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Unsequenced sonnets in the sixteenth century
Chris Stamatakis

Whilst scholars have often attended to the sonnet’s accretive nature, this chapter hopes to address the parallel – and largely unwritten – history of the sonnet as a stand-alone form in sixteenth-century English poetry, a form that flourishes in unsequenced contexts. Elizabethan commentators and practitioners alike routinely theorise the sonnet as, in the first instance, a circumscribed form, privileging the sonnet’s self-containment and recognising the skilful artifice required of the sonneteer in negotiating compact form – a conception very much in keeping with the way the sonnet was understood on the Continent. Used as dedicatory or commendatory poems, stand-alone sonnets do not just articulate frustrated desire, or pledge service, or seek patronage, or secure fame: they co-opt formal self-enclosure in the service of celebrating native eloquence and accommodating foreignness, implicitly or explicitly commenting on the literary authority, cultural status and vernacular identity of the works in which they are found, especially when they serve as a paratext or preface to a volume. In the confluence of horticultural and political registers that is often found in their rhetoric, with entwined motifs of enclosure, vernacular cultivation and national self-definition, those sonnets announce and enact a process of cultural transference and belonging.

in The early modern English sonnet
Guillaume Coatalen

The Petrarchan love sonnet and the figure of the sonneteer kept appearing in seventeenth-century plays (generally comedies) long after the fourteen-line poem is usually said to have waned. The plays discuss the sonnet both as a poetic form and as a tool for social advancement; the staging of sonneteering as a mercantile activity practised by incompetent sonneteers (most usually amateur poets from the country gentry) appears as a means to reflect on poetic language. Sonnets are deemed to be superior to ballads according to a hierarchy of poetic genres which reflects the social hierarchy. The evidence gathered in the wide array of seventeenth-century plays studied suggests that after the ‘sonnet craze’, when received poets in the canon had moved on to anti-Petrarchan poetics, or poetics which had little to do with the Petrarchan model, more ordinary rhymers kept on imitating the Canzoniere, and still claimed they composed sonnets. The continuous stream of attacks against the sonnet therefore also testifies to the deep mark it left upon early modern English poetry.

in The early modern English sonnet
How we read Shake-speares Sonnets
Andrew Eastman

Contemporary editorial work on Shakes-peares Sonnets has tended to focus on the individual poem to the detriment of the collection as a whole, favouring ingenious close reading and shaping the understanding of the poem as the emanation of a lyric voice. On the contrary, a holistic approach to the Sonnets as a unique continuous poem reveals the consistencies of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and systematicities that constitute a ‘grammar’, seen here as a rhythmic, rather than just syntactic, notion. Punctuation, for instance, has been modelled on the conventions of modern prose in modern editions, while early modern punctuation was rhythmical rather than logical. The study of the uses of ‘have’ and of ‘this’ demonstrates that some recurring patterns, the rhythmic gestures of the Quarto, can be identified in the Sonnets. It is at least partly because of editorial practices that such work is needed: while Donne’s texts are known for their rhythmical oddities, Shakespeare’s Sonnets have been treated in a way that erases their rhythmical virtuosity and the way their ‘strangeness’ affects the English language.

in The early modern English sonnet
The Earl of Essex, Sir Philip Sidney and surviving Elizabeth’s court
Richard James Wood

The truest test of Sidney’s legacy of anti-factionalism would have been to provide a guiding philosophy at the time when court politics was at its most polarised. In such circumstances, which, arguably, the 1590s were for Elizabethan courtiers, Sidney’s ethos would have been invaluable. As we saw in Chapter One, and as I show in this chapter, Sidney’s sophisticated, textually mediated relationship with his monarch has the potential to mitigate the most difficult of political situations. Sidney’s discourse of pragmatic stoicism and principled anti-factionalism, associated with the female characters of the New Arcadia, is recognisable by its characteristics even after the historical moment of its creation has passed. Sidney’s prose fiction was, indeed, still influential long after its composition, not least with certain members of the circle of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex. An apposite example is Gervase Markham, who wrote a completion of Sidney’s Arcadia, the first volume of which was published in1607, though internal evidence suggests it may have been written ten years earlier. Significantly for my argument here, he also wrote numerous poems associated with Essex.

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue
Sir Philip Sidney, humility and revising the Arcadia
Richard James Wood

As I maintained in the previous chapter, Sidney invites his readers to judge Amphialus with moderation. In this chapter, I examine the degree to which Sidney himself can be identified with a character such as Amphialus, asking whether he, like Sidney’s other literary persona, Philisides, may represent the author in his own text. If this were the case, the fall of Amphialus could represent a more profound symbol of Sidney’s religious conviction than has hitherto been recognised.

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue
Sir Philip Sidney and stoical virtue
Richard James Wood

In this chapter (and the two that follow immediately after it), I examine how the Philippist ethos that Sidney inherited from Hubert Languet informs his revision of the Arcadia, particularly as it is evident in the adventures of the character Amphialus. In this chapter in particular, I show that Languet’s Philippism informs Sidney’s invention of the apparently irredeemable Amphialus, who is not, to the alert reader, beyond redemption. By inviting his readers to adopt the moderate ethos of his mentor Sidney places himself in the role of the ‘right poet’; by the means of his ‘erected wit’ he hopes to restore humanity’s ‘infected will’. I also highlight Sidney’s assumption of a pragmatic, if not philosophically sincere, stoical position, which is particularly evident in the episodes featuring his female characters. This last aspect of Sidney’s ethical outlook is discussed in more detail in Chapters Six and Seven.

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue
Abstract only
Richard James Wood

Here I will show how my readings of Sidney’s works relate to, and build on, the work done by the editors of the different versions of Sidney’s romance. Sidney’s literary texts have complex textual histories, and my particular focus on the revised version takes this context into account. I will also relate my readings to a generic understanding of the revised Arcadia, drawing on Victor Skretkowicz’s work on the ancient Greek erotic romances that were so influential for Renaissance authors such as Sidney. I will introduce my methodology, drawing on the work of Louis Montrose and Colin Burrow, and eschewing the biographical method employed by Blair Worden in his book The Sound of Virtue (1996). Indeed, Worden’s work on the neostoical aspects of Sidney’s Arcadia will provide one critical context (among others) for my synthesis, under the umbrella of Philippism, of various apparently contradictory philosophical and religious standpoints evident in the Arcadias. Sidney’s theological inheritance will also be introduced here.

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue
A Philippist reading of Sidney’s New Arcadia
Richard James Wood

In this chapter, I introduce the critical paradigm of Sidney’s Philippism as a means by which to read Sidney’s New Arcadia. I examine the alternative modern critical approaches to Sidney’s piety and the significance of his religious outlook for reading his literary works. As well as highlighting the status of Melanchthon’s theology in Sidney’s society, I demonstrate the peculiar suitability of the romance form for articulating a Philippist ethos. Moreover, I show how the Arcadia, especially its revised version, which has been conventionally seen as a less than serious literary project, centred on the amorous encounters of its characters, can express a profound moral earnestness – indeed, can communicate a sincere and devout Christian message.

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue
Sir Philip Sidney, the Arcadia and his step-dame, Elizabeth
Richard James Wood

This first chapter introduces Sir Philip Sidney’s contribution to the Elizabethan political imaginary, paying particular attention to his relationship, as a would-be court counsellor, with Queen Elizabeth. I begin to elucidate the particular contribution made by Sidney’s Arcadia to the beliefs and practices of Tudor political culture. The Old Arcadia, Sidney’s first attempt to negotiate his relationship with Elizabeth in the form of an extended prose work, his ‘Letter to Queen Elizabeth, Touching her Marriage with Monsieur’ and Astrophil and Stella form the background to the discussion in this chapter. The characters of Amphialus and Helen of Corinth from the New Arcadia, the influence of Sidney’s Philippist education on his behaviour in his conciliary role, as well as the literary-political legacy he leaves to his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, and his friend Fulke Greville, are all important to the thesis of the book as a whole, and are introduced here.

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue

Wood reads Philip Sidney’s New Arcadia in the light of the ethos known as Philippism, after the followers of Philip Melanchthon the Protestant theologian. He employs a critical paradigm previously used to discuss Sidney’s Defence of Poesy and narrows the gap that critics have found between Sidney’s theory and literary practice. This book is a valuable resource for scholars and researchers in the fields of literary and religious studies.

Various strands of philosophical, political and theological thought are accommodated within the New Arcadia, which conforms to the kind of literature praised by Melanchthon for its examples of virtue. Employing the same philosophy, Sidney, in his letter to Queen Elizabeth and in his fiction, arrogates to himself the role of court counsellor. Robert Devereux also draws, Wood argues, on the optimistic and conciliatory philosophy signified by Sidney’s New Arcadia.