The Faerie Queene was the first epic in English and one of the most influential poems in the language for later poets from Milton to Tennyson. Dedicating his work to Elizabeth I, Spenser brilliantly united medieval romance and renaissance epic to expound the glory of the Virgin Queen. The poem recounts the quests of knights including Sir Guyon, Knight of Constance, who resists temptation, and Artegall, Knight of Justice, whose story alludes to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Composed as an overt moral and political allegory, The Faerie Queene, with its dramatic episodes of chivalry, pageantry and courtly love, is also a supreme work of atmosphere, colour and sensuous description.
Edmund Spenser (1552-99) is best known for The Faerie Queene, dedicated to Elizabeth I, and his sonnet sequence Amoretti and Epithalamion dedicated to his wife Elizabeth Boyle. Secretary to the Lord Deputy to Ireland, Spenser moved there in 1580 and remained there until near the end of his life, when he fled the Tyrone Rebellion in 1598. T.P. Roche is Professor of English at Princeton University and author of many books on Renaissance literature.