Donne's Parody of the Petrarchan Lady

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Donne's "Parody" of the Petrarchan Lady Author(s): Silvia Ruffo-Fiore Reviewed work(s): Source: Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Dec., 1972), pp. 392-406 Published by: Penn State University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 19/02/2013 04:17 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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Donne's "Parody" of the Petrarchan Lady

ABSTRACT The typical Petrarchan apotheosis of the lady mixes Neoplatonic idealiztion with religious analogy. Yet, Petrarch's often humanized portrayal suggests that he did not fully accept the exalted view of the lady. John Donne extends Petrarch's approach of probing the inadequacies of this ideal. Donne's method in "Womans Constancy," "Communitie," and "The Indifferent" undercuts the oversimplified view of innovative revolt. A réévaluation of his parodie and satiric devices traditionally thought as directed against Petrarchan absolutes supports a modified view of his realism and cynicism. Often Donne's speakers surfacely appear to ridicule Petrarchan ideals; but beneath the virtuosity of the cynical mask, possibly one of Donne's contributions to the Petrarchist tradition, one speaker betrays his secret affiliation with the ideal, another wistfully desires a return to it, while another with faulty logic undermines his seemingly sincere argument for its demolishment. Donne's approach to Petrarch is unique, for he neither accepts the ideal with Petrarchist imitation, nor does he deny it with satiric attack. While offering a speaker who seems to do one while actually doing the other, he satirizes the abuse of the ideal, redefining it in an enlarged range of experience. (SRF)

The dominant characteristic of Petrarch'sCanzoniere is constancy to the lady. His idealized notion of the lady nurtures his constancy despite the prospect of continued rejection. Petrarch builds the details of his exaltation of Lauraon a scaffolding of fiction and personal myth. The imaginative terms used to define her birthplace, origin, and residence combined with her exceptional beauty and ennobling influence all contribute to creating Laura'sapotheosized image. The place where she was born and lived is described as an arcadianparadise, as seen in the famous canzone "Chiare,fresche et dolci acque." Often he pictures her in the open-air setting of grass, trees, and flowers- an earthly Eden.1 Among the other phenomena of nature she is a spectacle of supreme perfection. Petrarch perpetuates Laura'smythic quality by conveying her origin through the use of astrological imagery. As "un spirto gentil di paradiso," her 392

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birth was accompanied by the appearance of favorable stars; in fact, she herself is a star on earth: Bénigne stelle che compagne fersi Al fortunato fiancho Quando '1 bel parto giu' nel mondo scorse! Ch'e' stella in terra . . . (XXIX)2

In sonnets IX and CCXIX he portrays her as a child of the whole universe and as a sun in her own right. Petrarch'spraise of the lady's beauty mixes Neoplatonic idealization and religious analogy, as in sonnet CC. But sonnet CCXV offers the finest Petrarchanexpression...
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