The Shepheardes Calender

by Edmund Spenser

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Analysis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Shepheardes Calendar is a series of allegorical poems written by Edmund Spenser in 1579. There is one poem for each month, and each is narrated by a shepherd who ruminates on life and the issues of the day. Each poem is written in a different poetic style, and thus early critics considered the work more for its form than its themes and content, believing the work to be an experimentation in verse. Later scholars focused more on content, however, and on identifying unifying themes and metaphors.

Many scholars believe that, in writing The Shepheardes Calendar, Spenser was deliberately trying to create a new literary tradition. Because the shepherds ruminated on life and experience in the time they lived, Spencer used these narrators to offer perspectives on the social concerns of the era. Critics say that The Shepheardes Calendar marks a turning point in literary history and signals the beginning of the English Renaissance. For the first time, an author used literary expression as a form of social commentary. By using the poetic form as a voice of the people, Spenser transformed the role of the poet and the relationship between the poet and his community.

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