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Edmund Spenser

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Edmund Spenser, 1554(?)-1599, was a major English poet, known particularly for his incomplete allegorical epic The Faerie Queene


His life is known chiefly from official records, allusions in his poems, and some unreliable anecdotes. He was born in London. He attended the Merchant Taylors' school, and went to Cambridge, where he struck up a friendship with Gabriel Harvey. He was later secretary to the Bishop of Rochester, and in 1580, after his marriage to Machabyas Childe, he was appointed secretary to Lord Grey of Wilton, on his appointment to be Lord Deputy of Ireland. When Grey was recalled, Spenser stayed on in Ireland, holding a variety of official posts and acquiring land as part of the English settlement of Munster. On the death of his first wife, he married Elizabeth Boyle. He died during one of his visits to England, following the overrunning of much of the Munster settlement by Irish rebels during the Nine Years War, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. [1]

Principal Poetical Works

The Shepheardes Calender, 1579 The Faerie Queene, 1st edition, books I-III, 1589; 2nd edition, books I-VI, 1596, making a poem of 33588 lines. Complaints, bringing together various shorter poems, including satires, 1591 Colin Clouts come home againe, 1595 Amoretti(sonnet sequence) and Epithamalion,1595

Influence and reputation

Spenser regarded himself as the heir of Chaucer, and had a major influence on Milton [2] and the English Romantic poets, including Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley. Shelley used the Spenserian stanza for Adonais. His reputation suffered from the the elaborateness of his allegory, his archaic language, and his strong advocacy of drastic measures to subdue Ireland, shown both allegorically, and in his prose work View of the Present State of Ireland, distributed in manuscript during his lifetime. The Spenserian stanza was first used in the Faerie Queene, and consists of eight iambic pentameters and an alexandrine, the rhyme scheme being ababbcbcc.


  1. Hadfield, Andrew. Edmund Spenser: a Life. Oxford University Press. 2012
  2. Hill, Christopher. Milton and the English Revolution. Faber and Faber 1977