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Elizabethan Poetry. Poetic Genres. Pastoral: songs, dialogues, funeral elegies, romances (John Milton, ‘Lycidas’) Satires Lyric poems: hymns, odes, epithalamiums Songs: popular ballads, madrigals, airs Sonnets (Shakespeare, The Sonnets )

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poetic genres
Poetic Genres
  • Pastoral: songs, dialogues, funeral elegies, romances (John Milton, ‘Lycidas’)
  • Satires
  • Lyric poems: hymns, odes, epithalamiums
  • Songs: popular ballads, madrigals, airs
  • Sonnets (Shakespeare, The Sonnets)
  • Mythological-erotic poems (Marlowe, ‘Hero and Leander’)
  • Epic poems (Spenser, The Faerie Queene)
the sonnet
The Sonnet
  • Def.: a lyric poem of fixed form (14 lines of iambic pentameter)
  • Typology: love, political, personal, religious, occasional
  • Sonnet sequence: a series of 14-line sonnets exploring the contrary states of love; addressed to a central figure (often a woman with a symbolic name); about conventional themes
the italian sonnet
The Italian Sonnet
  • Also called ‘Petrarchan’ sonnet
  • Octave (2 quatrains): abba abba; it expresses the first half of an idea or poses a question
  • Sestet (2 terzets): cde cde / cdc dcd ; etc.; it develops the idea expressed in the octave, or gives the answer to the question
  • Volta: a pause between the octave and the sestet.
the english sonnet
The English Sonnet
  • Also called ‘Shakespearean’ sonnet
  • 3 quatrains: abab cdcd efef; it contains the development of an idea
  • Couplet: gg; an epigrammatic conclusion
the spenserian sonnet
The Spenserian sonnet
  • Invented by Edmund Spenser
  • Also called ‘Linked’ sonnet
  • 3 quatrains + 1 couplet
  • Rhyme scheme: abab bcbc cdcd ee
the miltonic sonnet
The Miltonic sonnet
  • Invented by John Milton
  • Structure: octave + sestet
  • But: no major pause between the two units
  • Also: extends the sonnet to include political, religious and occasional themes
  • The major source for further development
wyatt s innovations
Wyatt’s innovations
  • First sonnets in English
  • Adaptations of Petrarch
  • Italian 11-syllable lines - > 10-syllable lines
  • But: not yet iambic pentameters
surrey s innovations
Surrey’s innovations
  • First use of blank verse in his translation of the Aeneid
  • 15 sonnets, 10 of which are English sonnets
  • Structure: alternating rhymes, quatrains + couplet (but not epigrammatic conclusion)
sidney s poetic theory
Sidney’s poetic theory
  • A Defence of Poesie (1582)
  • Poetry should teach and delight; art imitates nature
  • But: imitation of an ideal nature
  • The poet as ‘vates’ and ‘maker’
sidney s innovations
Sidney’s innovations
  • The first full sonnet sequence: Astrophel and Stella (1581), 108 sonnets and 11 songs; is based on an autobiographical situation (Penelope Devereux)
  • 6 sonnets in alexandrines (12-syllable lines adapted from the French)
  • Epigrammatic conclusion in the last line
spenser s poetics
Spenser’s poetics
  • Renaissance Neoplatonism
  • Puritanism
  • Patriotism
  • Conscious preparation for the task of an epic poem: The Shepherd’s Calendar, Amoretti, ‘Prothalamion’, ‘Epithalamion’, The Faerie Queene
spenser s innovations
Spenser’s innovations
  • Amoretti (early 1590s): a sonnet sequence (89); puritan / humanist adaptation of the Petrarchan sonnet sequence
  • Spenserian sonnets: linked quatrains
  • Epigrammatic couplet
  • ‘Yoking together the spiritual and the fleshy’
shakespeare s sonnets i
Shakespeare’s sonnets I
  • The Sonnets (1609): the climax and the end of the Elizabethan sonnet tradition
  • Innovations: dramatic story (love triangle, rival poet); ironic treatment of Petrarchan concepts; balance of quatrains and couplet
  • But: no structural innovation; the simplest rhyme scheme
shakespeare s sonnets ii
Shakespeare’s sonnets II
  • Conventional Petrarchan topics:
    • Unity and diversity of lovers
    • Immortalising the beloved in poetry
    • Contest btween passion and virtue
    • Unification in love
    • Love’s constancy and transitoriness
shakespeare s sonnets iii
Shakespeare’s sonnets III
  • Order of the sonnets:
    • 1-126: addressed to a young man (W.H.), urning him to marry and beget children
    • 127-152: addressed to a ‘Dark Lady’, describing a love triangle betwen two men and a woman
    • 153-154: free adaptations of two classic poems
shakespeare s sonnets iv
Shakespeare’s sonnets IV
  • Characters:
    • Poet (Shakespeare)
    • Rival Poet (?)
    • Fair Youth (the Earl of Southampton?)
    • Dark Lady (?)

. . .