"Sonnet LIV" by Edmund Spenser
Of this World's theatre in which we stay,
My love like the Spectator idly sits,
Beholding me, that all the pageants play,
Disguising diversely my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in mirth like to a Comedy;
Soon after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I wail and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she, beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my mirth nor rues my smart;
But when I laugh, she mocks: and when I cry
She laughs and hardens evermore her heart.
What then can move her? If nor mirth nor moan,
She is no woman, but a senseless stone.
The Spenserian sonnet is made up of three quatrains and a couplet. The quatrains are connected through the rhyme scheme abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. The rhyme scheme is a suggestion toward terza rima but it is not exact.
In this sonnet, Spenser relates his life to to a play. In a way, he is alluding to Shakespeare's "All the World's a Stage" but for a different purpose. He personifies the different aspects of life such as sadness, happiness, and love as actual beings in his life. In capitalizing words such as Comedy and Tragedy, Spenser is making them proper nouns.
He mentions how his "love like the Spectator idly sits" suggesting that his love for the woman he speaks of is never active. It simply sits and observes his relationship with this woman, never fully emerging from the depths within him. In addition, the speaker resents the woman in his life. "She laughs and hardens evermore her heart" when the speaker cries, and finds disgust in his happiness. To the speaker, the woman is nothing more than "senseless stone" meaning that she is inept to understanding the speaker's feelings. In reality, it is she who does not have feelings and because the speaker has these feelings and experiences these roles throughout life, she mocks him.
This may be a stretch, but it is possible that the woman compared to "senseless stone" can be an allusion to the story of the woman who turned to stone when she looked back after being told not to. Perhaps Spenser is suggesting that women are weak and incapable of having such strong serious feelings. Again, it may be a stretch but I thought I would bring up the idea!
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