Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: Faerie Queene (Selection)
  • Author: Edmund Spenser
  • Editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Editor: Michael Best
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Faerie Queene (Selection)

    In his epic poem The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser recounts a history of British kings through the knight Sir Guyon. Spenser begins by pleading for help in describing the epic line of kings that came before Queen Elizabeth. He then begins a narrative of the early history of the British Isles, from its beginning when it was peopled by savage giants, to the arrival of Brute (Brutus), who subdued the inhabitants and began a peaceful reign over the new kingdom; in contrast to the later narratives, when Brute divides his kingdom between his three sons, they live peacefully together. The list of following kings included Locrine, the subject of a play attributed to Shakespeare in the Third Folio. This extract then moves to the reign of King Leyr; Spenser follows earlier versions, including Cordelia's success in returning Leyr to the crown and her subsequent death at the hand of her elder sisters' sons. Shakespeare followed Spenser in the spelling of Cordelia's name. The extract ends with the history of King Gorboduc, a narrative which again warns of the perils involved in dividing a kingdom. Passages from the early play Gorboduc are included in this edition.