Amoretti summary

By Edmund Spenser

The objective of this poem is to study the Amoretti by Spenser, and to consider how he makes use of the sonnet form to convey his emotions and thoughts.

About the poem

‘Amoretti’ sonnet is a book by Edmund Spencer written in 16th century and published in 1595, in London by William Pansonby. ‘Amoretti’ means “little loves” or “little cupids”.

Amoretti was printed as part of volume entitled, Amoretti and Epithalamion. This volume included the sequence of 89 sonnets, along with a series of short poems called Anacreontics and Epithalamion.

Amoretti sonnet is about a marriage celebration of Edmund Spenser. It is written in Petrarchan sonnet, a popular form of poet in Renaissance period.

Amoretti word has been derived from Latin word ‘amor’ which means “l love”, In Amoretti, Spenser addresses his second wife Elizabeth Boyle (a young Anglo- Irish woman). He showcases the courtship and eventful marriage to Elizabeth Boyle, which takes place on 11 June 1594.

Form of the poem

The poem is based on Petrarchan model of love in which poet compares his beloved to heavenly object, for example; moon, fairy, stars, etc. The rhyming scheme of this poem is ABAB BCBC CDCD EE. The poem centers around the immortality of spiritual love and the temporality of physical love.

Theme of the poem

Spenser’s sonnet deals largely with the emotions of love, which celebrates the happiness of love, shared between two people (Spenser and Elizabeth), as well as celebrating divine love. The celebration of successful love is largely a deviation from the typical themes.

Summary and Analysis

In the first session, the poet proclaims his deep love for his beloved by writing her name on the sand at the sea shores, only to see the waves wash it away, he repeats it in vain.  

In the second session, the poet presents a dialogue where his beloved confronts him on what she calls a vain act pointing out that her cannot immortalize his love for her as they have to eventually die someday.

In the third session, the responds to her statement confidently, claiming that he can immortalize her virtues and his love for her in his poetry where will stay forever.

In the final part, the poet asserts that the gross, insignificant, sorted things might be the part of a transient world but his love for his beloved transcends all boundaries encompassing death and is immortalized through verse in the poem.

Thus, sonnet 75 is a unique form by the virtues of its dramatic structure, also it is an excellent blend of lyric and dramatic elements.

In Amoretti, Spenser has not only talked about his marriage but give a glance about his break-up with his first wife.

Being so much popular, the poem Amoretti is not much appreciated and overlooked by critics, who sees it as inferior to other major Renaissance sonnets sequence in Petrarchan tradition. Also, this sonnet has been overshadowed by Spenser’s other notable work, like “The Faeri Queen”, which is the most popular work by him. It is an epic allegorical masterpiece of Renaissance period.

C.S. Lewis one of the most important 20th century Spenser’s scholar said that Spenser was not one of the great sonneteer. However, other critics consider Spenser’s sonnets to be innovative and to express a range of tone of emotions and more skillful and subtle.

Many critics analyzed his overworking of old themes, they saw Spenser as less original an unimportant sonneteer in compare to his contemporaries like; Philip Sydney (one of the renown writers of Renaissance period).

Spenser borrows specific images and metaphors, including those that portray the beloved or loved itself as cruel tormenter. It also breaks with the conventional love poetry in many ways, for example; In most sonnet sequences like in Petrarchan tradition, the speaker yearns for a lover who is sexually unavailable. Not only this but there is a conflict between spiritual and physical love, but the subject is already married and it is an adulterous love.

Therefore, Spenser through ‘Amoretti’ has dedicated an entire sequence to a woman he could honorably coin. Elizabeth Boyle is an unmarried woman and their love affair eventually ended in marriage.


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