Edmund Spenser is often mentioned alongside Shakespeare, Marlowe and Donne as one of the greatest poets of the Elizabethan period.

He is probably best known for his long, allegorical epic poem, The Faerie Queen, which is full of medieval knights, dragons, battles and romance, was published in the 1590s and dedicated to glorifying the reign of Elizabeth I. In spite of the romantic subject matter this poem, his sonnet sequences and ‘Epithalamion’, a traditional optimistic wedding song, Spenser was not a detached and unworldly poet. He was a beneficiary of the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland, receiving confiscated lands, and in 1596 wrote a pamphlet called ‘A View of the Present State of Ireland’, which advocated a ruthless and, if necessary, violent approach to the ‘pacification’ of that country.

Spenser was driven from his Irish castle by Irish forces at the end of the century and returned to London, where he died in 1599.

Poems by Edmund Spenser

Book 1, Canto 1 of The Faerie Queen - Edmund Spenser - Read by Andrew Motion

Sonnet 75

Read by Andrew Motion
Sonnet 75 - Edmund Spenser - Read by Andrew Motion
Amoretti LV: so oft as I her beauty do behold - Edmund Spenser - Read by Daljit Nagra

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