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What is a critical analysis and summary of sonnet Amoretti 77 by Edmund Spencer?

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swatisameer | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 10, 2010 at 1:01 AM via web

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What is a critical analysis and summary of sonnet Amoretti 77 by Edmund Spencer?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 11, 2010 at 3:42 AM (Answer #1)

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According to Arnold Sanders, Goucher College, Spenser’s Amoretti are mostly written in a concatenated rhyme scheme of ababbcbccdcdee. The underlined rhymes are concatenated, linking stanzas across stanza boundaries. Spenser modified the sonnet, borrowed from Petrarch, allowing the concatention to either link quatrains together logically or oppose each other logically, turning upon the "axel" of the concatenated rhyme.

In Amoretti 77, one of the concatenated rhymes may be hard for modern ears to acknowledge due to a change in pronunciation of the phonemes in the rhyme; specifically, the rhyme between ivory, roialty, ly, and by. In Middle English, which Spenser copied, the phoneme / y / at the end of a word was pronounced like the English long / i / in contemporary wipe and as is Middle English my and fry. Therefore ivory, roiatly, by and ly all end in the long / i / sound.

Amoretti 77 follows the concatenated Spenserian sonnet rhyme scheme ababbcbccdcd ee:
playne - a
yvory - b
entertayne - a
roialty - b
ly - b
price - c
by - b
entice - c
vice - c
taste - d
Paradice - c
plaste - d
spredd - f
fedd - f

This concatenation results in three couplets  instead of the Shakespearean single couplet. The word concatenate is from the Latin catena meaning chain, thus the rhymes are linked together in a chain. Spenserian sonnet rhyme scheme is different from both Petrarchan (beginning abbaabba) and Shakespearean (ababcdcdefefgg).

The form of Amoretti 77 is three quatrains, with concatentated boundaries, and a final couplet. The ideas in quatrains 1 and 2 link logically at the concatenated rhyme. There is no opposition of quatrain logic in 77. The linkage of logic is aided by enjambment at the concatenated rhymes; both roialty and entice are followed by semicolons. In contrast, the third quatrain rhyme ends with a full stop.

The first two quatrains set up the dream vision ("Was it a dream...") and describe the apples. The third defines the apples morally ("yet voyd of sinfull vice;...") and identifies their origin ("Paradice / ...Love himselfe..."), thereby underscoring the moral definition.

In the final couplet, Spenser defines his own metaphor. Elizabeth Boyle's bosom (the woman whom he later married) is the richly spread table. Spenser's thoughts (Spenser is the acknowledged speaker) are the guests at the feast--all the guests--who wish to feed upon Elizabeth's two "apples," the twin highlights of her bosom.

A paraphrase may offer the best summary:

Dream vision: Did I dream it or did I see it?
A beautiful table of pure ivory
all spread with food, fit to entertain
the greatest prince of stately royalty.
Among the foods, a silver dish in which there lies
two golden apples of very costly price
far better than the golden apples Hercules acquired from the Hesperides
or the golden apples Aphrodite gave Melanion to help him win against Atlanta, who, having seen them, picked each up in haste.
These apples are exceedingly sweet but free of any vice.
Many want the apples but all are denied the privilege of tasting.
The apples are sweet fruit of pleasure brought from Paradise;
brought by Cupid, god of love, and planted in his own garden.
Elizabeth’s bosom is the table toffering wonderful delights.
Spenser’s thoughts are the guests at the banquet, and it is he who wants to feed on the metaphoric feast and apples in the silver plate.

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