English 1121 — Winter 2010
Literature and Composition II: Drama and Poetry
University of Ottawa
February 8th 2010
During the Elizabethan age, love sonnets were usually written by men communicating their love for unattainable women and displaying courtly love. However, Spenser’s Petrarchan sonnets from the Amoretti sequence break conventional love poetry in many ways and challenge the usual pessimist look at love to give it a buoyant look. Spenser then sets his own approach of love to the Amoretti sequence by describing his courtship and eventual marriage to the object of his love, Elizabeth Boyle. In sonnet 75, Edmund Spenser affirms that his love will not be ephemeral and that it will be immortalized through verse. By examining and analyzing this sonnet, the concept of love relates to the way it is portrayed in the whole Amoretti sequence. Through a genuine consummation of passion, recovery and persistence of the self, intense awareness of death, and immortalized love, Spenser invokes sixteenth century matters which try to delineate a new kind of married love.
Firstly, Spenser’s poetical theories differ from conventional love sonnets of the time. Appropriating Petrarch (1304-1374), he found new deviations and pushed original standards to newer boundaries. With his different approach of the love sonnet, the unattainable married mistress becomes the woman who is free and with whom the poet’s “erotic nature can be aroused without dishonour.”¹ Petrarch’s followers and many other poets of this century were longing for a sexually unavailable lover, bringing a conflict between spiritual and physical love because it is adulterous. Spenser’s Amoretti sequence was dedicated to the woman he won. Also, the sinful and forbidden love represented in traditional love sonnets was unstable and the speaker’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts presented conflicts and narcissism within the author. Because the beloved rejected the poet endlessly, reconciliation of...
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