November 3

The Art of Love:
Desire, Power, Performance


Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella (published 1591, after Sidney’s early death) is the first complete sonnet sequence written in English: (108 sonnets and songs).

Note Sidney’s manipulation of persona (Stella = Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich) and the immediacy and drama of the sequence: Astrophil

... and Shakespeare

Shakespeare's 154 Sonnets are probably written between 1593 and 1600 and published in 1609--in an edition probably not authorized or supervised by the poet.

Note Shakespeare's subversion of the Petrarchan formula. There are two addressees:

Note the differences in tone and style depending on the addressee. Poems to the young man seem to be idealizing on the one hand, anxious on the other. Consider the frequent

Poems to the dark lady, on the other hand, are much less idealizing (cf. #130) and often frankly critical.

The Sonnet Sequence vis-a-vis the Renaissance

How does the Petrarchan sonnet sequence dovetail with the Renaissance interest (cf. our brief reading from Pico Della Mirandola) in the power of the individual to mold and fashion his/her (usually his) own identity? Try imagining

A very partial list of the "performances" we encounter in these sequences:

A couple of other things to look out for:

Poetic Logic

The sonneteers’ often deploy this "poetic logic" in quite sophisticated ways, forcing the reader to remain alert to the linear unfolding of meaning, the movement of the poet's thought, the rules of syntax.

Lyrical Agendas

These, too, are quite complicated, especially when one bears in mind the larger Renaissance interest in the rhetorical arts of persuasion. There are often interesting tensions between the apparent drift of a sonnet and its manipulative/persuasive intentions (cf Shakespeare #71). Think about

And, of course, Lyric Representations

Consider the issue of what, in the end, gets represented within the sonnets.