For its Spenserian stanza, complex allegory, and themes, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, first published in 1590, is one of the greatest English written works of art.
First, one element that sets The Faerie Queene apart is its use of Edmund Spenser’s own invention, the Spenserian stanza, a way of writing poetry that some have imitated but few—if any—have equaled. Spenserian stanza gets its unique, archaically rhythmic sound by its employment of nine-line stanzas, the first eight lines of which are in iambic pentameter, the ninth line in iambic hexameter. The rhyme scheme is ababbcbcc. Every stanza throughout the work uses this same style, maintaining a consistent and flowing rhythm to the poetry and to the story itself.
Second, another great thing about The Faerie Queene is Spenser’s use of complex allegory. The allegory here has three layers to it: (1) moral, (2) religious, and (3) political. The character Queen Gloriana herself, whom the work is named after, is an example of the moral and political layers of Spenser’s allegory; she symbolizes the moral value of glory, and she stands in for the real-life, political Queen Elizabeth of England. The religious layer of the allegory is exemplified in the character Una, who represents Protestant Christianity.
Third, we should appreciate the good themes Spenser wove into The Faerie Queene, such universal themes as courage, bravery, true religion, and good versus evil. Redcrosse Knight, the protagonist, is courageous and brave; Una promotes true religion; and the good Redcrosse battles the evil she-monster Errour.
So Spenserian stanza, complex allegory, and themes work together to make The Faerie Queene one of the greatest and best works in all of British Literature.
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