The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Divers Doth Use” is a sonnet in the Italian, or Petrarchan, form, rhymed abbaabba, cddcee, and thus structured as an octave and a sestet, rather than in the four quatrains of the English, or Shakespearean, sonnet. As in many of Sir Thomas Wyatt’s shorter lyrics, the subject here is the ending of romantic relationships in the context of a sophisticated Renaissance court whose sexual mores are promiscuous and whose social manners are often modeled after those found in poetry. The first-person voice in the poem, whether Wyatt’s or that of an imaginary persona, speaks of typical male responses to female infidelity and offers, in contrast to those responses, his own attitude, which, he claims, is stalwart and stoic.

The octave opens with the speaker deriding diverse men whom he either knows firsthand or has heard about who behave childishly and poetically in the face of their beloveds’ unfaithfulness: men who weep and moan endlessly—“never for to lin [cease]” (line 3)—not in order to effect any change in their situations but, paradoxically, in order to alleviate their woe. In other words, they weep to appease their weeping: not a particularly mature or effective response. Such ostentatious expressions of woe are mere affectations.

There are other men, the poem continues, who behave viciously, by insulting their former lovers as false (that is, as promiscuous), but then quickly redirect their passions and love...

(The entire section is 401 words.)