Whoso List to Hunt Questions and Answers
by Sir Thomas Wyatt

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In "Whoso List to Hunt," despite the seeming worldliness of Wyatt's sonnet, how might his religious allusions be important to the understanding of the meaning of the poem?

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This famous sonnet is taken by most critics to be about the courting of Anne Boleyn by Henry VIII, necessitating Wyatt's removal from the scene. Clearly, with Anne Boleyn, being "owned" by his liege, Wyatt cannot pursue her himself. There does however seem to be very few examples of religious allusions in this poem. The only allusion that we could argue there is comes at the end:

'Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,

And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.'

This is actually a reference to Solinus who states in his writings that 300 years after Caesar's death, white stags were found with collars inscribed with the quote "Don't touch me, for I am Caesar's." However, this quote also brings to mind Jesus in the New Testament when he urges his listeners to "give to Caesar what belongs to Ceasar and to God what is God's." Either allusion clearly supports the main focus of the poem: the object of pursuit, be she Anne Boleyn or somebody else, is now irrevocably out of the reach of Wyatt and all other pursuers except for he that owns her. Further chase is therefore only in vain.

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