Sheri Metzger Karmiol
Metzger Karmiol has a doctorate in English Renaissance literature and teaches literature and drama at the University of New Mexico. In this essay, she discusses Wyatt's representation of the hind and argues that Wyatt's depiction of a hunted woman as an animal parallels the very real risk that women faced in a society in which they held no power.
In early-sixteenth-century England, women had little identity that was their own to possess. Women were governed by fathers, brothers, and husbands, belonging to these men in a very literal sense, as property. Women were expected to be chaste and to present themselves in a manner that would not elicit gossip or in any way diminish the reputations of their male "owners." Women's lack of power in this society provides an important framework in which to examine Wyatt's sonnet "Whoso List to Hunt." The hind's status in the poem as the property of a royal owner makes her too dangerous for the narrator to hunt, and she is also herself at risk in being the property of a powerful man. The hind's seeming inability to recognize this danger, as a mere animal, adds to the complexity of the narrative, especially when the cultural and historical realities of the Tudor court are considered. Wyatt disguises the real-life female subject of the poem as a hind not because her identity is unimportant but because naming her would have created gossip that would endanger both poet and woman.
Hunting the hind is...
(The entire section is 1789 words.)
Ellen C. Caldwell
In the following essay, Caldwell gives a critical analysis of Thomas Wyatt's life and work.
No poet represents the complexities of the court of Henry VIII better than Sir Thomas Wyatt. Skilled in international diplomacy, imprisoned without charges, at ease jousting in tournaments, and adept at writing courtly poetry, Wyatt was admired and envied by his contemporaries. The distinction between his public and private life was not always clearly marked, for he spent his life at various courts, where he wrote for a predominantly aristocratic audience who shared common interests. Through and in this milieu he created a new English poetics by experimenting with meter and voice and by grafting Continental and classical forms and ideas to English traditions. Wyatt wrote the first English sonnets and true satires, projecting through them the most important political issues of the period: the Protestant Reformation and the centralization of state power under the reigns of the Tudors. For this combination of formalistic innovation and historical reflection, he is today considered the most important poet of the first half of the sixteenth century. Living and writing dangerously in an era of national and international, religious and secular transformations, Wyatt was the Henrician Renaissance man, and his poetry was the soul of his age.
Wyatt's position, attitudes, character, and fortunes were formed at the courts of the first two Tudor monarchs. One...
(The entire section is 9616 words.)
Reed Way Dasenbrock
In the following essay, Dasenbrock establishes that Wyatt's use of Petrarch was new and inventive and that Wyatt laid the groundwork for later poets who built upon his work with the sonnet format. Dasenbrock believes that Wyatt has not received the credit that he deserves as an imitator and translator of Petrarch's poetry.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to a proper understanding and appreciation of older works of art is our tendency to place them in our categories and judge them accordingly. Nowhere is this more true than in the consideration of works of art whose origins lie partly in other works. Ever since the Romantics, originality has been privileged over imitation, and this has relegated the once honorable activity of translation to a secondary place. In this view, the great writer works sui generis; only the second-rate proceed by imitating and translating the work of others. We can date the birth of this categorical distinction historically, but we have nevertheless tended to apply it to much earlier works.
An outstanding casualty of this approach has been Sir Thomas Wyatt. Wyatt has had the misfortune of being known primarily as an imitator and translator, as the first English Petrarchan. Except for Chaucer's translation of one of Petrarch's sonnets into three stanzas of Troilus and Criseide, he was the first translator of Petrarch's lyrics into English and he translated more of Petrarch's lyrics than anyone before...
(The entire section is 2359 words.)