Leah's Reviews > The Faerie Queene

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
Rate this book
Clear rating

This book has stacked underneath it the most extensive amount of lit crit of anything I've ever read, save Shakespeare (maybe!). If Spenser really intended all that everyone say he did, then he is a friggin genius. There are umpteen-thousand pages in this book, but if you give it a go (especially the A.C. Hamilton-edited annotation, paired with his The Spenser Encyclopedia, a tome so massive you could probably murder someone with it), you will learn almost everything you need to know about Elizabethan England, the feudal system that preceded it, and then some, not to mention meeting some strange women with odd genitalia, memorizing the honor code among knights and their passion for horses, and running into a few sprites, nymphs, giants, and other creatures. Based on Hamilton and others, pretty much every single stanza is loaded with allusions and things worth cross-referencing - quite a feat considering how many of them there are.

Oh, and for all you Twilight fans, the Britomart storyline reads like a teen angsty dream, except for the part where her nurse spits on her to cure her of her love-sickness.

Seeing as Spenser intended six more books in addition to the six he wrote here (seriously), I wonder if that wouldn't have ended up like Quentin Tarentino's third Kill Bill which is rumored to bring back the daughter who saw her mother killed by Uma Thurman. I think the bloody-handed baby sucking the from the dead Amavia was meant to reprise a role in the latter six, if Spenser had been so spirited by his mere pittance from Elizabeth to continue writing. Just my two cents. To carry the Kill Bill comparison further than necessary, this story was pretty epic.

The stanzas make it very easy to take a break from reading every five seconds, but I wouldn't recommend it. Just trudge on through. Despite the intended six more books, the ending is quite satisfying - Spenser has his own personal drama that is almost as entertaining as the book, and is worth looking into especially given the poet's closing remarks. The stories are very visual and intricate. Hamilton's version has an indexed list of characters at the end that is thus very handy. It starts out being hard to read but you can probably get accustomed to the linguistic feats by the end of the first book. Also, look up the word 'puissance', since it seems to come up a lot. Some books are more episodic than others, but of course like every other word in this book, there are more than twenty people who will tell you that there is a good reason for that. Along with Hamilton, some good scholars to read in conjunction with this include Kathryn Schwarz, Stephen Greenblatt, Jean Feerick, Louis Montrose, and Mihoko Suzuki.

I read this for a class and by the end of it I think all of us had gone a little wacky. One of my classmates seemed bent on connecting this book to The Final Destination and something about aliens, regardless of what our highly-esteemed professor had to say. Another friend Justin posted the following Facebook status: "Move over 'Exit pursued by a bear' - bear carrying baby in its mouth has arrived. Three months of Spenser and I finally chuckled out loud. Perhaps that just means that I'm sick, perhaps it means that a bear making off with a baby like it's a pic-a-nic basket is actually funny. Thoughts?" By the end of the semester, we as a class found our sense of humor sickened to appreciable levels, to the point where mutilations, beheadings and bears eating babies were pretty darned hilarious. At least we know how to entertain ourselves.
1 like · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Faerie Queene.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

08/28/2010 page 600
48.0% "Reading it out of order - I just finished book 5. Radigund is awesome! Talus is funny, but probably unintentionally so..."
09/08/2010 page 600
48.0% "Edmund Spenser is one strange cat."
11/28/2010 page 1248
100.0% "Finally done, and two more classes to go!"

No comments have been added yet.