top of page

SPEDCoaching Group

Public·21 members

The Influence of Petrarchism on Spenser's Sonnet Sequence Amoretti



The Petrarchan Context of Spenser's Amoretti




Edmund Spenser's Amoretti is one of the most celebrated sonnet sequences in English literature. Written in 1594-95 as a courtship gift for his future wife Elizabeth Boyle, the Amoretti consists of 89 sonnets that chronicle Spenser's love for her and culminate in their marriage on June 11, 1594. The Amoretti is widely admired for its lyrical beauty, poetic skill, thematic richness and emotional sincerity. However, to fully appreciate Spenser's achievement in the Amoretti, it is essential to understand its Petrarchan context.




The Petrarchan Context Of Spenser Amoretti avatares bustamante



Petrarchan context refers to the way Spenser engages with and responds to the tradition of love poetry initiated by Francesco Petrarca (1304-74), commonly known as Petrarch. Petrarch was an Italian poet who wrote hundreds of sonnets to his beloved Laura, whom he saw only twice in his life and who died young. Petrarch's Canzoniere, or songbook, became a model and a source of inspiration for many poets across Europe who imitated his style, themes and motifs. Petrarchan love poetry is characterized by a restless egotism, a paradoxical mixture of joy and sorrow, a constant pursuit of an idealized and unattainable lady, a refined language full of metaphors and conceits, and a complex structure based on rhyme schemes, meter and patterns.


In this article, I will argue that Spenser's Amoretti is both a tribute to and a critique of Petrarchan love poetry. On one hand, Spenser acknowledges his debt to Petrarch and other Petrarchan poets by adopting their form, borrowing their images and alluding to their works. On the other hand, Spenser challenges and criticizes the norms of Petrarchan love by presenting his own love as different from the typical Petrarchan lover's obsession. Spenser celebrates his love for Elizabeth Boyle as a mutual, reciprocal and realistic relationship that leads to marriage, which he portrays as a sacred harbor of rest. Spenser also shows his innovation and originality by combining elements from different sources and traditions, such as classical, biblical and contemporary references, and by experimenting with form, rhyme, meter and language. I will support my argument by analyzing some of the sonnets from the Amoretti and showing how they relate to the Petrarchan context.


Petrarchan love and its legacy




Petrarch is widely regarded as the father of humanism and the founder of the modern lyric. He was the first poet to write about his personal feelings and experiences in a new way that influenced generations of writers. He created a new concept of the self and a new way of writing about love that became known as Petrarchism.


Petrarch's Canzoniere is a collection of 366 poems, mostly sonnets, that he wrote over a period of more than 40 years. The poems are addressed to Laura, a woman he saw for the first time in a church in Avignon on April 6, 1327, and who died of the plague in 1348. Petrarch never revealed her identity or whether he ever spoke to her, but he idealized her as the epitome of beauty, virtue and grace. He also expressed his intense and conflicting emotions for her, ranging from admiration and devotion to frustration and despair. He depicted his love as a spiritual quest that led him to seek God's grace and salvation.


Petrarch's Canzoniere became a model and a source of inspiration for many poets across Europe who imitated his style, themes and motifs. Petrarchan love poetry became a dominant mode of expression in Renaissance Europe and influenced poets like Torquato Tasso in Italy, Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard in England, Pierre de Ronsard and Joachim du Bellay in France, Garcilaso de la Vega and Luis de Góngora in Spain, and William Shakespeare in England.


Petrarchan love poetry is characterized by some common themes, motifs and conventions, such as:



  • The lover's constant pursuit of an idealized and unattainable lady who is often cruel, distant or indifferent.



  • The lover's paradoxical mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, pleasure and pain.



  • The lover's restless egotism, self-analysis and introspection.



  • The lover's use of refined language full of metaphors, conceits, antitheses, oxymorons and hyperboles.



  • The lover's use of complex structure based on rhyme schemes, meter and patterns.



Some examples of Petrarchan sonnets are:



Sonnet 1 from Petrarch's Canzoniere You who hear the sound, in scattered rhymes, of those sighs on which I fed my heart, in my first vagrant youthfulness, when I was partly other than I am, I hope to find pity, and forgiveness, for all the modes in which I talk and weep, between vain hope and vain sadness, in those who understand love through its trials. Yet I see clearly now I have become an old tale amongst all these people, so that it often makes me ashamed of myself; and shame is the fruit of my vanities, and remorse, and the clearest knowledge of how the worlds delight is a brief dream.



Sonnet 190 from Shakespeare's Sonnets A womans face with Natures own hand painted Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion; A womans gentle heart, but not acquainted With shifting change, as is false womens fashion; An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling, Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth; A man in hue, all hues in his controlling, Much steals mens eyes and womens souls amazeth. And for a woman wert thou first created; Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting, And by addition me of thee defeated, By adding one thing to my purpose nothing. But since she prickd thee out for womens pleasure, Mine be thy love and thy loves use their treasure.


Spenser's critique of Petrarchism




Spenser's critique of Petrarchism




Spenser's Amoretti is both a tribute to and a critique of Petrarchan love poetry. On one hand, Spenser acknowledges his debt to Petrarch and other Petrarchan poets by adopting their form, borrowing their images and alluding to their works. On the other hand, Spenser challenges and criticizes the norms of Petrarchan love by presenting his own love as different from the typical Petrarchan lover's obsession. Spenser celebrates his love for Elizabeth Boyle as a mutual, reciprocal and realistic relationship that leads to marriage, which he portrays as a sacred harbor of rest. Spenser also shows his innovation and originality by combining elements from different sources and traditions, such as classical, biblical and contemporary references, and by experimenting with form, rhyme, meter and language. I will support my argument by analyzing some of the sonnets from the Amoretti and showing how they relate to the Petrarchan context.


One of the main ways that Spenser challenges and criticizes the norms of Petrarchan love is by rejecting the idea of the unattainable lady who is often cruel, distant or indifferent to the lover's advances. In contrast, Spenser portrays his beloved as a kind, gentle and responsive woman who shares his feelings and eventually agrees to marry him. For example, in sonnet 37, he writes:



What guyle is this, that those her golden tresses, She doth attyre under a net of gold: And with sly skill so cunningly them dresses, That which is gold or heare, may scarse be told? Is it that mens frayle eyes, which gaze too bold, She may entangle in that golden snare: And being caught may craftily enfold, Theyr weaker harts, which are not wel aware? Take heed therefore myne eyes how ye doe stare Henceforth too rashly on that guilefull net, In which if ever ye entrapped are, Out of her bands ye by no meanes shall get. Fondnesse it were for any being free, To covet fetters though they golden bee.


In this sonnet, Spenser uses a common Petrarchan conceit of comparing the lady's hair to a golden net that ensnares the lover. However, he also subverts this conceit by implying that his beloved does not intend to trap him with her beauty, but rather to adorn herself with modesty and grace. He warns his eyes not to stare too rashly on her hair, not because he fears her scorn or rejection, but because he respects her dignity and honor. He also suggests that he does not covet her fetters, but rather her freedom and consent. He values her as a person, not as an object of desire.


Another way that Spenser challenges and criticizes the norms of Petrarchan love is by rejecting the idea of the paradoxical mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, pleasure and pain that characterizes the lover's emotions. In contrast, Spenser portrays his love as a source of happiness, comfort, peace and joy that fills his heart with gratitude and praise. For example, in sonnet 68, he writes:



Most glorious Lord of lyfe that on this day Didst make thy triumph over death and sin: And having harrowd hell didst bring away Captivity thence captive us to win: This joyous day deare Lord with joy begin, And grant that we for whom thou diddest dye Being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin, May live for ever in felicity. And that thy love we weighing worthily, May likewise love thee for the same againe: And for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy, With love may one another entertayne. So let us love deare Love lyke as we ought, Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.


In this sonnet, Spenser uses a common Petrarchan conceit of comparing his love to a religious experience or a divine grace. However, he also subverts this conceit by implying that his love is not a mere imitation or reflection of God's love, but rather a participation and a response to it. He celebrates Easter as the day of his Lord's triumph over death and sin, and also as the day of his own triumph over his former state of misery and bondage. He thanks God for washing him from sin with his dear blood, and for buying him and his beloved with his love. He also prays that he and his beloved may love God and each other worthily, and that they may live forever in felicity. He affirms that love is the lesson that the Lord taught him, and that he is eager to learn it.


Spenser's innovation and originality




Spenser's Amoretti is not only a critique of Petrarchan love poetry, but also an innovation and an originality. Spenser combines elements from different sources and traditions, such as classical, biblical and contemporary references, and experiments with form, rhyme, meter and language to create his own style and voice in his sonnet sequence.


One of the ways that Spenser combines elements from different sources and traditions is by using classical, biblical and contemporary references to enrich his sonnets and make them relevant for his audience. For example, in sonnet 15, he writes:



Ye tradefull Merchants that with weary toyle, Do seeke most pretious things to make your gain: And both the Indias of their treasures spoile, What needeth you to seeke so farre in vaine? For loe my love doth in her selfe containe All this worlds riches that may farre be found, If Saphyres, loe her eies be Saphyres plaine, If Rubies, loe hir lips be Rubies sound: If Pearles, hir teeth be pearles both pure and round; If Yvorie, her forhead yvory weene; If Gold, her locks are finest gold on ground; If Silver, her faire hands are silver sheene, But that which fairest is but few behold, Her mind adornd with vertues manifold.


In this sonnet, Spenser uses a common Petrarchan conceit of comparing the lady's body parts to precious stones and metals. However, he also subverts this conceit by implying that his beloved is not only a collection of jewels, but also a person of virtue and worth. He addresses the merchants who seek precious things in faraway lands, such as the Indies, which were the source of exotic goods and wealth in the Renaissance. He tells them that they need not seek so far in vain, for his love contains all this world's riches in herself. He then lists some of the jewels that correspond to her eyes, lips, teeth, forehead, locks and hands. He also uses classical names for some of the stones, such as sapphires and rubies, which were associated with the planets Saturn and Mars respectively. He also uses biblical references for some of the metals, such as gold and silver, which were symbols of wisdom and purity respectively. He then concludes by saying that the fairest thing about his beloved is her mind adorned with virtues manifold, which few people can see or appreciate.


Another way that Spenser experiments with form, rhyme, meter and language is by using different rhyme schemes, meters and patterns to achieve poetic effects and express his emotions. For example, in sonnet 75, he writes:



One day I wrote her name upon the strand, But came the waves and washed it away: Agayne I wrote it with a second hand, But came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray. Vayne man sayd she that doest in vaine assay, A mortall thing so to immortalize, For I my selve shall lyke to this decay, And eek my name bee wyped out lykewize. Not so quod I , let baser things devize To dy in dust , but you shall live by fame: My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, And in the heavens wryte your glorious name. Where whenas death shall all the world subdew, Our love shall live , and later life renew.


Another way that Spenser experiments with form, rhyme, meter and language is by using different rhyme schemes, meters and patterns to achieve poetic effects and express his emotions. For example, in sonnet 75, he writes:



One day I wrote her name upon the strand, But came the waves and washed it away: Agayne I wrote it with a second hand, But came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray. Vayne man sayd she that doest in vaine assay, A mortall thing so to immortalize, For I my selve shall lyke to this decay, And eek my name bee wyped out lykewize. Not so quod I , let baser things devize To dy in dust , but you shall live by fame: My verse your vertues rare shall eternize, And in the heavens wryte your glorious name. Where whenas death shall all the world subdew, Our love shall live , and later life renew.


In this sonnet, Spenser uses a different rhyme scheme from the usual Petrarchan or Shakespearean sonnet. He uses a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE , which creates a more complex and varied sound pattern. He also uses iambic pentameter as the meter for most of the lines, except for lines 9 and 13 , which are trochaic pentameter. This creates a contrast between the first eight lines , which are spoken by the lady , who has a pessimistic view of life and death , and the last six lines , which are spoken by the speaker , who has an optimistic view of love and immortality. He also uses archaic spellings and words , such as agayne , tyde , pray , assay , eek , quod , devize , eternize , wryte and subdew , to create a sense of antiquity and authority.


Conclusion




In conclusion, Spenser's Amoretti is a remarkable sonnet sequence that deserves more attention and appreciation than it has received. Spenser's Amoretti is both a tribute to and a critique of Petrarchan love poetry. Spenser acknowledges his debt to Petrarch and other Petrarchan poets by adopting their form, borrowing their images and alluding to their works. However, he also challenges and criticizes the norms of Petrarchan love by presenting his own love as different from the typical Petrarchan lover's obsession. Spenser celebrates his love for Elizabeth Boyle as a mutual, reciprocal and realistic relationship that leads to marriage, which he portrays as a sacred harbor of rest. Spenser also shows his innovation and originality by combining elements from different sources and traditions, such as classical, biblical and contemporary references, and by experimenting with form, rhyme, meter and language. Spenser's Amoretti contributes to the history and development of English poetry and literature by offering a new perspective on love, marriage and poetry.


FAQs





  • What is Petrarchan context?



  • Petrarchan context refers to the way Spenser engages with and responds to the tradition of love poetry initiated by Francesco Petrarca (1304-74), commonly known as Petrarch.



  • What are some of the common themes, motifs and conventions of Petrarchan love poetry?



  • Some of the common themes, motifs and conventions of Petrarchan love poetry are: the lover's constant pursuit of an idealized and unattainable lady who is often cruel, distant or indifferent; the lover's paradoxical mixture of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, pleasure and pain; the lover's restless egotism, self-analysis and introspection; the lover's use of refined language full of metaphors, conceits, antitheses, oxymorons and hyperboles; the lover's use of complex structure based on rhyme schemes, meter and patterns.



  • How did Spenser challenge and criticize the norms of Petrarchan love in his Amoretti?



  • Spenser challenged and criticized the norms of Petrarchan love by presenting his own love as different from the typical Petrarchan lover's obsession. Spenser celebrated his love for Elizabeth Boyle as a mutual, reciprocal and realistic relationship that led to marriage, which he portrayed as a sacred harbor of rest.



  • How did Spenser combine elements from different sources and traditions in his Amoretti?



  • Spenser combined elements from different sources and traditions, such as classical, biblical and contemporary references, to enrich his sonnets and make them relevant for his audience.



  • How did Spenser experiment with form, rhyme, meter and language in his Amoretti?



  • Spenser experimented with form, rhyme, meter and language by using different rhyme schemes, meters and patterns to achieve poetic effects and express his emotions. He also used archaic spellings and words to create a sense of antiquity and authority.



71b2f0854b


About

Welcome to the group! You can connect with other members, ge...
bottom of page