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January 9, 2011

Amoretti #54 by Edmund Spenser- Analysis

Amoretti #54 by Edmund Spenser- Analysis

Edmund Spenser's Ammoretti is a collection of sonnets that he wrote about his courtship with Elizabeth Boyle. They married on June 11, 1594. Sonnet 54 explores the growing fascination with the Theatre. In the wake of the plagues of 1592-3, the theatres were closed. Theatre was once a huge part of the cultural experience across Europe, especially London. The Theatre offered a place for both entertainment, and an escape from the everyday drudgeries of life. Shakespeare was one of the prominent playwrights of his day, and he helped the Theatre to recover. After the plagues of 1592-3, Shakespeare had his own acting company, Lord Chamberlain's Men, who would put on his plays. He constructed the world famous Globe Theatre in London; it was the first playhouse to ever be owned by the actors. In this sonnet, Spenser takes on the role of an actor, and his beloved is the spectator. She watches him flit from character to character without showing the least bit of empathy. She is cold and callous, and Spenser does not understand why he cannot arise some sort of passion in her.

The first line of this stanza reminds me of the famous Shakespearean line: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-140). Spenser stands on the stage of the metaphorical Theatre of life, and performs for his beloved Spectator, Elizabeth Boyle. She sits quietly unmoving as he performs the dramatic scenes from a play; watching as he carefully disguises his troubled mind by taking on various characters.
He is adept at displaying a wide range of emotions. He pretends to be happy and gay when the script calls for it, and hides his true feelings with laughter, as if it were a Comedy. When the script changes and he must portray sorrow, he cries and turns his own grief and/or distress into a Tragedy.

All of his efforts to entertain her are of no use. His beloved sits and watches intently, but is not amused. She neither finds joy in his gaiety nor feels sorry for him when he is in pain. She makes fun of him when he laughs, and laughs when he cries. She hardens her heart forever by disrespecting him so.

His beloved is incapable of emotion. Nothing seems to be able to get through to her, and warm her heart. She is not a woman, merely a cold-hearted stone.


Spenser, Edmund. "Amoretti: Sonnet 54." The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 5th ed. Ed. Margaret Ferguson. New York: Norton, 2005. 140.