blush of dawn Jade Nicole Beals

The Faerie Queene, Book 2: A Reflection that includes What the Author Could Have Been Thinking

I finished Faerie Queene, Book 2 this evening! It is a medieval era epic poem in early modern English, which is the period of English language that Shakespeare was writing and also known as Elizabethan English, spanning a few hundred years. Faerie Queene would’ve been written just a little earlier than Shakespeare’s writing—in the mid-1500s. Just before it was Middle English, such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

What will I read next? 😊! There is a Faerie Queene, Book 3 that I would like to read after another book and another after. There are actually 7 Faerie Queene books! { With all this fun, I genuinely had forgotten I had also gotten the Gibran }. 😉

The genre of the Faerie Queene books by the English author, Edmund Spenser are “epic poetry” with succeeding sections titled as numbered “Cantos,” and are written with a moral intention, or on what it may mean to be good or virtuous. Homer’s Odyssey would also be considered epic poetry, from Greece and likely a much earlier time.

Faerie Queene, Book 1, the one before this one, I would reread again. It does seem in 1, Spenser was really into telling of his Faerie Queene, with a blend of subjects that seemed to excite him: Roman Catholicism, Anglican Christianity, a bit of the Queen of England, and faerie culture and myth especially. Unfortunately Spenser was greatly criticized for writing an epic poem so disparate in meaning or with these 4 belief systems that are not consistent. I liked it. It was full of enticement and very free, kind of felt like Spenser wrote it a little tipsy on wine, or something like that, and that’s what some critics may not be happy about—he may spell things or write words that flow in sound but scholars can’t find the exact word or its meaning in the English language at that time. For me that was part of the thrill with these words springing up with new meaning.

In Book 2, I find a more reserved writer with that first criticism and disapproval of his writing a big part of choosing the second book’s adventures, and he chooses Greek mythology, while apologizing to the Queen of England in the introduction while presenting the book, as the book gets into Greek mythology which he may find a more compatible subject with King Arthur and the Faery people, the main point of being a good moral gentleman. This works in theory with these components, ‘tho it can be harder to follow this more slow-moving story that can be hard to place together from one Canto to the next, but each part itself is explained pretty fully. Poor Spenser’s book was banned at one point for nothing exactly of the English and queen are in it.

This also isn’t a text at all for culture; it is an unfair picture of some cultures. There are also more dryly revealed allegory characters like Temperance, whereas in Book 1 all these characters were the Virtues of the Catholic Church and were easy to place together.

Spenser adds in the figure Pilate from Christianity in this one in a way opposite from the Pilate portrayed in the Christian Bible, and then seems intrigued with telling of the Britons and Italians, yet it also feels like he makes a clear point not to go into Rome, as then his work may seem incompatible in beliefs as his Book 1 was said to be. But the Greek Mythology seems to go well for him and have enough imaginative creatures and opposition to spice up the story.

This Book 2 seems to truly liven up toward the latter Cantos, as it is as if the author in writing has found joy and homecoming in the Mermaids! And the guiding meaning in Faerie Queene Book 2 seems to be about why people do what they do, that anger can come from a man loving a woman and not being able to protect her, the anger at losing the woman he loves in a way for the sake of his love and her as a woman, not his own power or might. This Book largely considers different situations where one chooses good or evil, and coinciding with Greek Myths at the start of Faerie Queene II, sometimes a person doesn’t really get to choose, with some form of higher influence, and the Cantos to follow take off from there.

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