Both English language and English political life underwent unprecedented change in the sixteenth century, creating acute linguistic and legal crises that, in Elizabeth I's later years, intersected in the pioneering poetry of Edmund Spenser. This volume explores Spenser's linguistic experimentation and his engagement with political, and particularly legal, thought and language in his major works, demonstrating by thorough lexical analysis and illustrative readings how Spenser figured the nation both descriptively and prescriptively. As a study of the language of The Faerie Queene, the book restores Spenser to his rightful place as a bold but scholarly linguistic innovator, the equal of contemporaries such as Skelton, Shakespeare, Nashe, and Donne. As an enquiry into Spenser's interest in contemporary politics and law, it exposes his serial and contentious engagements in contemporary political theory and practice, and indicates his substantial influence on his contemporaries and successors. Spenser emerges in this book as a poet peculiarly preoccupied with fashioning, or `applying', his reader to the lawful use of words and deeds. ANDREW ZURCHER is Tutor and Director of Studies in English at Queens' College Cambridge.