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to show in an allegory the conflict between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, self-indulgence and selfcontrol. The different personages of the story represent the abstract virtues and vices; and the general purpose of the poem is " to fashion a perfect gentleman by exhibiting a pattern of noble manhood and by showing the beauty of goodness and its final triumph. The poem is a long one, its six completed books occupying approximately four hundred pages of ninety lines each. In the first book, Falsehood, or Duessa, is overthrown, and the Red Cross Knight, the "righteous man," is united to truth, or Una. The remaining books are devoted to man's conquest of himself; to the conflict between his higher and his lower nature. But besides showing the general warfare between good and evil, which is common to all times, Spenser aimed to portray the specific form which that conflict had taken in his own age. The allegory is thus confused and complicated by the introduction of contemporary issues. Thus the struggle between the saintly Una and the dissembling Duessa represents both the eternal warfare between Truth and Falsehood, and the contemporary struggle between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. From time to time we dimly perceive the image of some great personage under this double veil of allegory, of Mary, Queen of Scots, of Lord Grey, or Sir Philip Sidney, until, in pure bewilderment, we often abandon all attempt to follow the poet's inner meaning and wander careless and delighted as in a world of dreams.

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The Poet of Beauty. Indeed, Spenser's poetry is memorable to-day for its descriptive beauty, its music, its wonderful richness and fluency of poetic utterance, rather than for the strength of its story or for its appli

cability to life. Spenser lacked the dramatic instinct, and therefore his poem is, as a narrative, a failure. But this is not to deny it other merits. Spenser's genius was essentially pictorial; and in the Faërie Queene we are fascinated by the beauty, splendor, gloom, or grotesqueness, of a slowly moving pageant. It is, as some one called it, "a gallery of pictures." Spenser was a student of Plato, with a touch of Puritan severity; but he had, above all, the warm and beauty-loving temper of the Renaissance. Although there are passages that sound like trumpet-calls to high endeavor, passages full of lofty enthusiasm and of deep spiritual insight, the prevailing mood of the poem is that of sensuous delight in color, form, and music. No poet before Spenser had called out such sweet and stately music from our English speech, and none had so captivated by an appeal to the pure sense of beauty. Both of these elements are to be found in almost any stanza:

"And more to lulle him in his slumber soft,

A trickling streame from high rock tumbling downe,
And ever-drizling raine upon the loft,

Mixt with a murmuring winde, much like the sowne
Of swarming Bees, did cast him in a swowne.

No other noyse, nor peoples troublous cryes,
As still are wont t' annoy the walled towne,

Might there be heard; but carelesse Quiet lyes
Wrapt in eternall silence farre from enimyes." 1

1 This quotation is an example of the famous Spenserian stanza, a poetic form invented by Spenser and since used by some of the greatest of English poets. The student should examine its structure, the number of accents in each line, the sequence of the rimes, - and should note particularly the length of the last line, which is called an Alexandrine. It is upon this last line, which prolongs the sound and seems at the same time to give unity and finish to the whole, that much of the music of the stanza depends.

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These qualities make Spenser "the poet's poet." With him the mind can enter the land of faërie, the realm of dreams, and, luxuriating in beauty, steep itself in forgetfulness of the world's harsh and ugly realities. Though Spenser's remoteness from life makes his poetry less effective and less satisfying as the mind matures, we can always find in its loveliness a refreshing stimulus to the imagination, and the calming, refining influence of exquisite art.


Shakespeare is so much a part of our English civilization, we accept his gift to us so easily, and are so familiar with his greatness, that it is well to remind ourselves of his place as the king of all literature. Thomas Carlyle wrote of him: "I think the best judgment, not of this country only but of Europe at large, is pointing to the conclusion that Shakespeare is the chief of all poets hitherto; the greatest intellect, who, in our recorded world, has left a record of himself in the way of literature; " and Emerson says, speaking for our own branch of the English people: "Of all books dependent upon their intrinsic excellence, Shakespeare is the one book of the world. Out of the circle of religious books, I set Shakespeare as the one unparalleled mind." Criticism cannot explain how or why the country-bred son of a Warwickshire trader should have possessed this supreme gift; it is the miracle of genius; but we can partly understand how surrounding conditions favored the expression of Shakespeare's genius through a dramatic form. Let us look at Shakespeare in the light of some of those surroundings in which his genius worked.

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Shakespeare Part of a Dramatic Period. Shakespeare lived in the midst of one of the world's few great dramatic periods - a period equaled only, if equaled at all, by the greatest epoch in the drama of Greece. The Elizabethan drama was more than a national amusement. More fully than any other form of literary or artistic expression, it interpreted and satisfied the craving of the time for vigorous life and action. The theater was then, as in classic Greece, a national force, and a means of national education. An immense popular impulse was back of the Elizabethan dramatist. The wooden playhouses were daily filled with turbulent crowds, and scores of playwrights were busy supplying the insatiable public with countless dramas. Shakespeare was sustained by a hearty, if not always a discriminating, appreciation; he was stimulated by the fellowship, or rivalry, of a host of competitors. The number of readers was still small; there were few bookbuyers outside of a little coterie of noblemen and scholars. Under these conditions it was impossible to make a living by writing unless one wrote for the stage. It was the dramatist who enjoyed the public patronage, the dramatist who received the most substantial rewards; and an almost irresistible current impelled young literary aspirants, the men of genius and the men of talent, to choose the dramatic form.

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Preparation for the Elizabethan Drama. At first sight, this dramatic activity may seem to have sprung suddenly into being in answer to a new popular demand. The first regular tragedy was produced about the time of Shakespeare's birth, and he was twelve years old before the first theater was erected in England (1576).

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But the passion for life and action did not create the Elizabethan drama out of nothing; it rather transformed

and adapted to its use a drama which had for centuries been an important part of the nation's life. This drama, brought into England some time after the Norman Conquest, had its origin in the Church; and as the Church

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services were in Latin, the drama was at first in Latin also. For a long time it dealt exclusively with religious and moral themes, and had grown out of the need which the Church felt for some means of popular religious instruction. It was not regular drama, but existed at

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