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Analysis of the Sonnet 54 by Edmund Spenser

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Sonnet 54 by Edmund Spenser is a poem composed as a Spenserian sonnet, with three quatrains and a couplet which form a rhyme scheme of ABAB BCBC CDCD EE, with an iambic pentameter. The very first line  sets the stage for a Metaphor that is used throughout the sonnet. Where the lyrical voice compares his beloved and his attempts to attract her attention to that of an actor trying to move his audience. Then, line two  is a simile. Comparing his love to that of a spectator in the audience. Lines three and four  are alliterations, emphasizing how confident the lyrical voice is in being able to entice her gaze. On line 6 Imagery is present as masks are commonly used during plays and/or as motifs. Lines six and eight also makes use of alliteration. The lyrical voice is demonstrating his wide range of emotions. In line 9 there is a volta. A shift from joy to sorrow as his beloved is indifferent to his advances. On lines eleven and twelve  repetition and enjambment are both present. With the repetition of “when I” and the continuation of the line to the next. On line thirteen a caesura is used  to allow the reader to understand the weight of this question.

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Sonnet 54 by Edmund Spenser starts off with an interesting metaphor on line one which sets the theme for the sonnet. For example, the play could be viewed as the chapters of life and each act of the play is but another chapter. Meaning that this romance accrued over many years. Or in order to garner the attention of his love he is willing to put on an act; a play. It is not truly himself, but he is willing to be someone else. The second line is a simile, with two possibilities. One being that the lyrical voices love is on the stage and is uninterested in his performance, like she is just a spectator. Or that she actually is a spectator watching from the audience and the lyrical voice is trying to emotional move such an audience. Either way the love is very passive. Depending on the interpretation the love could be someone close, like a friend/fellow actor (on stage) or someone like a stranger he is trying to approach (a member of the audience). Lines three and four are alliterations which emphasize, the lyrical voice showing off his acting abilities to the audience and his love. Using a variety of different plays (emotions) to appear like a desirable gentleman. On line six imagery is present as masks are commonly used for plays. This piece of imagery reinforces the idea that the Lyrical voice is pretending to be someone he is not. It could also suggest that he is not the only one putting on an act. lines six and eight is another alliteration. The lyrical voice demonstrating his wide range of emotions from Joy to Sorrow. Though impressive these changes in emotion are, it’s possible that to the audience he is more of a fool or rather unimpressive. On line 9 there is a volta. A shift, the lyrical voice is unable to move his love or at least he thinks he is.

 Now it seems in his attempts to woo her, he receives the opposite reaction. On lines eleven and twelve repetition and enjambment are both present. At this point it is very possible that in his haste to impress and close the distance between them. He ended up getting the opposite result. It also suggests the possibility that she sees through his acting (mask). That would explain when she is mocking him it’s not anything negative but rather a positive reaction. As she enjoys the act and how far he is willing to go for her. Which leads to the caesura on line thirteen. There is a pause on this line that makes the reader understand the weight of this question. 

The lyrical voice either is right in his reasoning and this woman is a lost cause or he is completely misunderstanding the situation. Considering this sonnet is apart of an Amoretti of 89 sonnets directed at Elizabeth Boyle and their eventual marriage. One would assume the latter. 

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