What literary devices are used in "Whoso List to Hunt" by Sir Thomas Wyatt?

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This is an example of a Petarchan sonnet--one octet and a sestet, fourteen lines.  The problem or issue is the woman the speaker loves is enticing and irresistable, but unattainable since she belongs to the King. 

The metaphor is used (the woman is compared to the deer [hind] which run freely in the King's forest lands and are illegal to hunt--punishable by death to those who are caught) to show the thrill of the hunt or pursuit of the woman.  The speaker tells others that they can go ahead with the chase as he is tired of the hunt--she is not as tame as she appears. 

The author also uses the classical allusion.  The "deer" is probably Anne Boleyn, and Wyatt also alludes to Caesar's deer--meaning the woman belongs to the all-powerful King of England, Henry VIII (Caesar).

Irony is also used in lines 13-14 of the poem since the deer so completely belonged to him that she is later beheaded for trumped up charges of infidelity.

kmj23's profile pic

kmj23 | (Level 1) Educator

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In "Whoso List to Hunt," Sit Thomas Wyatt uses a number of literary devices, including the following:

  • Alliteration: In the first line, Wyatt repeats the H sound, as in "Whoso," "hunt," and "hind." Also, in line 5, he repeats the M sound, as evident in "may," "means," "my," and "mind."
  • Metaphor: Wyatt compares chasing the hind to catching the wind in a net (Line 8).
  • Repetition: Wyatt repeats the word "wearied" on the third and fifth lines, which emphasizes this feeling.
  • Imagery: Wyatt creates images of men hunting a deer through words like "fleeth" and "fainting," which help the reader experience this fast-paced activity. He also creates an image of a beautiful woman with the phrase "fair neck" in line 12. 
  • Allusions: Wyatt refers to King Henry VIII through the allusion to "Caesar" in the penultimate line. Arguably, the reference to the "hind" is also an allusion to Anne Boleyn, King Henry's second wife and the woman in whom Wyatt was romantically interested. This also reflects the poem's central theme of loss: Wyatt wanted Anne Boleyn but she was unattainable to him, just like a hind in the hunt.
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