Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 203

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Sonnets for Helen by Pierre de Ronsard, as the title suggests, is a collection of sonnets the famous French poet wrote for his muse, Hélène de Surgères. The poet had just suffered the loss of his lover, Marie Dupin, and transferred his poetic focus and passion towards Helen. The themes of the collection of sonnets are love, tragedy and references to the Iliad by Homer, as well as other works of Greek mythology.

The theme of "pain is love; love is pain" is evident in the second sonnet. This melodramatic poetic trope is typical within the poetry movements of the time. The theme of pain or longing is emphasized by references to Greek mythology tragedies. This poetic trope is used by the Ronsard and other sonneteers to convey the intensity of their passion.

The idealization of beauty is also a sub-theme of the sonnet collection. For instance, Helen is compared to Venus. In essence, the idealization of a physical quality (i.e. beauty) is the same as the idealization of Helen, the person, herself. She is no longer a human being in the sonnets, but is mythologized. Helen becomes an idea rather than a flawed human being like everyone else.

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