Elizabethan Love Poetry Is Laden With Themes Essay

Pages: 3 (939 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Elizabethan love poetry is laden with themes related to morality, such as in relation to sexual relations. Many Elizabethan poems also address morality in the general context of ethics and social grace. Morality is sometimes referred to in a political context as well. William Shakespeare's Sonnet #29 is one such poem that addresses morality within the context of politics and social norms. Sonnet #29 displays the poet's remarkable ability to convey moral meaning without being pedantic. Moreover, the sonnet reveals a secular set of morals. Alternatively, a set of religious Christian morals is addressed in Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke's Psalm 51. Simply calling her poems psalms reveals Herbert's religiosity. The poem also reads like a guilt-ridden confessional and therefore has a different tone than Shakespeare's Sonnet #29. Shakespeare and Herbert demonstrate the distinction between secular and religious moral attitudes that emerged in Elizabethan England.

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One of the differences between secular and religious morality is that secular morality refers simply to being in conflict with mundane social norms, whereas religious morality refers to a state of sin. In other words, Herbert suggests that following social norms is insufficient; a person must be in tune with God. Shakespeare, on the other hand, implies that social norms define morality. For example, the narrator of Shakespeare's Sonnet #29 begins by stating he or she is "in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes," (l 1). Shakespeare's sonnet completely lacks any reference to God in the context of moral righteousness. The narrator is concerned about his or her social standing and of being an outcast but not necessarily about angering God or facing spiritual perdition. Mary Sidney Herbert, on the other hand, describes moral virtue only within the context of a relationship with God. The narrator of Herbert's Psalm 51 places moral transgression squarely within the framework of spiritual sin and implores, "wipe, O Lord, my sins from sinful me," (l 4).

Essay on Elizabethan Love Poetry Is Laden With Themes Assignment

Another difference between secular and religious morality is the preferred method of absolution. When the narrator of Shakespeare's Sonnet #29 seeks absolution he or she does not petition the Lord. In fact, the narrator does not seem remorseful at all. The last line of the sonnet reads, "I scorn to change my state with kings," which suggests that the narrator feels morally justified for whatever action led to his being a pariah (l 14). On the other hand, Herbert's narrator in Pslam 51 repeatedly begs the Lord for grace and forgiveness. Likewise, the narrator of Herbert's poem expresses shame in a way that the narrator of Shakespeare's Sonnet #29 does not. "My filthy fault, my faulty filthiness," is an example of how the narrator feels inherently dirty and sinful (Herbert l 9). The narrator of Shakespeare's Sonnet #29 is angry at himself but does not feel so innately sinful. For example,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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"Elizabethan Love Poetry Is Laden With Themes."  Essaytown.com.  July 16, 2009.  Accessed September 23, 2020.
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