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The Faerie Queene

(The Faerie Queene Books)

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  15,706 ratings  ·  378 reviews
The Faerie Queene was the first epic in English and one of the most influential poems in the language for later poets from Milton to Tennyson. Dedicating his work to Elizabeth I, Spenser brilliantly united medieval romance and renaissance epic to expound the glory of the Virgin Queen. The poem recounts the quests of knights including Sir Guyon, Knight of Constance, who res ...more
Paperback, 1248 pages
Published June 29th 1978 by Penguin Classics (first published 1590)
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Phil Nemethy Is this a riddle? Since it was never actually completed? I read the part he wrote, at least. :)

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To me, this is the great long poem in English, beside which Paradise Lost seems like a clumsy haiku. Where Milton is precise and sententious, Spenser is exuberant, almost mad, and always focused on sheer reading pleasure. His aim is to take you on a crazed sword-and-sorcery epic, and his style combines godlike verbal inventiveness with the sort of eye for lurid details that an HBO commissioning editor would kill for.

It's almost like fan fiction. One imagines Spenser getting high over his copy of
E. G.
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uk-ireland, 4-star, poetry, own
A Note on the Text
Table of Dates
Further Reading

A Letter of the Authors Expounding His Whole Intention in the Course of this Worke: Which For that it Giveth Great Light to the Reader, for the Better Vnderstanding is Hereunto Annexed

Commendatory Verses
Dedicatory Sonnets

--The Faerie Queene

Textual Appendix
Common Words
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This has been my baby for the last two years. The only time I've really, badly procrastinated for two years on something I need to get done. Like the guilty, feel-yucky procrastination. Somehow the first two books didn't click. Each canto took forever to finish, and there are twelve cantos per book, and 6 books for the whole Faerie Queene, get the idea.

I took it to election working. I tried reading it on the computer. None of the methods stuck for long, but I still had fun along the way
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When it comes to sheer reading pleasure, it is almost impossible to beat "The Faerie Queene". It has nearly everything that a reader could desire; action, romance, deep philosophical and theological meaning, allegory, pitched battles on fields of honor, blood, swords, spears...everything that makes life worth living. And it is all wrapped in some of the most beautiful language ever to be set down in the English tongue. Spenser was a master of English, and you can sense that he wrote for the joy ...more
Mar 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Serious students of literature; fans of Renaissance poetry
Shelves: poetry
Note, April 24, 2019: I edited this just now to insert spoiler tags in a couple of places (I don't think Goodreads provided that option at the time I originally wrote the review).

I read this (in a different edition, without notes and which preserved the Elizabethean spellings) as part of my course preparation for teaching British Literature when we were home schooling our girls, and found it a challenging --though not unrewarding-- read. The quaint spellings and archaic diction and vocabulary re
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

I first really read this poem in graduate school with a teacher so superb he made Spenser, Milton, Donne, Herbert, and Marvell exciting. They are still among my favorite poets.

Faerie Queene is Spenser's richly imaginative 16th-century epic poem depicting the education/spiritual growth of the Redcrosse Knight. In Spenser's epic being able to distinguish between good and evil, true and false becomes imperative, but difficult in a landscape that is deceptive and illusory.

Spenser's landscapes metamo
J.G. Keely
Aug 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Some place Ariosto above Dante because he tempers his ridiculously erratic romanticism with remarkable satire, joie de vivre, and a gently sloping concession to an ending. While both Ariosto's and Spenser's works are long-winded, Spenser never overcomes the need for vindication which gradually grew out of this work. This desperation precluded the light-heartedness that buoyed Ariosto's lengthy tale.

The more one reads The Faerie Queene, the more one begins to respect Liz's desire to keep this man
Jan 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it completely almost fifty years ago. I recall especially the Book of Courtesy, the Sixth Book, with its hero Calidore. I theorized at the time that Courtesy did not fit with the other allegorically systematized virtues. No wonder Spenser found he was concluding his epic before he'd really caught a head of steam to get through his 12 books, the first HALF.
He dedicates his poem to Sir Walter Raleigh, Lieutenant of Cornewayll, saying this a "continued Allegory, or dark fashion a
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Book 1 is among the most epic things ever written in the English language, or perhaps any language. Books 2, 3, and 4, while good, aren’t nearly as memorable (that’s probably an uncultured opinion, but so be it).

One day I’ll return and finish Books 5 and 6, but for now, I’m moving on to Moby Dick.
Cindy Rollins
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, audiobooks
Update: I finally finished the whole book and most especially loved the Book 7 fragment. Diana/Cynthia, the moon. Right up my alley and so beautifully written. A lifelong desire fulfilled.

Now I am starting to enjoy and understand the language much quicker. This section especially reminded me of Monty Python with the cutting off of arms and other flesh wounds. :)

This review is for Book 5 but the edition changed here midstream.

Jacob Aitken
As Galadriel said in Return of the King, some things which shouldn't have been forgotten were lost. Spenser is one of those things. One of the great tragedies in Western pedagogy has been this ignorance of Spenser. He tells a beautiful story using the vehicle of hypnotic poetry. And there is sex. Lots of it. But even the sexual themes have pedagogical ends. Britomart is not merely chaste. She is told to vigorously pursue chastity. This does not mean merely to avoid all types of sexual encounters ...more
David Acevedo
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Alright. So sometimes you read books merely in order to feel good about yourself. I'm a sinner.

Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, deemed one of the most difficult books int he English language, I read as a challenge to myself, which also included David foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Joyce's Ulysses. I read them all and am proud of it.

So The Faerie Queen is epic poetry. It celebrates Queen Gloriana (one of the many dubs of Elizabeth I). I won't go into "plot" details in this review. I'll s
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it

this book was wild

It also had a lot of death and rape in it

I enjoyed books 2-5 the most .....Britomart is the lady knight of my dreams pretty much. I want her and Artegall to kiss :( I don't think that's too much to ask

I also loved Prince Arthur!!! Aww babe.

I also loved his squire but I got really confused after the fortieth nameless squire showed up TBH

Roman Clodia
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Spenser is probably the least read of the 'great' Elizabethan writers, and picking up his Faerie Queen it's easy to see why: it's over a thousand pages of poetry (9 line stanzas) written in a kind of cross-over medieval-renaissance English. Even English graduates tend not to have had to read the whole thing, getting away with selected cantos, a kind of edited highlights. But starting at the beginning and reading it straight through is a completely different experience. While it is overtly a mora ...more
Mary Cornelius
Sep 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-to-read, lit, own
Whew. Well, that's done. ...more
Celia T
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
He held up a book then. “I'm going to read it to you for relax.”
“Does it have any sports in it?”
“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders... Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”
“Sounds okay,” I said and I kind of closed my eyes.

Virgina told me to do it and I did it and she was right: it was great!!

I think people make too much of the
Epic poem. I really like this. Its overly long and there are so many characters you'll definitely get confused and feel lost at times, however there are so many memorable moments. The action scenes are particularly good which seems weird for poetry. Despite magic and monsters there is also an odd amount of realism to many incidents which i enjoyed.
Plus there is plenty of violence and sex which is strange for something which is a self-confessed christian allegory.
Due to its length there is plent
Jay Kennedy
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Faerie Queen is one of my favorite classic English literature pieces. It is a sword and sorcery tale following several knights each embodying a virtue. The allegory between Protestant and Catholic is multi-layered but isn't too vague to decipher. This epic is an adventure in the likes of Chaucer and John Milton, which you won't want to skip if you are well-read in English literature. ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
First book: Delightful! Many of the scenes got to be a little boring, but overall, I loved this book. Maybe it was because I was forcing my own interpretations of the character dynamics and situations on the story, but I really did enjoy it. Una is great, Redcrosse is very interesting, and the Una/Redcrosse/Arthur teamup was so much fun! The conflicts all worked well, especially the ones toward the end. I liked it.

Second book: Eh... not so much. This book is much more scattered than the first, a
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't be scared off by this one. Spenser wrote the greatest poem that emerged from the age of Shakespeare. Surrender yourselve's to his lingo, his rhythm, his abundant humor. There are images in this poem I'll never forget, along with one of the most compelling and admirable female warriors ever realized in a poem, Britomart. What a babe. Seriously

The language may be tough at first for contemporary readers, but as recently as 120 years ago, FQ was pretty standard children's reading--the kids rea
Sophie (RedheadReading)
In all seriousness, I have enjoyed reading this, even if it did take me over a year! I read most of this aloud because it was lovely to hear the rhythms of the poetry. Britomart is my fave and I want a spin off where she goes around being a kick ass knight and freeing damsels, because those were the best bits. Parts of this did drag but on the whole I'm pleased I've read it.
Sep 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: avid LOTR fans
At first, I read it and thought: what is this? I can barely understand the words coming out of their mouths! Thenne aftere a whille the odde spellungs and clus approxametions of currenntly spellede words becammes understandable.

I found the story itself to bee quite interesting, vivid action, big battles, giants swinging clubs made from tree trunks with such force, they bury them in the ground, villains in disguise, noble knights, "ruined" women committing suicide and leaving a still living chil
Lance Kinzer
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was first put in mind to read The Faerie Queen by C.S. Lewis, who considers it in his scholarly work, “English Literature In The Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama” - Now over 1,000 pages of epic poetry later I can say I’m glad I followed through. For me at least having Lewis as a guide was important to my enjoyment. As Lewis notes, “It is of importance to note that Spenser’s imagination was mounded by many extinct arts.” That fact can make TFQ a bit difficult at times, but even where difficult ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, sf, 1211, xj, 16th, century, poetry[return][return][return]This is one of the curiosities of the English language, a long poem written in its own peculiar verse structure in which archetypal figures based on myths of many different origins contend for mastery of spoils, women and virtue in a fantasy landscape which resembles the north of County Cork. Some of the allegory is pretty straightforward, as when Prince Arthur springs to the defence of the cruelly oppressed lady Belge; other part ...more
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, english-lit
"To looke vpon a worke of rare deuise
The which a workman setteth out to view,
And not to yield it the deserved prise,
That vnto such a workmanship is dew.
Doth either proue the iudgement to be naught
Or els doth shew a mind with enuy fraught."

This has been a summer of pushing the boundaries thus far. Rather than bask in literature that I know I'll breeze through and enjoy, I have been reading a lot of challenging works. The latest trend has been medieval literature, and while The Faerie Queene is
Hudson Christmas
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book was one of the hardest and most rewarding reads I've ever completed. Half of me is relieved that I actually finished it, and the other half is sad that it is truly over. The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser is an epic poem that few are familiar with. A tale that combines the storyline of King Arthur with the narrative allegories which rival works like Pilgrim's Progress. The narrative shifts from dozens of characters throughout this book, but always focuses on knights, damsels in di ...more
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it
It doesn't benefit from being read cover-to-cover. This is mostly a series of unrelated adventures and I found it useful to read one canto at a time. Books three and four hang together more than the most and were my favorite part, though that might just be my eagerness at reading of the adventures of a Lady Knight.

Spenser writes "Chaucerian" English the way you or I might write Elizabethan English - he substitutes a few key antiquated words and spellings whenever he can. At first it was very jar
Wendy Verkler
May 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's really good if you like linguistic puzzles. If medieval English bothers you, you will hate this book.

Also, you must like wizards (good and evil), potions, jousting knights, hidden identities, mermaids, jesters, princesses, castles, trap doors, secret passages, dark and dangerous forests, magical/mythical creatures, magic mirrors, women in disguise fighting as knights, nymphs, treasure chests, pagan gods, Merlin, King Arthur, various knights of the round table as well as ones you aren't fam
John Hughes
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What can one say about this epic of renaissance poetry? Spenser is the bridgehead between Chaucer and Milton. He is Ariosto and Tasso taken into England’s bosom and recreated under the majesty of Elizabeth I.

He takes from Petrarch the sonnet and varies it to something unique.

The tales are mix the virtue of Mallory’s Arthur with Aristotelian ethics. The allegories are many and always enticing, having you flicker from End note back to core text, back to Ovid, Ariosto, Sidney or whichever poet Spen
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I have to admit I liked reading this. Prior to taking this class I never was really thrilled with Spenser's poetry, I have read a few of his sonnets before. This epic just seemed too long to be enjoyable. There is a bias toward his beliefs in the piece, Spenser had Puritan leanings, which made me shake my head a few times. Since Spenser is said to be the poet who the other English poets copy I was happy to have a reason to read the piece. Will I ever read it again? Probably not. ...more
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Clubs reading aloud? 1 3 Dec 15, 2020 05:49PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Fun with Edmund Spenser 2 28 May 01, 2018 05:00PM  
What are Edmund Spenser's writings about? 1 12 Jun 07, 2013 11:21AM  
Is it true that The Faerie Queene has an 800,000 word count? 3 62 May 26, 2013 10:08AM  
Epic Fantasy? 2 21 Dec 27, 2012 08:41PM  
Does anyone know the word count for The Faerie Queene? 1 13 Dec 27, 2012 07:41PM  

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Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 - 1599) was an important English poet and Poet Laureate best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem celebrating, through fantastical allegory, the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I.

Though he is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, Spenser is also a controversial figure due to his zeal for the destruction of Irish culture and colo

Other books in the series

The Faerie Queene Books (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • The Faerie Queene, Book One
  • The Faerie Queene, Book Two
  • Faerie Queene: The Mutability Cantos and Selections from the Minor Poems, Bks. 1 and 2
  • The Faerie Queene, Book Five
  • The Faerie Queene, Book Six and the Mutabilitie Cantos
  • The Faerie Queene, Book Four
  • The Faerie Queene: Books IV-VI
  • The Faerie Queene, Book Three
  • The Faerie Queene, Books Six and Seven
  • The Squire of Low Degree (The Faerie Queene #4)

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