Since The Faerie Queene is one of my favorite pieces of literature, and because I have been blogging about it recently, I thought I would share with you some links to various sources that you can use to read the work.
Here is The Faerie Queene in its entirety, as Spenser wrote it. This is what I have been reading, since I have it in book form. The spelling looks daunting at first, but you get used to it after a while. In that time V and U were the same letter; V being used as a capital letter and at the beginning of words, and U elsewhere, in a Latinate fashion. Also this was apparently before the invention of the letter J, so if you come across the word ioy you’ll know what it’s talking about.
Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves is a great way to begin reading Spenser. This was my first introduction to The Faerie Queene, which I read for homeschool as part of a certain curriculum that my mother uses. Roy Maynard took the first book (The Legend of the Knight of the Red Cross) and updated the spelling, annotated the text, and added helpful explanations and questions to test if you are understanding the text. I highly recommend it, and even though it covers only the first part, it can give you the confidence to keep reading the rest.
Spenser’s works, with updated spelling – As far as I know, this version has not been published in print form, but you may read it online if you would rather have the updated spelling for the rest of The Faerie Queene after Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves. The index is a bit confusing; for Canto I of each book, click on the link to the title page of the desired book (e.g. “The Second Booke of the Faerie Queene. Contayning the Legend of Sir Guyon, or of Temperance.”).
Stories from the Faerie Queene – This is a book that was first published in 1897. It is a prose retelling of the entire poem, and is surprisingly accurate. I wouldn’t recommend it in place of Spenser’s original work, but it may be useful to read after you’ve read a portion of The Faerie Queene to see if you actually got it or not. But by no means should you read this instead of or before the real thing—it’s very watered down!
And finally, a disclaimer: It would be well to note that The Faerie Queene is not a fairy tale, and does contain a few passages that are less than decent (the prose retelling leaves these out, as far as I can tell). However, when read with a bit of discretion it is a magnificent piece of literature, and well-worth the reading.