The Poem (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Edmund Spenser’s sonnet sequence, the Amoretti (meaning “little love gifts” in Italian), ranks among the most notable of the collections produced during the golden age of English poetry, also the heyday of the English sonnet. Beginning in fourteenth century Italy with Petrarch’s tributes, in sonnet form, to his beloved Laura, the sonnet cycle describing the lover’s pangs and the inamorata’s remote beauty quickly became a poetic standard. The introduction of this poetic form to England is generally credited to Sir Thomas Wyatt, who brought it from France and adapted it to the English taste and tongue. Although the prestige of the sonnet had begun to decline by the time Spenser produced his sequence, no notable poet of the period could afford to ignore the sonnet or the sonnet cycle. As had William Shakespeare and Sir Philip Sidney before him, Spenser used the sonnet cycle as part of his claim to literary fame.
The Amoretti differs from Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella (1591) sequence and from Shakespeare’s sonnets in ways that have too often led to comparisons unfavorable to Spenser. Not only does Spenser use a more labored rhyme scheme (adapted from the French), but also his subject matter is subtler and less dramatic. Shakespeare and Sidney address their rhymes to amorous objects presented in a highly fictionalized and formalized context. Spenser, on the other hand, blends traditional elements of...
(The entire section is 1813 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Dasenbrock, Reed Way. “The Petrarchan Context of Spenser’s Amoretti.” PMLA 100, no. 1 (1985): 38-50. Makes a comprehensive statement of the case for the originality and vigor of the Amoretti. Includes bibliography.
Gibbs, Donna. Spenser’s “Amoretti”: A Critical Study. Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1990. Excellent sourcebook on the poetic structure, personas, and philosophical background of the Amoretti, as well as its current critical reception. Thorough bibliography and index.
Hadfield, Andrew, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Spenser. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Collection of essays providing an overview of Spenser’s life and work. Some of the essays discuss the relevance of Spenser, his life and career, the historical contexts of his work, his use of language, and his literary influence. The references to Amoretti are listed in the index.
Lethbridge, J. B., ed. Edmund Spenser: New and Renewed Directions. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2006. Reprints a collection of papers originally delivered at a conference about Spenser. Includes discussions of the Spenserian stanza, Spenser’s relationship to Ireland, and the trend toward a new historical criticism of his work....
(The entire section is 350 words.)