“The Fairy Queen” vs. The Faerie Queene


As I read the first two acts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I could not help but think of it as a bit of a satire of another work published around the same time: Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. Shakespeare’s work contrasts with Spenser’s on nearly every level, creating a series of humorous, parallel opposites. Whereas The Faerie Queene is a serious epic poem, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a lighthearted comedy. The Faerie Queene harshly denounces Catholicism; A Midsummer Night’s Dream embraces a variety of religions, ranging from classical mythology, to the worship of faeries (2.1.123), to Christianity—Catholic Christianity, no less (as we see expressed in Quince’s allusion to the Virgin Mary in 1.2.9).

In addition to these variations, Shakespeare’s “fairy queen,” Titania, is a much different character than Spenser’s is. Spenser’s faerie queen, Gloriana, colors but never actually appears in the poem, and remains a remote…

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