Early Modern British Literature: Edmund Spenser and John Milton

Edmund Spenser and John Milton lived in an era of epic literature, with many of the themes and values espoused in their works a reflection of religious and political turmoil. Debates between Christian sects and the idea of Divine Right were common in the British political discourse.

Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser was born in London.  His date of birth is contested, but is put somewhere around 1552.  Though Spenser does have some recorded ancestry, his immediate familial origins are unclear.  He himself claimed lineage with the Spensers of Althorp (Hadfield, ODNB). In life, Spenser was a poet and administrator of Ireland. He attended Merchants Taylors’ school and then Cambridge University– specifically Pembroke College– until 1569 (Hadfield, ODNB).

Spenser was married to Maccabaeus Childe at St Margaret's on October 27th 1579. The couple would have two children before Maccabaeus died. In 1594 Spenser remarried to Elizabeth Boyle, and they had one child together. Spenser was appointed commissioner in Ireland in 1583, then prependary of Effin in 1585. In 1598, Spenser was appointed Sheriff of County Cork, Ireland, perhaps due to the lands under threat from O'Neill's forces (Hadfield, ODNB).  Edmund Spenser died January 13, 1599, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, near Chaucer– the corner that would soon become known as the Poets Corner (Hadfield, ODNB).

Spenser’s works include The Shepheardes Calender, Complaints, and The Faerie Queene.