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 • 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 • 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 • Also called ‘Shakespearean’ sonnet • 3 quatrains: abab cdcd efef; it contains the development of an idea • Couplet: gg; an epigrammatic conclusion
The Spenserian sonnet • Invented by Edmund Spenser • Also called ‘Linked’ sonnet • 3 quatrains + 1 couplet • Rhyme scheme: abab bcbc cdcd ee
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 • First sonnets in English • Adaptations of Petrarch • Italian 11-syllable lines - > 10-syllable lines • But: not yet iambic pentameters
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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • Characters: • Poet (Shakespeare) • Rival Poet (?) • Fair Youth (the Earl of Southampton?) • Dark Lady (?) . . .