Sonnet 14 Questions and Answers
by Elizabeth Barrett Moulton

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Comment on the poet's choice of the words 'wrought' and 'unwrought' in Sonnet 14.  

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Sonnet 14 is structured like a Petrarchan sonnet, which is to say that it's split into two sections: the octave (the first eight lines) and the sestet (the last six lines). The octave's rhyme scheme is abbaabba, and the sestet's is cdcdcd. In Petrarchan sonnets, broadly speaking, the octave poses the problem the sonnet is going to deal with, and the sestet suggests the resolution.

So right away, we know that "wrought" and "unwrought" are going to be a big deal, because they bridge the gap between line 8 and line 9—they mark the transition from the octave to the sestet. And it's clear the speaker's thought process is evolving: in the octave, she lists positive reasons her lover might love her (her smile, her looks, her gentle speaking, the way she thinks), but in the sestet, she focuses on darker reasons (because he pities her). It's clear that she's getting more worried and depressed as the poem goes on (in fact, she acknowledges this explicitly in line 10 by talking about tears on her cheeks). And the trigger that leads her to these darker thoughts is the switch from "wrought" to "unwrought."

If you notice, the speaker never acknowledges that her partner might stop loving her in the octave. She dances around the topic—why else would she be talking about loving her for the wrong reasons?—but the first time she explicitly says that she's scared that her partner might stop loving her is when she says "love, so wrought / may be unwrought so." It's the first time she allows herself to fully come to terms with her own fear.

The choice...

(The entire section contains 542 words.)

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