Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be an academic to appreciate and even thoroughly enjoy Edmund Spenser's classic 16th-century epic poem The Faerie Queene, an allegorical work written in praise of Queen Elizabeth I, and detailing in precise and enchanting Spenserian stanzas the adventures a party of knights encounters while undertaking a quest for the titular "Faerie Queene".
Actor John Moffatt's deep, mellifluous voice accentuates the rich poetry of this enduring work, and he navigates very surely the rhythms of this famed epic. His pronunciation and pacing are nigh flawless, but even more, the energy he brings to this performance makes it easy to lean back and lose yourself in a fantastical realm of monsters, and adventure.
This remarkable poem, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, was Spenser's finest achievement: the first epic poem in modern English. The Faerie Queene combines dramatic narratives of chivalrous adventure with exquisite and picturesque episodes of pageantry. At the same time, Spenser is expounding a deeply-felt allegory of the eternal struggle between Truth and Error.
Public Domain (P)1998 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.; ©1998 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.
The description of this Audiobook should have mentioned that this recording only covers the FIRST of the six books of the Faerie Queene. Specifically: It only contains the story of the Redcrosse Knight. (Yes, in hindsight, I now see hints of trouble: i.e., the running time of the recording and the reference in the description to an allegory of truth and error.) Nevertheless, because it was billed as the FAERIE QUEENE (and not just one-sixth of it), I ordered the darned thing. To make matters worse, I burned it to CD, and for some reason Audible's conversion program skips not just words but whole stanzas so that I now have a bunch of fragments of one book of the FAERIE QUEENE, rather than the whole thing. I have fragments of a fragment. Joy, joy. Case in point: The CD I ended up with contains, nowhere in it, the most famous line of the poem -- the first one ("A gentle knight was pricking on the plain..."). It reads off the first three words of that line and then jumps down seven lines; the two parts don't connect at all. Several stanzas latter, there's another skip. Then another. All the way through the entire book. All four of the CDs I ran off in my attempts to make this work do the same thing, and no CDs I burn through other programs do this, so I'm pretty sure this one's Audible's responsibility. I will be trying to get a refund, but am not optimistic. This buyer didn't beware; you should.
Following on the other reviews, the reading is excellent and the introductory summaries of the cantos are useful. However, my copy seems to repeat some sections of canto 3. At 4 hours I knew this reading couldn't include the whole work, but that a significant section of what's here is the same thing twice is not a pleasant surprise.
Recommended by a literature professor-friend, this abridged edition of The Faerie Queene was the first Audible book I purchased and the reason I joined Audible.com. I was aware the story had been significantly truncated. As other reviewers noted, however, even the chosen sections were chopped, so it was hard to follow with a printed text. Still, for anyone who has four hours to spare and has never appreciated Spenser's classic, this is a great introduction for one compelling reason: the narration.
John Moffatt's read is lucid, well-paced and empathetic, the best one could hope for in rendering a historically distant story for a modern audience. Of course, I "studied" FQ in high school. then promptly flushed it from my consciousness. It was C.S. Lewis whose appreciation of and influence from Spenser sparked the desire to know this personally unappreciated work. So, even this abridged edition served to illuminate not only its author's original work, but also Milton's Paradise Lost, Lewis's stories and a whole bunch of English literature in-between.
This is an extremely interesting story, the narration is wonderful, and I am glad that I downloaded it. There are, however, some serious problems with this recording! Read the earlier reviewer for details.
It took me a while to warm up to Moffat's reading, which at first struck me as a bit stodgy, but after 20 minutes or so I found it very capable indeed, certainly in the top 20% of audiobook performances I've heard. Given the limitations of the original 3-CD set, however, I thought a better selection from the vast riches of "The Faerie Queene" could have been made.
While the poem is better known for gripping atmosphere than gripping action, Moffat certainly brings the action to life when the occasion arises.
Epic fantasy from Shakespeare's time.
Now that audiobooks are no longer purchased chiefly as LPs or CDs but rather as downloads, it is surely time for an unabridged audio edition of "The Faerie Queene," professionally narrated and produced.
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