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Compare Contrast Utopia and the Faerie Queen

Edmund Spenser was born around 1552 in London, England. His first three books of The Faerie Queen were published in 1590. All the 12 books of the Faerie Queen are in the classical epic style. Each book reveals the story of a knight, as related to a specific Christian virtue, and conveyed at the court of the Faerie Queen. The topic on which effort is made to compare and contrast, with that of Utopia by Sir Thomas More is Religion, as it was practiced during the periods related in respective works of literature.

Though the action of the story of The Faerie Queen takes place in a mythical land, it relates to Spencer’s England of religion, the post-Reformation England. Protestantism (Anglicanism) had replaced Roman Catholicism. Religious protests and conflicts were common. “A devout Protestant and a devotee of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, Spenser was particularly offended by the anti-Elizabethan propaganda that some Catholics circulated. ”(Spark Notes….

The Faerie Queen, 1590…) According to Spenser, the Catholic Church was full of corruption and thus it was anti-religion. The Christian priests had only the dangling cross on their necks but not Christ in their hearts. The sentiments in the epic for the battles of The Faerie Queens actually refer to the “battles” between Rome and London pertaining to religious beliefs and practices. The evils of Roman Catholic Church are highlighted in the book through the character of Duessa.

How external beauty, which is only skin deep has nothing to do with the internal beauty is shown through the actions of Duessa. In the concluding part of the story the truth about Dussea is revealed; she is stripped of her all red clothing and a Persian headdress, and she turns out to be an ugly witch, who is a representative of all things evil. Spenser has intelligently used this character to highlight the evil practices of Roman Catholicism prevailing in his era.

Spenser died on January 13, 1599, at Westminster, while continuing to work on his voluminous poem. Sir Thomas More-Utopia: Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516. The religion of the utopians is broad based and seems to accommodate every point of view, unlike the die-hard approaches of Catholicism or Protestants mentioned in The Fairie Queen. According to the wise ones among the Utopians, life is lived in its trials & tribulations, duty & beauty- and everything happens, as it should, with the grace of the Supreme Power.

Multiplicity of religions and beliefs was the hallmark of the society. It was not uncommon for every town to have special religious set up of its own. “And indeed, though they differ concerning other things, yet all agree in this, that they think there is one Supreme Being that made and governs the world, which they call in the language of their country Mithras……. Him they call the Father of All, and acknowledge that the beginnings, the increase, the progress, the vicissitudes, and the end of all things come only from Him” (More, Utopia….) This shows the magnanimity of utopians, as compared to the narrow-mindedness and intolerance of the Roman Catholicism practiced during the times of Spenser as vividly depicted by him in his work. It is stated above that Roman Catholicism as prevailed at the time of Spenser was engulfed in evils. Christianity in its pure form, as preached by Jesus Christ and in the utopian concepts of beliefs and religions, one finds many similarities. So when Christianity arrived, many of the utopians accepted it without any resistance, because they saw many things in common in their beliefs and practices, and Christianity.

The important issue to be noted here is, the revelations of all divine personalities transcend the mind-barrier and as such there are no conflicts. Conflicts arise when the mind-level religious preachers try to interpret such revelations as per their level of thinking. Two minds can hardly agree with each other, whereas two divine souls do not see conflicts anywhere because they ravel in the conflict-free, tension-free land of bliss! Inter-religious conflicts were common during the period of both the authors.

Such conflicts assume serious dimensions when they have to encounter the harsh political authority. A devout Catholic, More was beheaded as a martyr in 1535, as he was opposed to the principle of the Anglican Church and the King of England’s role as the head of the Church (replacing the Pope in Rome). More was a Catholics Humanist and he paid the ultimate price for writing Utopia, a work of satire, in which he criticized Europe’s political corruption and religious hypocrisy.

References Cited:

SparkNotes: The Faerie Queene: Context -The first three books of The Faerie Queen were published in 1590 and then republished with Books IV through VI in 1596. www. sparknotes. com/poetry/fqueen/context. html – 30k,. Retrieved on February 14, 2009 Utopia by Thomas More 1516- Utopia: TABLE OF CONTENTS. Book I • Book II • oregonstate. edu/instruct/phl302/texts/more/utopia-contents. html – 2k –Retrieved on February 14,2009.

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