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“Love is Not Love”, so Arthur Marotti claims of the language of love in Elizabethan sonnet sequences. How persuasive is Marotti’s interpretation of Elizabethan poetry?

“Love is Not Love”, so Arthur Marotti claims of the language of love in Elizabethan sonnet sequences. How persuasive is Marotti’s interpretation of Elizabethan poetry?

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This essay engages with and criticizes Marotti's assertion that all Elizabethan love poetry is entirely political. It considers the poetry of Philip Sydney, Shakespeare and Edmund Spencer in light of Marotti's claim in order to argue that love is political to an extent, but not entirely so.
This essay engages with and criticizes Marotti's assertion that all Elizabethan love poetry is entirely political. It considers the poetry of Philip Sydney, Shakespeare and Edmund Spencer in light of Marotti's claim in order to argue that love is political to an extent, but not entirely so.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
Q6. “Love is Not Love”, or so Arthur Marotti claims of the language of love inElizabethan sonnet sequences. How persuasive is Marotti’s interpretation of Elizabethan poetry? Discuss with close reference to at least three poems from thecourse.This essay will consider Marotti’s argument in his essay
 Love is not Love: Elizabethan Sonnet Sequences and the Social Orde
in the light of Sir PhilipSidney’s,
 Astrophil and Stella
, Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 66’ and Edmund Spenser’s
 Amoretti
. It will address how persuasive Marotti’s essay is and how his notion of ‘love is not lovecan be applied to these Elizabethan love sonnets. It willexamine how plausible his argument is by looking at the language of love presented in these poems. While considering this, it will also assess the usefulnessand the limitations of Marotti’s argument.Marotti discusses the subject of love in Elizabethan poetry and interestinglyaccepts it as a metaphor for politics. He argues that writers ‘used love poetry as away of metaphorizing their rivalry with social, economic and politicalcompetitors’. (398). Essentially Marotti’s argument at its basic level treats ‘‘love’as the medium through which Elizabethan socioeconomic conditions revealthemselves’. (Mousley, 56). Sidney’s
 Astrophil and Stella
certainly does havemany obvious political connotations. In Sonnet 30 for example, Astrophil speaksabout the exploits and worries of his country, which seems out of place in a love poem and hints at a love for his nation.How Ulster likes of that same golden bitWherewith my father once made it half tame
;
 If in the Scotch Court be no welt'ring yet
:
These questions busy wits to me do frame.’(30.9-12)
 
This sonnet supports Marotti’s point that the love sonnet was merely a mediumthrough which poets could voice their political dissatisfaction, however Sidneyreverts back at the end of the sonnet to address his love saying ‘I, cumbered withgood manners, answer do, But know not how, for still I think of you.’ (30.13-14).This is the first time that Astrophil speaks to Stella directly in the poem. Hence he‘emphasises the conjunction between the political and the amorous’ (Marotti, 401) byassociating his love with his political fears. The fact that Stella is mentioned at the endof the sonnet is also significant. It suggests that the poem is about politics and love ismerely a secondary theme. This can be seen in Marotti’s argument and Mousley saysof Marotti’s essay that ‘love is thus treated by Marotti [as]……a secondary symptomof a cause located elsewhere.(56) This can be seen again in Sonnet 27. Sidneywishes to disengage from the notion of politics, but in doing so he ‘wittily reconvertsthe language of ambition into the language of love’. (Marotti, 402) by saying‘But one worse fault, Ambition, I confesse,That makes me oft my best friends overpasse,Unseene, unheard, while thought to highest placeBends all his powers, even unto Stella’s grace.’(27.11-14)Once again we see this association when in Sonnet 107, the poet ‘combines the eroticand political codes’ making a very obvious link between the two. (Marotti, 405)Marotti argues that here that politics and love are ‘the very same reality expressed indifferent terms’. (405) In this sonnet, the poet is disgraced in love and in politics.It’s not difficult to see that there is a constant longing for success presented inSidney’s sonnets. Some critics argue that ‘in love and politics alike, desire was the pervasive driving force behind his thoughts and actions’. (Low, 12). Marotti alsoargues that love and the desire for the love of a woman was ‘a fit symbol of hisunattained and unattainable social and political goals’. (400) The unattainable nature
 
of women in much of the Elizabethan sonnet sequences suggests a mirror with thedissatisfaction and grievances associated with political life, a key point raised inMarotti’s essay. (400) Indeed this desire could also be translated into Sidney’s desireto write. In the first sonnet of 
 Astrophil and Stella
, he expresses the limitations of writing and in his search for ‘fit words’ (1.5) he bites his ‘trewand pen’ (1.13). Thisdesire to write has often been said to be a desire of Sidney’s to show and persuade his peers of his rhetorical skill and diplomacy and can be seen in Spenser andShakespeare’s work alike. (Marotti, 413) Low draws this matter into his analysisasking ‘does literary ambition drive the poet, or perhaps ambition to use poetry as ameans to success in politics and love?’ (16) Essentially, Elizabethan poetry and in particular 
 Astrophil and Stella
was about the desire of the unattainable; the desire for love and a woman’s body which refuses to return his love. This is compounded withSidney’s desire for political success; a power which in his lifetime he constantlystrived for and was constantly denied. He was ‘known as a politically, economicallyand socially disappointed young man’. (Marotti, 400). Even the way in which the poetry is structured has political connotations. The man is the lover and the woman isthe unwilling beloved and recipient of these claims of love. This gives the man thedominant role and the woman is objectified and given the submissive role. Even herethere is a power struggle. The writer desires power in love and power over the object,Stella, which mirrors his search for political power, but even at this task he fails ‘to persuade Stella to return his love’. (Low, 16).Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 66’ is also littered with social and political connotations.The sonnet appears to be a very strange love poem and like sonnet 30 and 27 of Sidney’s
 Astrophil and Stella
the loved one is not addressed until the last line,suggesting that the social qualms that Shakespeare has are more important. Unlike

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