An Analysis of Mary Wroth's Sonnet 14
The verse in hand is essentially a love sonnet, but rather than cite the wonders of the stars and her lovers eyes, Wroth is using the sonnet form to lament the inequalities of courtship and detail the agony of unrequited or forbidden love. The opening sentence ‘Am I thus conquer’d?’ sets a disparaging tone immediately and this escalates as Wroth continues to use rhetorical interrogatives throughout the poem. Perhaps the most notable example of this device is the third stanza:
‘Why should we not love’s purlimd charms resist?/ Must we be servile doing what he list?’
Here Wroth has used two rhetorical questions in quick succession and they serve to highlight the hapless nature of her plight: Despite her questioning she cannot ‘resist loves charms’ and she does indeed do what ‘he’ (love) ‘lists’ and this is emphasised due to the repetition of a question which has the same sentiment but has simply been rephrased. This effect is furthered through the rhyme scheme which has altered from the opening stanzas and now adopts an A A rhyme pattern which gives a sense of escalation and despair. The third line of the stanza ‘No, seek some host to harbour thee: I fly’ does not include a rhyme and this coupled with the determined semantics of the declarative give a sense of passion and resolve which I see as a turning point in the poem.
Also of note in the third stanza, and the rest of the poem, is the masculine personification of love. I think that this is of particular significance due to the era in which the poem was written; A time in which women were considered inferior and had little input into whom they could acceptably fall in love with. Mary Wroth seems frustrated with this dictation of her time and, perhaps a pioneer of feminism , openly alludes to the fact that custom allowed ‘men’, but not women, ‘free’ ‘phant’sies’. A metaphor in which this observation is particularly striking occurs in the phallic imagery