illustrated portrait of Anne Boleyn, the subject of Wyatt's poem

Whoso List to Hunt

by Sir Thomas Wyatt

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In "Whoso List to Hunt," who is the speaker addressing: his beloved or someone else?

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The speaker is not addressing his beloved in this poem. Instead, the beloved, described allegorically here and represented as a "hind," is discussed in the third person through the use of "she" and "her." In the first line of the poem, the speaker addresses his intended audience: "Whoso list to hunt." This might be rendered into modern English as something like "whoever wants to hunt," which makes the opening address of the poem something akin to the following: "Anyone who enjoys hunting, let me tell you about this deer." It is an interesting opening—the speaker is classifying himself as, like those he addresses, a hunter, but he almost seems to be inviting others to join him in pursuit of the deer, namely, his beloved. The suggestion is that his beloved enjoys the hunt as much as the hunters do and that to increase the number of hunters is only to make the pursuit more entertaining.

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In Wyatt's "Whoso List to Hunt," the speaker never truly addresses his beloved; however, he is addressing others who are interested in the hunt.  Take the first line, for example:  "Whoso list to hunt:  I know where is a hind."  The speaker, then, does know where there is a female deer who has up until that point eluded the speaker.  Of course, in the final sestet the speaker takes back his challenge to other hunters because the deer has already been claimed by the royal owner of the land.

I can't give this answer, though, without mentioning the incredibly awesome allegory here.  The deer is most likely Anne Boleyn.  Thomas Wyatt was supposedly courting Anne Boleyn; however, he had to cease as Henry VIII became interested.  Obviously Henry VIII (with his notorious reputation) was not someone you wanted to mess with.  Therefore, the speaker (Wyatt) never truly addresses his lover (Anne), but simply warns other suitors that she is already taken.

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