Edmund Spenser vs Virgil and Ariosto Some scholars believe Spenser did not have sufficient education to compose a work with as much complexity as The Faerie Queene, while others are still “extolling him as one of the most learned men of his time”. Scholar Douglas Bush agrees, “scholars now speak less certainly that they once did of his familiarity with ancient literature”. In contrast, Meritt Hughes “finds no evidence that Spenser derived any element of his poetry from any Greek Romance”. Several questions still remain unanswered: Was Edmund Spenser as “divinely inspired” to write The Faerie Queene as Virgil and Ariosto were in their works? Or did Spenser simply lack creativity, causing him to steal his storylines from…show more content… Another scholar testified that both Ariosto and Spenser did not observe Virgil’s conception of an epic as ‘a unified account of a single hero’s career,’ but instead got lost in their concentrations on wild, unnatural allegories that greatly displeased and ultimately confused the reader (1).
Spenser, who was referred to as the “English Virgil” by his contemporaries, was certainly influenced by Virgil’s success (Kennedy 717). The idea of modeling one’s career after Virgil’s is know as the rota Virgilli or cursus Virgilli, meaning “the Virgilian wheel or course” (717). It is explained in a four-line preface added to Renaissance editions of the Aeneid: ‘Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulates avena/ Carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi/ ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono,/ gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis’ (I am he who, after singing on the shepherd’s slender pipe and leaving the wood-side for the farmlands ever so much to obey their eager tenant; my work was welcome to the farmers, but now I turn to the sterner stuff on Mars)(717).
Virgil starts off writing the pastoral poem and ends with the epic. He begins his career with “shepherd’s slender pipe (the pastoral Eclogues), proceeds to the ‘farmlands’ (the didactic Georgics), and finally arrives at the ‘sterner stuff on Mars’ (the epic Aeneid)” (717). Spenser described his own career similarly in the first book of The Faerie Queene: ‘Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome