In what ways are erotic and political power mixed in "Whoso List to Hunt"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This thinly veiled allegory is not, as the poem might suggest, about hunting a particularly impressive deer, but about trying to court the favours of the queen. This poem was written about the difficulties of trying to pursue a relationship with the Queen of England at the time, Anne Boleyn, who was renowned for encouraging men to flirt with her and therefore gain favour as a result. Sir Thomas Wyatt was rumoured to have been one of the men she may have had an affair with, but it is clear in this rather bitter poem that, at the time of writing, any such affair is long over, and the speaker describes how he has fallen way behind in the pursuit of his quarry. In fact, he goes as far as to say that any such hunt is futile, as he likens his desire to catch this deer to trying to catch the wind in a net. The reason is because ultimately the ownership of the deer makes trying to catch and possess her impossible:

And graven in diamonds in letters plain 
There is written, her fair neck round about, 
"Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild to hold, though I seem tame." 

Caesar here refers to King Henry VIII, and these closing lines reveal the theme of erotic and political power. Anne Boleyn has erotic power through the way in which she is able to lead on so many to "hunt" and "pursue" her as if she were a deer. They do this in order to try and and gain political power and favour with the king, through Anne Boleyn, but ultimately, any hopes of gaining political power are false because of the impossibility of gaining the deer itself. As the ownership of Anne Boleyn is without question, the chances of gaining any political power are likewise false. She is depicted as an elusive yet tempting individual who delights in the power she has over the men that flock around her. It is clear, however, that the speaker in this poem has seen through this and now will no longer allow himself to be taken in by her erotic power. 

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