Edmund Spenser vs. Virgil and Ariosto

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Edmund Spenser vs Virgil and Ariosto

Some scholars believe Spenser did not have sufficient education to compose a work with as much complexity as The Faerie Queene, while others are still “extolling him as one of the most learned men of his time”. Scholar Douglas Bush agrees, “scholars now speak less certainly that they once did of his familiarity with ancient literature”. In contrast, Meritt Hughes “finds no evidence that Spenser derived any element of his poetry from any Greek Romance”. Several questions still remain unanswered: Was Edmund Spenser as “divinely inspired” to write The Faerie Queene as Virgil and Ariosto were in their works? Or did Spenser simply lack creativity, causing him to steal his storylines from theirs?

“The range and depth of Spenser’s reading have not been precisely discovered: and in the absence of definitive information, one should guard against the two extremes of exaggerating or underestimating the poet’s education”. Although born to parents of modest income, Edmund Spenser, probably born in 1552, was still able to receive an impressive education at the Merchant Taylors’ School, and Pembroke College at Cambridge. He learned enough Latin to read and understand poets such as Ariosto and Virgil, both of whom his works are frequently compared to.

Born in 70 BC, Publius Virgilius Maro ranks among the greatest Roman poets who ever lived. With only a few Latin poets attempting to write an epic before him (Naevius and Ennius), Latin literature reached its peak wit the publication of the Aeneid shortly after Virgil’s death. His epic heavily influenced succeeding poets throughout Western literature. Ever since people have compared The Shepheardes Calender, one of Spenser’...

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...onto, 1992.

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Fowler, Alastair. “Edmund Spenser.” British Writers. Ed. Ian Scott-Kilvert. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979.

“Home-Making in Ireland: Virgil’s Eclogue 1 and Book VI of The Faerie Queene.” Julia Lupton. http://www.english.cam.uk/spenser/volviii/lupton.htm. (25 November 2000).

Lerner, Laurence. “Marriage.” The Spenser Encyclopedia. Ed. A.C. Hamilton. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1992.

Watkins, John. The Specter of Dido: Spenser and Virgilian Epic. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995.

Logan, George M., and Stephen Greenbalt, ed. “Edmund Spenser.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1962. 614-616.

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