A Spenser Chronology."), at the website of the University of Cambridge Faculty of English website, retrieved 24 September 2009
  32. ^ a b c Cox, Michael, editor, The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-860634-6
  33. ^ Hadfield, Andrew, The Cambridge Companion to Spenser, "Chronology", Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-521-64199-3, p xix, retrieved via Google Books, 24 September 2009
  34. ^ a b c Hadfield, Andrew, The Cambridge Companion to Spenser, "Chronology", Cambridge University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-521-64199-3, p xx, retrieved via Google Books, 24 September 2009
  35. ^ Web page titled "Edmund Spenser Home Page/Biography" Archived 2 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine, at the website of the University of Cambridge Faculty of English website, retrieved 24 September 2009


  • Croft, Ryan J. "Sanctified Tyrannicide: Tyranny And Theology In John Ponet's Shorte Treatise Of Politike Power And Edmund “Spenser's The Faerie Queene." Studies in Philosophy, 108.4 (2011): 538–571. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 8 October 2012.
  • Johnson, William. "The struggle between good and evil in the first book of 'The Faerie Queene'." English Studies, Vol. 74,
  • Maley, Willy. “Spenser's Life.” The Oxford Dictionary of Edmund Spenser. Ed. Richard A. McCabe. 1st Ed. 2010. Print.
  • Rust, Jennifer. "Spenser's The Faerie Queene." Saint Louis University, St. Louis. 10 October 2007. No. 6. (December 1993) p. 507–519.
  • Zarucchi, Jeanne Morgan. "Du Bellay, Spenser, and Quevedo Search for Rome: A Teacher's Peregrination." The French Review, 17:2 (December 1997), pp. 192-203.

External links

Preceded by:
John Skelton
English Poet Laureate
c. 1590–1599
Succeeded by:
Samuel Daniel
Political offices
Preceded by
Edmund Molyneux
Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by
Philip Williams
Alice Spencer, Countess of Derby

Alice Spencer, Countess of Derby (4 May 1559 – 23 January 1637) was an English noblewoman from the Spencer family and noted patron of the arts. Poet Edmund Spenser represented her as "Amaryllis" in his eclogue Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595) and dedicated his poem The Teares of the Muses (1591) to her.

Her first husband was Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby, a claimant to the English throne. Alice's eldest daughter, Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven, was heiress presumptive to Queen Elizabeth I. She married secondly in 1600 Thomas Egerton, 1st Viscount Brackley and thus became a member of the Egerton family.


Amoretti is a sonnet cycle written by Edmund Spenser in the 16th century. The cycle describes his courtship and eventual marriage to Elizabeth Boyle.

Amoretti was first published in 1595 in London by William Ponsonby. It was printed as part of a volume entitled Amoretti and Epithalamion. Written not long since by Edmunde Spenser. The volume included the sequence of 89 sonnets, along with a series of short poems called Anacreontics and Epithalamion, a public poetic celebration of marriage. Only six complete copies remain today, including one at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and one at Oxford's Bodleian Library. "The volume memorializes Spenser's courtship of Elizabeth Boyle, a young, well-born Anglo-Irish woman, and the couple's wedding on June 11, 1594". In the sonnets of Amoretti Spenser succeeds in "immortalizing the name of his bride to be ... by devices of word play".Amoretti has been largely overlooked and unappreciated by critics, who see it as inferior to other major Renaissance sonnet sequences in the Petrarchan tradition. In addition, it has been overshadowed by Spenser's other works, most notably The Faerie Queene, his epic allegorical masterpiece. C. S. Lewis, among the most important twentieth-century Spenser scholars, said that "Spenser was not one of the great sonneteers". However, other critics consider Spenser's sonnets to be innovative and to express a range of tones and emotions, and are much more skillful and subtle than generally recognized.

Areopagus (poetry)

The Areopagus is a proposed 16th century society or club dedicated to the reformation of English poetry. The club may have involved figures such as Edmund Spenser, Gabriel Harvey, Edward Dyer, and Sir Phillip Sidney. The existence of the Areopagus as a formal society was first noted by H. R. Fox Bourne in 1862 in his Memoir of Sir Philip Sidney. There is no direct evidence that the group was more than an idea found in the correspondence between Spenser and Harvey, and if it existed its membership is uncertain.

Astrophel (Edmund Spenser)

Astrophel: A Pastorall Elegy upon the Death of the Most Noble and Valorous Knight, Sir Philip Sidney is a poem by the English poet Edmund Spenser. It is Spenser's tribute to the memory of Sir Philip Sidney, who had died in 1586, and was dedicated "To the most beautiful and vertuous Ladie, the Countesse of Essex", Frances Walsingham, Sidney's widow.

Bart van Es

Bart van Es (born 7 June 1972) is a literary critic and writer. He is a Professor of English at the University of Oxford, where he is also a senior tutor and fellow of St Catherine's College.Van Es was born in the Netherlands and lived in Norway, Dubai and Indonesia before his family settled in the United Kingdom in 1986. He gained a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in 2000; his thesis title was "Forms of history in the works of Edmund Spenser".His scholarly interests chiefly lie in the works of the English Poet Edmund Spenser. He is the author of such critical books as Spenser's Forms of History and A Critical Companion to Spenser Studies. He has also published work on Shakespeare, including a recent investigation of Shakespeare's relationship with the players of the King's Men.

His 2018 book The Cut Out Girl: a story of War and Family, Lost and Found, won the overall Costa Book of the Year award for 2018, after winning the "Costa Biography of the Year" award. The book tells the true story of Lien de Jong, who as a young Jewish girl was fostered by van Es's grandparents for safety in the occupied Netherlands in 1942. The judges described it as "sensational and gripping... shedding light on some of the most urgent issues of our time".

Colin Clouts Come Home Againe

Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (also known as Colin Clouts Come Home Again) is a pastoral poem by the English poet Edmund Spenser and published in 1595. It has been the focus of little critical attention in comparison with the poet's other works such as The Faerie Queene, yet it has been called the "greatest pastoral eclogue in the English language". In a tradition going back to Petrarch, the pastoral eclogue contains a dialogue between shepherds with a narrative or song as an inset, and which also can conceal allegories of a political or ecclesiastical nature.Colin Clouts Come Home Againe is an allegorical pastoral based on the subject of Spenser's visit to London in 1591 and is written as a lightly veiled account of the trip. He wrote it after his return home to Ireland later that year. He dedicated the poem to Sir Walter Raleigh in partial payment for the "infinite debt" Spenser felt he owed him. (Sir Walter Raleigh had visited him prior to his London trip, convincing him to go.) Spenser also sent Raleigh several versions of the poem between 1591 and 1595 when the poem was published. In the poem, Colin Clout gives a description of the London visit; the poem is Spenser's most autobiographical and identifies a number of anonymous poets, the real life identities of whom have been the grist of speculation over time.Although Colin Clouts Come Home Againe is a pure pastoral poem, the poet, through the use of insets within narrations, is able to mock the limitations of the pastoral mode through poking fun at the use of ordinary words. While he intersperses "grim realities" into the pastoral text, he does so in a georgic (didactic) tone, achieving a rustic effect that is more realistic than the strictly pastoral mode; and then the poem rises to "an exalted vision of cosmic love" in a way that gives the poem a cultivated complexity that was unique to English literature at that time and which became a model for many later poets.

Complaints (poetry collection)

Complaints is a poetry collection by Edmund Spenser, published in 1591. It contains nine poems. Its publisher, William Ponsonby, added an introduction of his own.

David Lee Miller

David Lee Miller (born 1951) is a scholar of English Renaissance Literature. He is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. His works include The Poem's Two Bodies: The Poetics of the 1590 Faerie Queen, (Princeton UP, 1988); Dreams of the Burning Child: Sacrificial Sons and the Father's Witness (Cornell UP, 2003); three edited books; and about two dozen refereed articles that have appeared in scholarly journals such as Modern Language Quarterly, English Literary History, and Publications of the Modern Language Association. He is one of four general editors of The Collected Works of Edmund Spenser, a new scholarly edition under contract to Oxford University Press.

Miller's work has been especially devoted to the canon of Edmund Spenser, a contemporary of Shakespeare's whose Faerie Queene is considered one of the two or three greatest epic poems in the language. Spenser was the subject of The Poem's Two Bodies in 1988, and Miller is helping to prepare a new scholarly edition of the English poet. In many of the articles, particularly in Dreams of the Burning Child, Miller ranges through ancient, early modern, and modern literatures and through both popular and high cultures to demonstrate the central thesis that Western culture is fixated on the sacrifice of sons as a means of shoring up patriarchal authority.

Prior to moving to South Carolina, Miller taught at the University of Alabama from 1978 until 1994, and at the University of Kentucky from 1994 until 2004.

After growing up in San Diego, California, he was educated at Yale University and the University of California, Irvine. He has won fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Epithalamion (poem)

Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion is an ode written to his bride, Elizabeth Boyle, on their wedding day in 1594. It was first published in 1595 in London by William Ponsonby as part of a volume entitled Amoretti and Epithalamion. Written not long since by Edmunde Spenser. The volume included the sequence of 89 sonnets (Amoretti), along with a series of short poems called Anacreontics and the Epithalamion, a public poetic celebration of marriage. Only six complete copies of this first edition remain today, including one at the Folger Shakespeare Library and one at the Bodleian Library.

The ode begins with an invocation to the Muses to help the groom, and moves through the couple's wedding day, from Spenser's impatient hours before dawn while waiting for his bride to wake up, to the late hours of night after Spenser and Boyle have consummated their marriage (wherein Spenser's thoughts drift towards the wish for his bride to have a fertile womb, so that they may have many children).

Spenser meticulously records the hours of the day from before dawn to late into the wedding night: its 24 stanzas represent the hours of Midsummer Day. The ode's content progresses from the enthusiasm of youth to the concerns of middle age by beginning with high hopes for a joyful day and ending with an eye toward the speaker's legacy to future generations.


Flattery (also called adulation or blandishment) is the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject. It is used in pick-up lines when attempting to initiate romantic courtship.

Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolò Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II de' Medici in The Prince.

Most associations with flattery, however, are negative. Negative descriptions of flattery range at least as far back in history as The Bible. In the Divine Comedy, Dante depicts flatterers wading in human excrement, stating that their words were the equivalent of excrement, in the second bolgia of 8th Circle of Hell.

An insincere flatterer is a stock character in many literary works. Examples include Wormtongue from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Goneril and Regan from King Lear, and Iago from Othello.

Historians and philosophers have paid attention to flattery as a problem in ethics and politics. Plutarch wrote an essay on "How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend." Julius Caesar was notorious for his flattery. In his Praise of Folly, Erasmus commended flattery because it "raises downcast spirits, comforts the sad, rouses the apathetic, stirs up the stolid, cheers the sick, restrains the headstrong, brings lovers together and keeps them united.""To flatter" is also used to refer to artwork or clothing that makes the subject or wearer appear more attractive, as in:

The king was pleased with the portrait, as it was very flattering of his girth.

I think I'll wear the green dress because it flatters my legs.

Holinshed's Chronicles

Holinshed's Chronicles, also known as Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, is a collaborative work published in several volumes and two editions, the first edition in 1577, and the second in 1587. It was a large, comprehensive description of British history published in three volumes (England, Scotland and Ireland).

The Chronicles have traditionally been a source of interest to many because of their extensive links to Shakespeare's history plays, as well as King Lear, Macbeth and Cymbeline. Recent studies of the Chronicles have focused on a inter-disciplinary approach; numerous literary scholars having studied the traditional historiographical materials through a literary lens, with a focus on how contemporary men and women would have read historical texts.The Chronicles would have been a primary source for many other literary writers of the Renaissance such as Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, and George Daniel.

Joanne Grenfell

Joanne Woolway Grenfell (born 27 May 1972) is the Archdeacon of Portsdown. She was installed at a service at Portsmouth Cathedral on 14 April 2013.

Grenfell was educated at Egglescliffe School, Stockton-on-Tees, Oriel College, Oxford, and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She completed a DPhil on the writing of Edmund Spenser, continuing there as Lecturer in English until 1998. She trained for ministry in the Church of England at Westcott House, Cambridge from 1998 until 2000, when she was ordained, with her husband James Grenfell, in Liverpool Cathedral. After a curacy in Kirkby in the Diocese of Liverpool, she was Priest in charge in the Sheffield Manor ecumenical team ministry. Following this she was a Residentiary Canon at Sheffield Cathedral, Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Dean of Women's Ministry in the Diocese of Sheffield until her archidiaconal appointment in the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Mother Hubberd's Tale

Mother Hubberd's Tale is a poem by English poet Edmund Spenser, written in 1578–1579. The more commonly read version of the poem is a revision of the original, created sometime in 1590, and published in 1591 as a part of Spenser's collection Complaints. "Mother Hubberd's Tale" was sold separately from the rest of the collection it was published with, though the reason why is debated among scholars. The poem follows the story of a sick, bedridden poet, who has visitors who try to entertain him with stories. The only one the poet finds worthy enough to retell is the tale told by Old Mother Hubberd about an ape and a fox. The poem is an allegorical poem, with overarching themes in search of political reform. The poem was said to have antagonized Lord Burghley, the primary secretary of Elizabeth I, and estranged Spenser from the English court, despite his success in that arena with his previous (and most famous) work, The Faerie Queene.


The pastourelle (French: [pastuʁɛl]; also pastorelle, pastorella, or pastorita is a typically Old French lyric form concerning the romance of a shepherdess. In most of the early pastourelles, the poet knight meets a shepherdess who bests him in a battle of wit and who displays general coyness. The narrator usually has sexual relations, either consensual or rape, with the shepherdess, and there is a departure or escape. Later developments moved toward pastoral poetry by having a shepherd and sometimes a love quarrel. The form originated with the troubadour poets of the 12th century and particularly with the poet Marcabru (pastorela).

This troubadour form melded with goliard poetry and was practiced in France and Occitania until the Carmina Burana of c. 1230. In Spanish literature, the pastourelle influenced the serranilla, and fifteenth century pastourelles exist in French, German, English, and Welsh. One short Scots example is Robene and Makyne. Adam de la Halle's Jeu de Robin et Marion (the game of Robin and Maid Marion) is a dramatization of a pastourelle, and as late as Edmund Spenser the pastourelle is referred to in book six of Faerie Queene. Child's ballads gives an example in The Baffled Knight.


Prothalamion, the commonly used name of Prothalamion; or, A Spousall Verse in Honour of the Double Marriage of Ladie Elizabeth and Ladie Katherine Somerset, is a poem by Edmund Spenser (1552–1599), one of the important poets of the Tudor period in England. Published in 1596 (see 1596 in poetry), it is a nuptial song that he composed that year on the occasion of the twin marriage of the daughters of the Earl of Worcester, Elizabeth Somerset and Katherine Somerset, to Henry Guildford and William Petre, 2nd Baron Petre respectively.

Prothalamion is written in the conventional form of a marriage song. The poem begins with a description of the River Thames where Spenser finds two beautiful maidens. The poet proceeds to praise them and wishing them all the blessings for their marriages. The poem begins with a fine description of the day when on which he is writing the poem:

Calm was the day and through the trembling airThe sweet breathing Zephyrus did softly play.

The poet is standing near the Thames River and finds a group of nymphs with baskets collecting flowers for the new brides. The poet tells us that they are happily making the bridal crowns for Elizabeth and Katherine. He goes on his poem describing two swans at the Thames, relating it to the myth of Jove and Leda. According to the myth, Jove falls in love with Leda and comes to court her in the guise of a beautiful swan. The poet feels that the Thames has done justice to his nuptial song by "flowing softly" according to his request: "Sweet Thames run softly till I end my song". The poem is often grouped with Spenser's poem about his own marriage, the Epithalamion.

Renaissance literature

Renaissance literature refers to European literature which was influenced by the intellectual and cultural tendencies associated with the Renaissance. The literature of the Renaissance was written within the general movement of the Renaissance which arose in 14th-century Italy and continued until the 16th century while being diffused into the rest of the western world. It is characterized by the adoption of a humanist philosophy and the recovery of the classical Antiquity. It benefited from the spread of printing in the latter part of the 15th century. For the writers of the Renaissance, Greco-Roman inspiration was shown both in the themes of their writing and in the literary forms they used. The world was considered from an anthropocentric perspective. Platonic ideas were revived and put to the service of Christianity. The search for pleasures of the senses and a critical and rational spirit completed the ideological panorama of the period. New literary genres such as the essay (Montaigne) and new metrical forms such as the Spenserian stanza made their appearance.

The impact of the Renaissance varied across the continent; countries that were predominantly Catholic or Protestant experienced the Renaissance differently. Areas where the Eastern Orthodox Churches were culturally dominant, as well as those areas of Europe under Islamic rule, were more or less outside its influence. The period focused on self-actualization and one's ability to accept what is going on in one's life.The earliest Renaissance literature appeared in Italy in the 14th century; Petrarch, Machiavelli, and Ariosto are notable examples of Italian Renaissance writers. From Italy the influence of the Renaissance spread at different times to other countries and continued to spread around Europe through the 17th century. The English Renaissance and the Renaissance in Scotland date from the late 15th century to the early 17th century. In northern Europe, the scholarly writings of Erasmus, the plays of William Shakespeare, the poems of Edmund Spenser and the writings of Sir Philip Sidney may be considered Renaissance in character.

The creation of the printing press (using movable type) by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440 encouraged authors to write in their local vernacular instead of Greek or Latin classical languages, thus widening the reading audience and promoting the spread of Renaissance ideas.

Spenserian stanza

The Spenserian stanza is a fixed verse form invented by Edmund Spenser for his epic poem The Faerie Queene (1590–96). Each stanza contains nine lines in total: eight lines in iambic pentameter followed by a single 'alexandrine' line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme of these lines is ABABBCBCC.

The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene is an English epic poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I to III were first published in 1590, and then republished in 1596 together with books IV to VI. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form: it is one of the longest poems in the English language as well as the origin of 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 devises", and the aim of publishing The Faerie Queene was to "fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline".The Faerie Queene found such favour with Elizabeth I that Spenser was granted a pension for life amounting to £50 a year, though there is no further evidence that Elizabeth I ever read any of the poem. This royal patronage elevated the poem to a level of success that made it Spenser's defining work.

The Shepheardes Calender

The Shepheardes Calender was Edmund Spenser's first major poetic work, published in 1579. In emulation of Virgil's first work, the Eclogues, Spenser wrote this series of pastorals to begin his career. However, Spenser's models were rather the Renaissance eclogues of Mantuanus. The title, like the entire work, is written using deliberately archaic spellings, in order to suggest a connection to medieval literature, and to Geoffrey Chaucer in particular.

The poem introduces Colin Clout, a folk character originated by John Skelton, and depicts his life as a shepherd through the twelve months of the year. The Calender encompasses considerable formal innovations, anticipating the even more virtuosic Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (The "Old" Arcadia, 1580), the classic pastoral romance by Sir Philip Sidney, with whom Spenser was acquainted. It is also remarkable for the extensive commentary included with the work in its first publication, ascribed to an "E.K." E.K. is an intelligent, very subtle, and often deeply ironic commentator, who is sometimes assumed to be an alias of Spenser himself. The term sarcasm is first recorded in English in Spenser's poem.

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