Faerie Queene: The Jousting Plain

The Jousting Plain: game design and remediation of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

 

Background

The Faerie Queene: Book 3, Canto 1, Sections 4-12

In the beginning of the Faerie Queene Book 3, Sir Guyon and Prince Arthur are journeying together and come across an open plain, upon which they encounter Britomart. “At last as through an open plaine they yode,/They spide a knight, that towards pricked faire,” (Book 3, Canto 1, Stanza 4). Sir Guyon immediately squares off against her, prompting a joust where Sir Guyon is defeated. His companions make excuses for his loss by blaming (in the poem) the horse and Sir Guyon’s equipment. Sir Guyon’s pride is satisfied, and the group is reconciled to Britomart, joining her to continue into the forest.

Overview / Location

To the North of the Classroom is the first area of the game: the Jousting Plain. A open, grassy area, the Jousting Plain is limited by hills and trees in order to keep the player moving forward in his/her quest. The area serves to introduce the player to basic fighting and interaction with other characters as they move along the path in order to continue the narrative. In this section, the player acts as the character Sir Guyon, entering along with several companions as they journey. The area is designed as a mostly open, bright area, set along a path where the player interacts with the Palmer, a knight, Prince Arthur, and Britomart.

1468625_10153523240230134_1195803516_n

NPCs

  • The Palmer-plain man who introduces the player to the area.
  • A Knight-unspecified initial character to introduce combat
  • Prince Arthur-In knight’s garb; Sir Guyon’s companion, acts as a narrator in the scenes.
  • Britomart-A woman who has taken on the guise of a knight.

Quests

  • An initial joust (battle) to set up game mechanics
  • Joust with Britomart

Narrative

http://youtu.be/ndwTs8Mujnk

Upon entering the Jousting Plain, the player finds the first NPC next to them, the Palmer. The Palmer, in the poem, is a companion of Sir Guyon. In medieval tradition, a palmer was a person who had completed a journey to Jerusalem as a religious quest. In this scenario, the Palmer serves to introduce the player to the jousting area and challenges him/her to take on an initial joust, telling the player,

“Greetings, Sir Guyon, I’m here to tell you that you have been challenged to a joust!”

“A joust you say?”

“A joust indeed! This may be a chance to hone your skills. You never know when you will need to joust unexpectedly.”

The player has an option to pick either, “Yes, bring him forth,” or “No, I need no practice.” If the player chooses the former, another NPC, a knight, appears and attacks the player, giving them a chance to determine the rules of fighting and using commands.

After defeating the NPC, the player continues forward in the Jousting Plain. Prince Arthur, the companion of Sir Guyon, is in armor and is designed to introduce the player to the next fight against Britomart, saying “Sir, I spotted a knight with a strange spear some time ago. I would move with caution.”

http://youtu.be/72cYKKTv8SE

Once the player moves on, Britomart approaches and interacts (had the programming work, this would have resulted in a fight that the player cannot win.)

“Have at thee!”

“Let us fight!”

Sir Guyon’s response to his inability to defeat Britomart is, “I am dishonoured, I would rather die than be defeated.”

Prince Arthur tells the player, “Do not be ashamed, Sir. The knight’s spear is enchanted, and your equipment is at fault. Do not tempt fortune by fighting this knight.”

The player chooses to surrender with, “Very well, I am pacified.” The player interacts with Britomart and learns who she is, “I am Britomart of Britain, on a quest to find my lover. I will join you in your journey.” The player can then move on to the next section in the game.

 

Logan Wilke, Matt Eller, Jesse Huang

Faerie Queene? Give me 30 seconds

Don’t fret. The old English language, haughty and portentous style, in combination with the straightforward and painfully obvious allusions and metaphorical characters is bound to confuse any sensible reader. How could a book with such seemingly confusing language be so surprisingly simple in plot and depth?

Spenser’s Faerie Queene is impossible to describe. It is it’s own level of simplicity disguised in a shell of complexity and falsely hailed as the second coming of English literature. This book initially seems to be difficult to describe to any person, and this would be true, but I feel if I were to attempt to describe Faerie Queene to an IT professional or other mathematically wired brains I would be pleasantly surprised at how easy this task would prove to be. Faerie Queene is not only a predictable story but also the morals and lessons to be taken for the story are interlaced throughout the story in a manner one would expect from a children’s storybook. There is no creative element to such a regimented book and once one can understand the pattern there is nothing more to discover from a book written in such style. The book is so blatantly planned that I would compare it to an algorithm. By describing Faerie Queene as a program that at certain points must reinforce Christian morals and beliefs while denouncing the sins of the world, all the while attempting to mask this with confusing language (complicated programming interface), then I think an IT professional could grasp Faerie Queene with surprising speed.

 

By Aneel Henry

The Physical Nature of Poetry

If you are an IT professional, you are probably used to reading about computers, software, and other things of that nature. I am used to reading about science myself, and I always dread reading poetry because I can never understand what is going on. My attitude towards poetry was like that of one of my favorite physicists, Paul Dirac, who said, “The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way.” When you can understand it, poetry can be interesting, but I can seldom understand it without help. The Fairie Queene is an example of  incomprehensible poetry, that completely baffled me when I first read it. However, I gradually began to understand. Here are some tips that someone with a background of science can use to read The Fairie Queene:

1. Read each passage slowly, and read it at least twice

When read quickly, the poem seems like a haphazard jumble of strange words, without any meaning or discernable story. After multiple readings, sometimes you can pick up meanings or themes that you may have missed the first time.

2. Look up words that you do not understand

You cannot ignore words you do not know, just as when working an equation, you must look up constants that are necessary for calculations. Although you may think that skipping a word every now and then won’t affect your understanding of the poem, they can be crucial to it.

3. Understand the symbols

The poem is full of words that are not meant to be taken literally, but instead are symbols for something else. In science, equations are also full of letters or symbols that stand for a number or quantity. It is important to understand from the context what these symbols mean if you do not know what they are.

4. Get help from others

Sometimes, no matter how much you try, you cannot understand a passage. At this point, it is best to consult with a peer, someone who does understand the poem, sort of like having a science paper peer-reviewed by other scientists.

Like an extremely complicated equation, The Faerie Queene takes a lot of effort to read or understand, and you may not even want to read it. If you do, however, these tips can help you enjoy and comprehend the poem a little bit better.

-Kashyap Saxena

It’s no “Questionable Content” or “Penny Arcade”, but…

Breon W. Guarino

(Wolfgang is not my middle name at all.)

 

“I’ve enjoyed this greatly. In all seriousness, I am thrilled with the prospect of continuing the process of pulling out the awkward (to my untrained mind), deeply-embedded, and persistent allegories of Spenser’s work. It is deep reading, almost as though one was slogging through a marsh made of candy and deliciousness that one must work for. It is like reading Shakespeare while under the influence of morphine, so utterly beautiful in its Middle English verbosity that it presents a massive buffet of purely enjoyable poetry, the likes of which that has not been seen in centuries, at the least.”

I wish I could say that with a straight face, but it should not be assumed that the accompanying grin is one of mischief. I’m not sure why, but I find a great joy in reading The Faerie Queene. It would not be dishonest to say that I aspire to find a copy and set about reading it myself. It may be some sort of academic masochism that causes this, or perhaps I simply want to be able to hold that accomplishment over the heads of any other English majors that I meet. In any case, I view it in the same way I viewed leveling in LotRO or writing stories.

It is a challenge. After all, it’s pretty rough getting through the convoluted Middle English terminology. There are letter sequences that I do not recognize, but the work of others before me has paved the way towards a slightly more accessible understanding of the material. In a sense, working on The Faerie Queene is like using open-source software, in that the efforts of several people (at least hundreds if not thousands, in the case of The Faerie Queene) have come together to make the original basis more useful to an everyday user that happens across it. It would be a serious personal accomplishment to read through the entirety of it, and there is a certain pleasure to noticing the way that the spoken English language has changed in five hundred years. It’s akin to pillaging the archive of a long-running webcomic and watching as the author develops his or her skills, except that it is AN ENTIRE LANGUAGE that is being developed over the course of CENTURIES. Besides that, a reader can see the perspective of an entirely alien society within the pages. Things have changed since the time period in which the work was made, but the blunt allegory of the poetry was effective in its purposes during its original time, and it makes one wonder about situations and events that could have changed the perspectives of that day to become those of ours.

I would wager that, in the end, I’d say to an IT professional the same thing that I would say to anyone else interesting about reading this work (because I doubt strongly that we would be discussing it otherwise). It’s an interesting piece of work with its own rewards for reading it, it’s proving to be as challenging (or perhaps even more challenging) than I anticipated, and I heartily enjoy that fact to the point that I look forward to continuing it. It is a matter of perspective, and it requires a rather specialized mindset, but it has proven to be highly interesting for me, if nothing else.

The Joy of Reading Spenser’s Poetry

– Matt Almeida

When first sitting down to write this blog I was asking myself, why am I telling Professor Hall about my experiences? I’m sure he knows more about English than I do  as he does indeed teach the class I am in, and did he not say having read Spenser’s The Faerie Queene  is like wearing badge of honor? Perhaps he should be telling me about reading The Faerie Queene, but regardless I shall discuss my experiences. I assume other IT professionals have much less interest in or knowledge of Spenser’s poetry. Also, sorry Professor but after reading just a few cantos I have no desire to acquire this badge of honor you spoke so highly of.  

Well what can I say? Reading parts of this complex, lengthy, ridiculous excuse for a poem was more or less like slamming my head into a wall. Repeatedly. I was debating whether or not it was less enjoyable than playing LOTRO, and I think I’ve made it clear through my blogs that I thoroughly do not enjoy LOTRO. It wasn’t even close. I would rather be locked in a room playing LOTRO for a weekend then read Spenser for an hour. At least I would be able to level my character up, and that’s always a plus as I don’t really see anything to gain from reading Spenser’s barely coherent poetry.

Spencer’s words are just so hard to read and the poem is very difficult to get through for a few reasons. From just looking at the poem you can see that the English is not quite what us 21st century folk are used to. We were told it was slightly more difficult than Shakespeare, but I’d say it’s a bit more than only slightly more difficult. Granted, I have seen some Old English such as that written in Beowulf, and Spenser is not nearly as difficult. The Old English barely even looks like letters, more like symbols, and at least Spenser uses normal English letters in his poetry. But regardless the words which he uses are often beyond my immediate comprehension. Spenser switches up certain letters and spells words in alternative forms that are not always instantly recognizable. This makes for not only a very slow read but also a very painful and un-enjoyable one. On top of that Spenser uses ridiculous words that sometimes don’t even make the slightest bit of sense. I weet (apparently this means know?) some words or can figure them out but even that is sometimes impossible which is why notes are often provided. It’s not even as if I can use dictionary.com or some other useful technology as these words seem to not exist anymore, only in Spenser’s fantastic world of poetry.

Spenser not only uses this complex and confusing version of the English language in his poetry, but he also writes in an incredibly complex manner and ties in deep meaning to all his cantos. He is writing poetry and he uses a specific rhyming scheme. I often felt when reading the poem some words were forced or altered in some way to make a rhyme, further adding to the confusion of the poem. Additionally, the poem seems to jump around a lot. There are a few different story lines going on and Spenser jumps back and forth between them, making the poetry not always easy to follow. Also, it appears that Spenser was a crazy smart guy who just couldn’t find enough things to tie into his poem. After going through all the various allegories today in class I felt as if my head was about to explode. We had such difficulty picking up on and noticing these allegories and I’m sure we didn’t even see half of them. As was noted in class each symbol in Spenser’s poetry has more than one meaning and has ties to more than one thing. All these allegories were pretty overwhelming and to think Spenser actually wrote this stuff with all those ideas in his head prior to actually writing them is almost unfathomable. To fully understand Spenser’s poetry, you must pick up on and explore these allegories as they provide a much deeper meaning to the poetry. This just further piles on to the agony and frustration that comes with reading The Faerie Queene. I think I’ll go play LOTRO now. Just kidding.

The Faerie Queene For Techies

So….you’re about to read The Faerie Queene. You’ve got your book (or more likely Kindle) ready to go, and then you look at the file size, the terrible, terrible  spelling, and the tiny print, and you shut that book, and decide to ask SparkNotes instead. Well, Professor Clayton knows about SparkNotes, and the stuff you get there won’t be on the test. That being said, here’s a better guide to getting you through the longest poem ever written in the English language.

  1. Reading the Farie Queene is an interesting experience, for one. The language is not quite Shakespeare, not quite Chaucer, and to say that it is not quite spell checked  would be an understatement. However, there is a meter to the words, and once you get the hang of it, the road to understanding what Spenser is trying to tell you is only marginally bumpy. Reading aloud works; it slows you down so you have time to understand one line before reading the next. The footnotes and word replacements help too, even if they mess up your reading rhythm.
  2. Now that you can read the words, it’s time to figure out what you’re reading, and trust me, it’s about as far away from C++ as you can get. The Faerie Queene is, on the surface, a poem and a story, but a heavily allegorical one that uses characters, places, and events (sometimes not so subtly, either) to impart messages. Spenser’s messages are mostly concerned with the nature and different facets of virtue, along with praising Elizabeth I far too much for her own good. He’ll often link events in his stories back to classical mythology, but doesn’t always make the connection obvious. For example, the impregnation of Chrysogene, mother of Belphoebe and Amoret, takes place via a ray of sunshine, which connects her to both the Virgin Mary and Danae, a figure from Greek mythology who experienced the same thing. Or, take this allegorical chain of symbols for Elizabeth: Belpheobe’s name comes from Diana, the chaste warrior maiden, who is goddess of the moon, another name for which is Cynthia, which is a name Sir Walter Raleigh sometimes used for Elizabeth–so really, Belphoebe = Elizabeth I! Does this seem convoluted to you? Well, too bad. Spenser’s audience, the Renaissance-educated nobility of England, expected stuff like this in everything they read: deeper meanings, double, triple and quadruple connections, and thin or complex metaphors were searched for in nearly every word an author wrote. Spenser did not disappoint on this expectation, and as a result there are still books and dissertations and whatnot being published on him today.
  3. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Go on, open up SparkNotes. It’s ok, I won’t tell Professor Clayton. Now, read the canto summary. Doesn’t that feel just great? You’re reading modern, spellchecked English words written by someone who is still alive. AND you know what’s going on in the canto, which means it’s time to close that lovely Mozilla window and return to the Kindle. Getting a summary before you do the reading can be useful; when a new character appears out of the blue or something new happens, you’re not totally thrown by trying to process all of the story events, allegories, and language at the same time. Since you are pre-informed, you can focus on the language itself and the more nuanced bits in the plotline.  Just be sure to keep an eye peeled! There’s way more to the poem than can be covered by a single page summary, even if it is on SparkNotes.
  4. Lastly, enjoy yourself. If you sit there and make the reading a drudgery, it will be one. Instead, picture the forest, or Britomart saving the Redcrosse Knight, like a movie, or even think about how awesome  different scenes might look when remediated to the Faerie Queene Online game. If you can engage yourself and take an interest in what’s happening, then you don’t need any other advice.

Dacia

Spenser for Dummies

Viciously, wrathfully, they descended upon him, surrounding him on all sides. Weariness began to spread through his aching arms, and the breath came from his mouth in short, shallow spurts, but he refused to give up. Blood gushing from his sides, he continued to deftly deal blows onto his attackers. Every time he made a move, wreaking a storm of violent wrath in his wake, they recoiled, death flashing before their eyes.

Now, we will read another account of this same incident, rendered in a different style:

“Mainly they all attonce upon him laid,

And sore beset on every side around,

That nigh he breathless grew, yet nought dismaid,

Ne ever to the yielded foot of ground

All had he lost much bloud through many a wound

But stoutly dealt his blowes, and every way

To which he turned in his wrathfull stound,

Made them recoile, and fly from dred decay,

That none of all sixe before, him durst assay.”

The second passage, an excerpt from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, is wrought in a style so eloquent, so timeless, that it defies replication. It is a relic of a beautiful, long-forgotten way of speaking that has all but disappeared, erased by centuries of linguistic upheavals and sullied by the informality of modern slang.

But there’s one little problem: what, exactly, is Spenser trying to say???

There’s no doubt about it: in terms of sheer readability, the first passage wins hands-down. However beautiful Spenser’s prose may be, it’s not exactly ideal for your typical lounge-on-the-beach or curl-up-by-the-fireplace sort of book. Reading the The Faerie Queene is no light endeavor. I’m not just referring to the fact that the poem is of mammoth proportions, as large and as cumbersome as a high school science textbook. Rather, the biggest challenge reading Spenser lies in achieving basic comprehension. Slowly, painstakingly, the reader is forced to trudge through line after line of archaic Old English, struggling to uncover meaning somewhere within that jumbled heap of peculiarly-spelled words and outdated vocabulary (um, since when does “yode” mean “went”?). Even with a handy vocabulary bank, I still often find it necessary to stop and re-read (and even re-re-read) certain stanzas just to figure out what the heck is going on.

In this sense, The Faerie Queene, although undeniably eloquent, doesn’t exactly engage or immerse the reader as much as, say, Harry Potter would. In my opinion, reading Spenser feels more like piecing together a puzzle or solving a math problem than anything else; I spend too much time fumbling over the language to become fully engrossed in the storyline. But this could be because I am a decidedly right-brained individual who cowers at the idea of basic math computation. Discerning codes and patterns was always my demise on the Math portion of the SAT. Sudoku? No thank you.

On the other hand, someone like an ITS programmer—someone who is science-oriented and familiar with the complex language of computer processing—might gladly accept the challenge of decoding the bewildering, quirky language of The Faerie Queene. Aided with a math and science background, such a person would be more adept at picking up on the subtle nuances and patterns of Old English than a math wimp like me. Surely, if you are able to read binary code, decoding Spenser will be a breeze.

So, Professor Hall, perhaps you could be persuaded to take pity on a math-and-puzzle-challenged soul and make another one your impressive educational YouTube videos, this time entitled “Spenser for Dummies.”

-Anna Dickens